A top prospect who may fall to a legendary franchise, a top overall pick in flux and LeBron James potentially forcing the Miami Heat to trade up because he loves a certain collegiate player sounds like the happenings in a video game.
It's actually just the buzz surrounding the 2014 NBA draft.
Top free agents like James have the league on fire, as most franchises make moves in the hopes of luring him or Carmelo Anthony to town. Meanwhile, Joel Embiid's injury may incite a fall that revitalizes a dormant contender.
Suffice it to say, the NBA rumor mill saved its best salvos for last. Let's take a look.
Jabari-Wiggins Duel Comes Down to Which Team Sells the Farm
Despite the chaos surrounding the draft, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Duke's Jabari Parker or Kansas' Andrew Wiggins will go No. 1 overall.
As of this writing, the Cleveland Cavaliers still clutch the No. 1 overall pick, but conventional wisdom says the selection is very much on the block provided another franchise comes up with the right compensation.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford, both prospects need to have an eye on the rumor mill, as which team makes the jump may dictate when they make a trip to the podium:
Sources: If Bucks, Magic, Jazz or Celtics move up to No. 1 — Jabari is their man. If Sixers move up it’s for Wiggins.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2014
Philadelphia seems alone on an island, but the investment makes sense for a player who averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game as a freshman and has yet to peak.
As noted by Tom Moore of Calkins Media, however, the cost is quite steep:
The rest of the purported teams in the running for the top spot sound content to nab the pro-ready Parker, who is already well-developed and can contribute right away after posting averages of 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in his lone collegiate season.
The Bucks, Magic, Jazz and Celtics could certainly use immediate firepower and a centerpiece to build around, while the 76ers have proven in the past they don't mind waiting for a talent to blossom. They were willing to wait on the injured Nerlens Noel, after all.
Boston Aiming for Joel Embiid?
The Boston Celtics seem destined to steal the injured Joel Embiid.
Embiid's likely free fall on Thursday night is hard to predict, but it may well end with the Celtics at No. 6 overall. According to Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, the Celtics are prepared to use their first of two first-round selections on the big man from Kansas:
But on the eve of the draft, several league sources said that Embiid could fall to the Celtics at the sixth pick — and that the Celtics are expected to grab him if he’s there. Though Embiid would miss summer league, training camp, and potentially part — if not all — of the 2014-15 season, he would give the Celtics a future “rim protector” that Ainge said the team needed when last season ended.
As Holmes notes, Embiid's agent was very exclusive in giving out his client's medical rap sheet. Boston was one club to get the notes, and fans should be quick to remember that the Celtics' medical staff is one of the best in the business.
Director of player personnel Austin Ainge recently provided a friendly reminder of the factoid to Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com:
There’s been many, many guys we’ve passed on. Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden. Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy… So there’s two (Bradley and Sullinger) we’ve taken chances on. There’s been many, many others we’ve not decided to chance on.
At 7'0" and 250 pounds, and coming off a year in which he was one of the collegiate landscape's most dominant forces, Embiid seems like a worthwhile investment despite his injury concerns. His averages as a freshman were gaudy, to say the least:
For a team with two first-round picks and in need of another superstar—not to mention a simple building block—Embiid is a great way to go.
LeBron James Wants Shabazz Napier
Get this: A contender which just lost a superstar will do whatever it takes to keep him around.
James is the star in question, and his affinity for UConn point guard Shabazz Napier is palpable. The Heat hold the No. 26 pick in the draft, although that may not be high enough to get the court general.
Ford reports that James and the Heat have long wanted Napier to come to Miami:
Heat president Pat Riley, meanwhile, also is fond of Napier. Riley likes four-year players who can come in and contribute right away.
Right after the NBA Finals, Riley flew out to work out Napier, a Heat source told ESPN.com. After the workout, the Heat tried to convince the former Huskies star to stop his workouts so that he'd fall to the Heat with pick No. 26.
It's unlikely that Napier's addition would be the only thing that would keep James with the Heat, but it has been clear for quite a long time that he enjoys the way the Huskies star plays the game:
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
Expect the Heat to attempt to swing a trade. However, Ford notes that the Heat won't be the only bidders:
Teams as high as the Orlando Magic at No. 12, the Atlanta Hawks at No. 15, the Chicago Bulls at No. 16 and the Boston Celtics at No. 17 are all seriously considering drafting Napier, according to various team sources. And it's unlikely he slides past the Toronto Raptors at No. 21.
Armed with few assets to pull off a deal, James might not get to pair with Napier. Then again, he's a free agent at this point in time. Godspeed, Mr. Riley.