2014 NBA Mock Draft: Final Landing Spots for Top Prospects
Forgive me for rummaging through the writerly bag of overwrought cliches, but heed this advice on draft night: Expect the unexpected.
If it is at all possible, we now know less about how Thursday night's event will play out than we did at the time of the lottery. Joel Embiid was locked in as the No. 1 pick before his medical exam turned up a foot fracture, and the pair of Jabari Parker (Milwaukee) and Andrew Wiggins (Philadelphia) also seemed settled in their destinations.
Only beginning at No. 5 did we have any palpable intrigue. Now, we're in the midst of NBA anarchy. No one has any idea what the Cavs are thinking, and their decision will dictate almost the entire lottery. Without a chance in the world of discerning fact from fiction, smokescreen from tangible rumor, at this point it's almost impossible to figure out how this draft will shake out.
To throw a cherry on top: LeBron James decided to exercise his early-termination option. The mere possibility of luring James may cause teams to alter their plans—including (rather, especially) the Miami Heat. I'm 24 years old and cannot remember a draft having this many moving parts still left to be decided with just hours remaining.
With that in mind, I'm turning in my Draft Day SAT. If deals are consummated between now and Adam Silver stepping to the podium, I'll quickly update my picks via Twitter. But, as far as actual analysis goes, here is a look at my final outlook for the 2014 NBA draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Cavaliers are sending signals all over the place. According to ESPN's Chad Ford, the Bucks, Magic, Jazz, Celtics and 76ers have all had cursory discussions with Cleveland about trading up. The first quartet would grab Jabari Parker, while Philly would (of course) target Wiggins. The Cavs themselves seem to have no idea where they're leaning, with the front office being split over Wiggins and Parker and ESPN's Andy Katz reporting a stealth meeting with Dante Exum.
Does your brain hurt yet?
Assuming the Cavs stay at No. 1—which we will throughout this mock—then I think Wiggins winds up being the guy. He has a higher upside than Parker, has actually hit a similar percentage of his long-range jumpers and makes better basketball sense.
Cleveland already has Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, two shoot-first players who'd prefer to not play much defense, please and thank you. Adding Parker, a non-elite defender, to the mix seems like a bad recipe. It's possible the Cavs were just posturing here in order to drive up the trade price given how many of their contemporaries are chasing Parker.
Staying here means Wiggins. As it should.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Bucks have targeted Parker throughout the process. They like his ability to step in right away and make a difference while their other star in waiting, Giannis Antetokounmpo, continues his education on how to, you know, play basketball. Milwaukee management told Parker he would go No. 2 overall if Cleveland passes, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.
No matter where he goes, Parker is the Rookie of the Year favorite. He's the most NBA-ready prospect in this class—especially from a scoring standpoint. Fifteen points per game should be the bare-minimum expectation, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he approached 20.
While his early three-point barrage in college gave false hope of him developing a jumper, Parker is still the smoothest scorer in the draft. He has a refined post repertoire he can break out against smaller defenders and knows how to use his body to create separation for his jumper.
For a new ownership group that needs to sell tickets, Parker is a perfect choice.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
They have Nerlens Noel. That's the common refrain you hear from everyone pushing Embiid away from the Sixers at No. 3. Sam Hinkie couldn't possibly use his top first-round pick on a guy who might not play his rookie year for the second year in a row, could he?
Of course he could.
Hinkie and the Sixers have no designs on winning in 2014-15. The Sixers were at Ground Zero of a long rebuild last season. Everyone in that front office knows it will be at least another two years before this young core is competing for a playoff berth. With another pick coming up at No. 10, Philly can play the long game with Embiid while selling fans on a real, live person with its second pick.
Plus, let's not act like Exum would somehow be unique to the Sixers' roster. Last time I checked, they already had a 6'6" point guard with elite first-step quickness, a strong defensive profile and a wobbly jumper. The only way Exum should be an option is if Hinkie has designs on trading Michael Carter-Williams.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
The Magic have been sitting on their hands the entire draft process with their fingers crossed that Exum would drop here. Their need for a long-term point guard has been established, re-established and then driven six feet into the ground.
Exum fits a need and could give Orlando one of the league's most dynamic backcourts. Pairing Exum with Victor Oladipo is almost unconstitutional from a defensive standpoint. Both are long, quick athletes who can trade off which guard spot they will defend based on the matchup. Oladipo's strides as a ball-handler during his rookie season will also help Exum as he makes his own transition to NBA-level competition.
Logically, the main flaw would be shooting. Oladipo shot 32.7 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie and projects as league average from distance. Exum, for all of his athletic gifts, still has a long way to go before defenses begin respecting his jumper. Factoring in all of the other potential benefits, however, passing on Exum here is impossible.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Jazz are in a terrible position if they can't move up for Parker. None of the players beyond the Big Four fit an obvious need. Marcus Smart plays the same position as 2013 first-rounder Trey Burke. Plus, it doesn't exactly seem like Smart and the Jazz front office are on perfect terms.
That leaves Vonleh and Aaron Gordon as the two remaining options. Between the two, Vonleh is the best fit. Vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin told Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune the organization feels Derrick Favors is a center over the long term. If that's not posturing, Enes Kanter might want to make sure he's renting in Salt Lake City. Favors has shown more promise than Kanter as a pro, and adding Vonleh to the mix gives Utah a unique frontcourt.
While neither Vonleh nor Favors are tall for the position, both possess freakish length. The pair could trade off defensive duties, similar to how Orlando would use Oladipo and Exum. Vonleh's ability to stretch the floor with his jumper—overstated at the moment but still an asset—would also help clear space for Favors, who prefers playing closer to the basket.
With Vonleh's pick-and-pop potential and Favors' burgeoning game as a roll man, the Jazz might have the makings of something special here.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF/SF, Arizona
Danny Ainge likes Aaron Gordon. I'll allow you the requisite 0.2 seconds of Google time to figure out where you've heard that before. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reported Ainge had zeroed in on Gordon forever ago, and little has changed in that regard. The only way Boston goes elsewhere with this pick is if Gordon goes No. 5 to Utah or if Embiid somehow slips out of the top five.
I'm not as in love with Gordon as other evaluators, but the potential is considerable. Gordon is one of the three or four best athletes in this class. His 39-inch vertical and shuttle run times sent a message to the NBA in Chicago, and scouts are coming around to him as a Shawn Marion-type hybrid forward.
His jumper is where we start running into issues. Gordon liked to stretch himself out beyond the three-point line in college, which isn't anywhere close to being part of his game. Synergy Sports measured that Gordon made only 29.3 percent of his jumpers last season. Throwing him at the NBA 3 right now is a disaster waiting to happen from a spacing standpoint.
The team that drafts Gordon is going to need patience. He's a competitor and will eventually figure out a niche in the league if given enough time. Finding the right situation for him is critical.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle and the Lakers have fit like a glove since the beginning of the process. Assuming they keep the pick, the Lakers need a rookie who will appease Kobe Bryant's desired quick rebuild. Randle is one of the few prospects who are NBA-ready enough to do so.
A brute in the paint, Randle is one of the best rebounders in the class and an offensive force. His 24 double-doubles last season led college basketball and is one of the highest totals for a freshman in history. Though the Zach Randolph comparisons are a little presumptuous, Randle is probably a decade-long starter in this league.
Ford noted that Randle also wowed the Lakers at his individual workout. He showed no signs of wear-and-tear on his foot, which will likely need surgery in the coming weeks to remove a screw from a previous injury. The issue is nowhere near as serious as Embiid's navicular bone fracture, and most expect Randle to be fully recovered in time for training camp.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Pete D'Alessandro practically has his front office doing jumping jacks outside other team facilities in an effort to move this pick. ESPN's Marc Stein reported trading the pick is "inevitable," and CBS Sports' Ken Berger said they might be a dark horse for Embiid.
I have no clue what the Kings might do, other than trade somebody to somewhere for something. Keeping them in this spot is merely an exercise in keeping this project grounded in sanity; projecting trades is a headache neither you nor I need to spend our time on.
In the unlikelihood Sacramento sticks here, Smart is the obvious choice. Point guard Isaiah Thomas is hitting restricted free agency, and the front office has to be wary of a potential Godfather offer. Thomas is a talented offensive player and gets overlooked because of his size, but it's hard to build a winning defense around him.
Smart is an athletic freak you fall in love with more every time you see him play. He's in that rare strata of competitor that's only apparent in truly special guys. Even if his shot never develops past average, Smart will be an All-Defensive consideration throughout his prime and a guy who can attack off the dribble.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott and Nik Stauskas, the draft's two top shooters, are still on the board in this scenario, making this a difficult call for the Hornets. McDermott has the peerless college resume and some level of marketability from a national perspective. Stauskas is, to my mind, the better of the two players and the one more equipped for the NBA transition.
I'm not making the decisions.
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported earlier this month the team was leaning toward McDermott, and little has changed since. We know who he is and what type of player he's going to be. McDermott will have a decade-long career parked beyond the three-point line, and he'll instantly be able to provide spacing to a Charlotte roster in desperate need of just that.
Al Jefferson, while great, spent almost his entire first season with the then-Bobcats fighting through traffic because no opposing team respected the team's shooters. Having Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson on the floor at the same time will do that. McDermott helps solve that issue, and he might wind up being a little better than we expect if he picks up team defense concepts.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
This is the one rolling of the dice I'm willing to stand alone on. LaVine is a classic case of a workout fiend who sucks you in despite poor college production. I can't help it. I'm in.
It's a competition between LaVine and Wiggins for the best athlete in this class, and considering we didn't get the latter's combine numbers, I might go with LaVine if forced to make a choice.
The Sixers would be making this pick on spec. If LaVine pans out, he is hands down among the best handful of players in this class. His combination of size (6'6", 181 lbs), athleticism and quickness makes him a potential defensive stopper, and not nearly enough credit is given to his jumper. Most players in the "raw" category don't have enough polish to shoot 37.5 percent from the collegiate three-point stripe.
The only reason for pause here is because, in this scenario, Hinkie will have already pushed his chips to the table with Embiid. Going with two boom-or-bust guys might be a little too rich for his blood. Stauskas, Gary Harris and James Young are all potential options here if the Sixers wake up in cold sweats with early-career Gerald Green nightmares.
This is a difficult trigger to pull no matter which direction Philly goes, so this will be an interesting swing pick to close out the top 10.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Saric signing a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes on Monday rules him out for most teams in the lottery. Selling an owner on a draft-and-stash player for one season is hard enough. Doing it for two is nearly impossible outside of the most extreme circumstances.
The Nuggets are one of the few teams in such a situation. Their roster, as currently constituted, is a mess. They're capped out through the 2015-16 season and have a depth chart full of no-one-in-particulars. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried are very good NBA starters; are they among the league's 50 best players, though?
This is a franchise paying more than $45 million combined to Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee over the next two seasons. We haven't seen Gallo play in more than a year. McGee played exactly five games last season. Add in mid-level salaries for J.J. Hickson and Wilson Chandler and...yikes. Denver is going to have to start unloading assets to get out of these contracts or think long and hard about a slow rebuild.
Either way, Saric fits the plan. He's not going to come over this season and expect minutes in a crowded depth chart. His European play has been so strong that it's difficult to think his value will decrease over the next two seasons. When the deal with Efes expires—Saric can leave after two of the three seasons—Denver should have the beginnings of a new foundation in place.
At worst, the Nuggets have their own version of the carrot the Bulls have been dangling with Nikola Mirotic the past couple years.
12. Orlando Magic: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The Magic would probably prefer the board play out a little better for them here, but Young is anything but a consolation prize. The former Kentucky standout is a solid, albeit streaky, shooter who fits a need on the wing. Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris both struggled to take the next step in 2013-14, and it's hard to tell if their shots will develop at this rate.
Young was a fine three-point shooter in college and might be going through this process underrated. While he measured under 6'7" at the scouting combine, Young has a freakish seven-foot wingspan that helps atone for his size issues. He's also a fantastic shot creator off the dribble, able to use his body to get into the paint and finish through contact.
Having not yet turned 19, Young is a baby among those in this class and still has a ton of room to grow. NBA teams hope that will be both figuratively and literally. Even if he stays at this current size, Young has a future in this league as a solid two-way option.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Wolves are a mess until the Kevin Love situation gets figured out.
If he becomes a Warrior and Klay Thompson makes the trip to Minnesota, Flip Saunders probably goes elsewhere with this pick. Ford reported that Minnesota has had discussions with numerous teams looking to trade down. Saunders seems to like that strategy, having traded the No. 9 selection to Utah last year for the rights to Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.
Grabbing Stauskas in this spot might be a value play. The Big Ten Player of the Year finished ninth on my big board and is a more complete offensive prospect than most think. He can create separation for himself off the dribble and is unafraid to take his shot in myriad positions. Stauskas is excellent at holding a steady form, whether it be in a set shot or an off-the-dribble fade.
A Thompson acquisition wouldn't negate Minnesota's need on the perimeter, either. Despite having Love and Kevin Martin roaming the perimeter, the Timberwolves still finished in the league's bottom half in three-point shooting last season. Selecting Stauskas and projecting him as a sixth man over the long term wouldn't be the worst outcome in the world.
14. Phoenix Suns: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Harris is the definition of "pretty good." He doesn't do that one thing that hooks scouts in the way LaVine's leaping ability or Stauskas' shooting stroke does. Harris is a very good athlete and a very good shooter, but there's nothing to draw a giant red circle around as a selling point.
That's not a dig, either. Harris is being underrated on most boards, and the Suns would leap at a chance to nab him here. Phoenix already has its guard spots lined up with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, but Bledsoe is a restricted free agent this summer and the backup spots are an abyss.
Adding Harris here is a strong fit because he can play with either Bledsoe or Dragic and provide a spark. He and Bledsoe have the makings of a dynamic defensive backcourt. Lineups featuring Harris and Dragic can have a more offensive appeal. The great thing about being "pretty good" at so many different things is that it can fill numerous roles.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Payton might wind up in the lottery. He might not. But if you told anyone we'd be having serious conversations about a Louisiana-Lafayette product supplanting Tyler Ennis as the draft's third-best point guard a few months ago, that person would have laughed right in your face.
Suffice it to say, it's been a good few months for Elfrid Payton.
In workouts, Payton has impressed teams with his competitive zeal and improved jumper. His passing ability, size (6'4", 185 lbs) and lateral quickness were all things that showed up on tape. Going head-to-head with the draft's best point guards and playing them to a draw or even beating them was something few could have expected.
The improved jumper was also a surprise. Most viewed Payton as being two or three years away from approaching league average from distance. He hasn't started raining threes in games yet, but he'll be lethal if he can make defenses think twice about taking an extra step toward the paint.
With Jeff Teague seemingly just keeping the seat warm at point guard, Payton could be a steal at No. 15.
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Bulls are another on the long list of teams that might trade their pick. Chicago needs every precious cent to chase Carmelo Anthony. Teams playing this form of high-stakes summer poker don't hate draft picks, just the cap holds they represent.
If the Bulls stick here, Payne fits everything they're trying to do. Carlos Boozer's inevitable amnestying leaves a hole in the frontcourt behind Taj Gibson, and Payne can step in right away and proide three-quarters of his production.
At age 23, the former Michigan State star doesn't have an unlimited ceiling. But you know what you're getting. Payne plays hard on every possession at both ends of the floor, has a body ready for NBA contact and has continually added to his game while in East Lansing. When Payne arrived, I'm unsure he knew the three-point stripe existed. By the time he left last season, he was knocking down 42 percent of his threes.
David West clones are awfully hard to come by at No. 16.
17. Boston Celtics: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
I'm higher on Hood than most and am still having trouble grasping why some are so eager to write him off as "just" a shooter. Watching Duke games last season, you'd often tune in for Parker and leave impressed with Hood's shot-creation off the dribble and his consistent stroke. He's one of the best all-around offensive wings in the draft.
Synergy graded Hood in the 99th percentile nationally as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. He has a smooth handle and can use a few nifty moves to create the separation he needs to get a shot off. Rarely does Hood use the pick to barrel his way into the rim, but he's proficient enough with his stroke that it's not an issue.
We can debate his merits as a defender until we're blue (Devils) in the face. Duke's entire team last season was a defensive mess. It was not the struggles of one player that left Coach K despondent in March; it was the collective whole. Hood will be a steal if he becomes a league-average defender.
18. Phoenix Suns: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Ryan McDonough has put it out there publicly: The Suns will not use all of their first-round picks on players who will be on the roster next season. In the event they're not able to trade for a star on Thursday night, Nurkic landing at No. 18 is a godsend.
The Bosnian behemoth might go as high as No. 11 and is as tantalizing as they come from a production standpoint. He averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in just 16.3 minutes per game in Adriatic League play this season. If you want to do the 40-minute calculations, I'll give you a second do unslack your jaw.
When Nurkic is in the game, good things happen.
He's on the board this late because it's so hard to keep him on the floor. Issues with conditioning and fouling out pushed him off the floor sooner than his coaching staff would have liked. We're also dealing with a minuscule sample of games, and it's hard to tell whether his overpowering game would translate to the States. One thing Nurkic is not is an elite athlete.
Sitting at No. 18 with a pick to spare, Phoenix can afford the risk.
19. Chicago Bulls: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
An international prospect is a possibility here if Chicago gets stuck with both picks. Napier being on the board makes it a whole different ballgame.
For all of the discussion about Derrick Rose's return from injury, the Bulls are still dangerously thin in the backcourt. D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich are free agents, and Chicago has no one else on the roster who can reliably handle the ball. Banking on Rose being on the court and staying there is a terrifying proposition at this point.
Napier can be cost controlled for the next four years and is another fine fit within Tom Thibodeau's system. When under control, Napier is a pest defensively. He gets after opposing ball-handlers and has excellent lateral quickness, though his size (6'1", 175 lbs) will be a disadvantage against bigger guards.
The 2014 Final Four Most Outstanding Player provides another dynamic the Bulls desperately need: scoring. Napier can be molded into a toned-down version of what Nate Robinson brought to the Windy City in 2012-13. Thibodeau can handle controlled chaos—especially when it plays disciplined defense.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Canadian connection here is easy. We all have maps. Or, at the very least, access to a search engine that informs us that Ennis is from Canada and Toronto, the last time I checked, is located in that country.
Glad we cleared that up.
Beyond matching nationalities, Ennis would also provide the Raptors with a service called basketball skill. Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez are both free agents this summer, and it's unlikely Toronto retains both. Vasquez is under team control as a restricted free agent, but Lowry is expected to be among the hottest commodities on the open market.
Selecting Ennis, who has dropped out of lottery contention after being a potential top-10 pick, provides insurance against one or both players departing. Ennis is an advanced pick-and-roll ball-handler with solid passing instincts and a better understanding of court spacing than most players his age. He'll fit within an NBA rotation someday.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
When looking at the Thunder's roster and players who will potentially be available at No. 21, Hairston instantly sticks out. Jeremy Lamb hasn't developed the way the organization expected, and Thabo Sefolosha was finally excised from the rotation in the playoffs. Hairston steps right in for Sefolosha, who will probably depart in free agency, and might wind up impinging on Lamb's minutes.
Unable to showcase his skills on the college level last season after being dismissed from North Carolina, Hairston joined the D-League's Texas Legends and instantly made an impression.
He used his 6'5", 229-pound frame to attack the rim and finish through contact, and his three-point volume was off the charts. Shot selection was an issue at times, but that's the case for most D-League games—especially for someone like Hairston, who was playing for far more than a 10-day contract.
I don't see how Oklahoma City takes a pass if Hairston is available here.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Picking right up where his sophomore season left off, Warren has been a scoring machine in workouts. He's consistently come out ahead in head-to-head battles, impressing teams to the point that he'll be in the green room Thursday night. Given how much opinions fluctuated on Warren's status heading into the process, that's a big win.
A second-team All-American, Warren and UCLA's Kyle Anderson have the two most unique games in this class. Built on an amalgam of floaters and runners, Warren thrives in parts of the court where others typically die. Chris Cough of Drexel was the only player who scored more points per game on runners last season, per Synergy Sports. His points scored on shots around the basket not generated by post-ups also ranked in the top 10.
The Grizzlies have a desperate need for scoring, specifically a wing-oriented shooter. NBA playoff teams should not be trotting out Tayshaun Prince in 2014, as that is how NBA playoff teams become first-round ousters. Warren doesn't stretch out to the three-point line the way you'd hope, but he's as good as they're going to get at No. 22.
23. Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri
Clarkson is another guy who has vaulted himself up draft boards via workouts. He's a 6'5" athletic combo guard who is the latest to sell himself in that Russell Westbrook, no-really-I'm-a-point-guard mold. I don't know if I buy it—Clarkson's court vision and passing skills are mediocre—but teams have begun flocking to him late in the first round.
The Missouri product boasts a quick first step and handles the ball well in traffic. An optimistic comparison might be Oklahoma City point guard Reggie Jackson, who came into the league needing a couple years of seasoning despite playing three years of college ball. Clarkson is in a similar situation, with his jumper and defensive fundamentals both needing some work.
Landing Vonleh at No. 5 allows Utah some wiggle room for a risk here. Trey Burke might wind up being a third guard on a good team. Burke was lauded last season despite shooting 38 percent from the floor and really struggling to finish near the basket. It's a testament to how poor the 2013 draft class was that Burke is considered a success.
Clarkson can serve as an insurance policy while providing a scoring punch off the bench.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Mitch McGary, PF/C, Michigan
The only thing that's certain is that Mitch McGary is going somewhere in the first round. His draft strategy makes zero sense otherwise. McGary hasn't been doing individual workouts with teams for some time, and Ford reported Monday that the Hornets had locked him in at No. 24.
McGary told BF. Quinn of MLive.com that his back is currently at 80 percent, so rebuffing other overtures makes sense if he has assurances. Charlotte was near the peak of McGary's potential draft-pick ceiling anyway.
Assuming McGary can get on the floor and start showing the potential he flashed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, he'd fill another glaring need in Charlotte. Beyond Al Jefferson, the Hornets had little to offer from a rebounding perspective last season. Josh McRoberts played almost exclusively on the outside, and Bismack Biyombo just hasn't worked out.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported on Wednesday night, the Rockets are sending center Omer Asik to New Orleans for a future first-round pick. The deal won't be consummated until after the July moratorium due to NBA league rules governing draft pick compensation.
From a Rockets draft-night perspective, this means one thing: Houston is trading the pick or selecting an international player with zero intentions of bringing him over next season. The Rockets are carving out cap space to make a serious run at Anthony and LeBron James this summer, and Daryl Morey's Dwight Howard caper last summer means anything is possible. Adding a cap hold for a draft pick is out of the question.
In that case, Capela is an excellent fit. The Swiss forward-center is a moldable talent who is at least two years away from competing for an NBA roster spot. Serge Ibaka has been thrown out as a comparison because of their similar body types and athleticism, though most acknowledge Capela's peak is a bit lower. He is not as gifted as a shot-blocker, and his jumper will need a complete overhaul to approach league average.
Capela might be a compelling proposition for a team that just traded its backup rim protector. Just do Morey a favor and wait a year before realizing your NBA dream, Clint.
26. Miami Heat: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
When I spoke with Stokes last week, Miami was one of the possible landing spots he was most enthusiastic about. The Heat were his first scheduled workout before a car accident put his draft process on hold, and he mentioned enjoying how well-run the organization seemed when he finally hit South Beach.
There has been buzz about the Heat trading their selection since James informed them he was opting out of his contract. One scenario, reported by Ford, had the team dangling Norris Cole and the No. 26 pick in an effort to land Napier. It's also possible Pat Riley parlays the pick into a cheap veteran piece.
Sticking here and selecting Stokes isn't a bad secondary option. He fits a glaring need in the middle for a hard-nosed type of player who can suck up rebounds and do the little things Chris Bosh's aging body can't anymore. As Udonis Haslem reaches age 34, the likelihood of him being able to do those things and be effective on both ends is decidedly small.
Stokes doesn't turn 21 until January and might surprise teams with some skills he wasn't able to flash in college.
27. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson, SF/PG, UCLA
Anderson might want to send a thank-you letter to Boris Diaw if he's drafted in Round 1. Teams seeing Diaw, ground-bound doughy body and all, fracturing Miami's defense with his incredible basketball IQ caused them to take another look at Anderson.
At his peak, Diaw was a superior physical specimen. When the Frenchman came into the league, one of his biggest draws was his elite first-step quickness. Even now, he has brilliant footwork and knows how to use his body to stay in front of quicker guys.
Anderson swings much farther on the negative pendulum defensively. His feet aren't going to get slow; they're already there. Whatever team drafts Anderson will need a coaching staff that is well aware his peak defensively is average—and that's if we're being generous. Every NBA team has a hider, but nothing can scare away a staff quicker than "unique" talent.
If given an opportunity, Anderson has the skills to be a special offensive player. He's a supremely gifted passer, and his height gives him the court vision to see openings others can't. And while he is not beating many NBA guys off the dribble, he knows how to use the floor and can create space with his body or dribble fakes. No one in this class has a higher basketball IQ.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Clippers have three needs: point guard, defensive-minded wing and defensive-minded big. The backup point guard spot is open with Darren Collison hitting free agency, and the other two issues arguably sank Los Angeles' ship during the playoffs.
Grant, at the very least, projects as a strong perimeter defender. After playing the 4 for most of his collegiate career, Grant's jumper is mostly broken. He struggled at the combine in both stationary and non-stationary shooting drills and hasn't done much to improve his stock in workouts. When Grant declared, his combination of length and athleticism had some pegging him as someone who could rocket up draft boards.
At this point, he will be lucky to latch onto guaranteed first-round money. NBA teams are more wary than ever of wing players who can't shoot. They're death to a team's spacing, and outside the best dozen or so guys, they aren't worth having on a 12-man roster.
The Clippers' need and Grant's solid potential kind of forces Doc Rivers' hand here. Don't be surprised if this joins the umpteen picks to get shopped, though.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Damien Inglis, SF, France
Having already scooped up their biggest need, the Thunder can save some money by going international at No. 29. Sam Presti is going to be straddling the luxury-tax line again next season if he hopes to add a player via the mid-level exception, so one of Oklahoma City's two picks will be traded or used on a player like Inglis to avoid the cap hold.
Inglis, who measured in at 6'8" with a 7'3" wingspan at the Nike Hoop Summit, has been moving up draft boards since his impressive performance. While his ball skills are a little raw, Inglis is athletic and strong enough to develop into an elite defender. He possesses a quick first step, and at 240 pounds he could probably compete with most NBA 3s from a strength standpoint right now.
We're into the part of the program where teams are buying a lottery ticket, and Inglis has one of the highest upsides of guys left on the board. I prefer Serbians Vasilije Micic and Bogdan Bogdanovic in a vacuum, but Inglis will be the better player in a half-decade if he ever figures out his shot.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Early is a consistent jumper away from being a top-20 pick. San Antonio just so happens to have the Jump Shot Whisperer himself, Chip Engelland. The Spurs assistant coach has been a vital member of Gregg Popovich's staff since 2005 and got his run of positive press as Kawhi Leonard went on his Finals MVP binge.
The famous story of Engelland spending three days revamping Leonard's shot before the 2011 lockout may wind up going down in San Antonio lore.
If Engelland can do the same with Early, the Spurs might find a perfect complement to Leonard coming off the bench. Austin Daye currently holds that backup small forward spot, making it one of the few weaknesses on an otherwise sterling San Antonio roster.
Early was the two-way leader of a Wichita State team that went undefeated during the college basketball regular season and laid claim to a possible first-round selection with an explosive tournament performance. A junior college transfer, he improved his three-point stroke by nearly six percent from his junior to his senior year.
Give him an offseason to work with Engelland, and the Spurs might find their latest draft steal.
All combine stats via NBA.com.
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