Thursday's 2014 NBA draft is inching closer, and all sorts of last-minute trade rumors are swirling about what will transpire in the first round. Two consensus candidates figure to be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick in Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Duke star Jabari Parker.
Whether the Cleveland Cavaliers will hold on to that top selection is unclear. However, there also figures to be plenty of deals negotiated in the latter stages of the first round. A myriad of teams have multiple picks in Round 1, while a considerable amount of others don't have any. Thus, a number of trades figure to be executed before evening's end.
Here is an overview of the latest chatter and what it could mean regarding the strategies of the franchises involved.
Andrew Wiggins Still Top Target For Philadelphia 76ers
It's no secret that the Sixers have been over the moon for Wiggins leading up to the draft. Was that whole "Riggin' For Wiggins" campaign the plan all along? No one gutted its roster or cleared the way for a premium prospect better than Philadelphia this last season.
Bob Cooney of the Daily News confirmed through a source what has been suspected all along:
However, if general manager Sam Hinkie wants Wiggins as badly as it sounds, he will have to part with a treasure trove of assets, per Calkins Media's Tom Moore:
Wiggins is a supreme athlete on the wing who could join up with reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and Hinkie's other 2013 first-rounder, big man Nerlens Noel. That trio has a silly amount of defensive upside, and the Sixers have five second-round picks in the 2014 draft to play with as well.
Based on the very latest from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, though, Philadelphia will have to hope Wiggins falls to at least No. 2 overall:
Although it would hurt to give up No. 10 to take Wiggins, that would be quite a haul. Hinkie has enough ammunition to trade back into Round 1 later. Even if he doesn't, though, Philly would have three legitimate building blocks with the selection of Wiggins.
That core, along with former San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown, could soon entice an All-Star or two to take their talents to the City of Brotherly Love.
Utah Jazz Trading Up From No. 5?
Under the new direction of coach Quin Snyder, Utah is seeking to develop its young talent and aim to ascend in the stacked Western Conference.
General manager Dennis Lindsey described why Snyder fits the mold in Salt Lake City, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
Quin Snyder combines a unique skill set with several intangibles that makes him the right fit for our team and approach to basketball. He is passionate about the game, and has a 20-year track record of teaching and developing young talent. His personality, work ethic and communications skills are important traits that will benefit the Utah Jazz. We have taken a significant and exciting step forward in the evolution of this franchise.
With the No. 5 and 23 picks in this draft, the Jazz stand to gain a lot. Apparently Lindsey isn't shying away from making a big splash, bidding to land a bigger blue-chip player than anticipated, per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:
Given that this draft class has depth even beyond the cream of the crop, it stands to reason that the Jazz are in a win-win situation. If they can't move up further, they still land a premium prospect at No. 5 and have a chance to fill another need later. Should Utah stay put, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune is hearing a particular athletic forward is the likely choice:
Aaron Gordon can play exceptional defense from the 3 or 4 position and has the length to even bother centers in smaller lineups and the quickness to stay with 2-guards. His upside is tantalizing, as he was just scratching the surface of his potential at Arizona.
Who the Jazz could be targeting higher than No. 5 is anyone's guess. With Parker and Wiggins likely gone in the top two or three, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh is an intriguing, more offensive-minded alternative to Gordon, while Australian point guard Dante Exum could be in play, serving as a unique complement to Trey Burke.
Another crafty floor general in Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart could warrant merit in either scenario—trade up or not—per Wojnarowski:
ESPN's Andy Katz praised Smart for how he handled the predraft process, though Smart didn't work out for Utah:
There's a lot of creative latitude here for Lindsey and Co. to work with, because he could perhaps translate the 23rd pick into two early second-rounders. More on that in the next wave of trade buzz.
Unusually High Value For Late 1st-Round Picks
The Los Angeles Clippers have a seemingly inconsequential pick in the 28th slot. Then again, this is where the NBA's rich can get richer, bolstering their rotations and landing bargain contributors.
With the amount of interest in others trading back into the first round, though, LA is reportedly split on whether to use the pick, per ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne:
It all appears to depend on how the dominoes fall. There should be several strong options available late in Round 1. According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, draft war rooms should be busy even after the biggest perceived stars are off the board:
A lot of teams need help now, whether it's to add someone to get to the next level or to accrue as many new pieces as possible to commence building a sustainable winner. Not having a first-round pick in this 2014 draft may be detrimental to either of those causes, so the Clippers could even get much-needed frontcourt help by shipping No. 28 somewhere and getting a couple more spots in Round 2.
This is going to be one of the more exciting drafts in recent history. Between the Cavs' unlikely landing of the top pick for the third time in the past four years, Philadelphia and other teams' numerous assets and the want to trade into the first round, there promises to be plenty of wheeling and dealing.
Although there aren't any indications that any more established, proven players will switch teams, crazier things have happened. The unpredictability surrounding Wiggins' former Kansas teammate, center Joel Embiid, puts the teams at the top under even more pressure. Passing on Embiid and then seeing him overcome injury issues to be the best player in this class would be a haunting mistake.
The quality of a draft class always takes years of retrospective analysis to assess. Early indications—and the movement to make trades happen—suggest this one will be special.