Hoops Rumors Mock Draft 3.0

We’re only a week out from the highly anticipated 2014 NBA Draft. Every day prospects are jetting around the country in hopes of catching the eyes of potential suitors. Meanwhile, rumors about teams jockeying for better draft position or eyeing established NBA veterans become more plentiful by the day. As always, some of these reports overlap while some contradict each other.

One report that became official on Thursday afternoon is that Joel Embiid has a stress fracture in his right foot and will undergo surgery on Friday. It was only a year ago that Nerlens Noel fell to No. 6 because of injury concerns after many projected him to be the first player selected. We will have to wait a week to see if this news has a similar impact on Embiid’s draft stock, though we are certain to hear plenty about it between then and now.

Below is our third attempt to navigate through the trade talk, injury updates and smokescreens in an attempt to predict how things will play out on June 26th in Brooklyn. As we’ve done in previous years, these picks are based on what we’re hearing around the league, our player evaluations, and what we perceive to be a team’s draft needs. Whether you’re an aspiring draft pundit or merely an excited fan, we welcome your opinion in the comments section.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jabari Parker. With Embiid going under the knife, Parker becomes the favorite to land in Cleveland. Andrew Wiggins is undoubtedly a possibility as well, and the Cavs are reportedly bringing in Dante Exum for a workout. But Parker remains the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft, which could be the deciding factor for owner Dan Gilbert.
  2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins. No team was better prepared for the Embiid news than the Bucks, who have already worked out Parker, Wiggins and Exum. Adding Wiggins gives them serious defensive potential, though I wouldn’t rule out an Exum selection. Brandon Knight was solid in his Milwaukee debut, but he has been subject to trade rumors this offseason.
  3. Philadelphia 76ers – Dante Exum. At first glance, the Embiid injury is most devastating for the Sixers, who originally had the luxury of selecting whichever of the top three were left. Taking Embiid a year after a similar gamble on Noel seems too risky given the talent level in this draft class. Sam Hinkie will surely ramp up his efforts to trade up for Wiggins, and I wouldn’t rule anything out considering how creative the Philly GM proved to be a year ago. Some believe Exum would fit in Philly, while others think Michael Carter-Williams would have to be dealt.
  4. Orlando Magic – Noah Vonleh. There had been considerable Marcus Smart buzz here, so we’re likely to see him slotted to Orlando in plenty of mocks over the next week. But the Magic have had their eye on Vonleh as well, who would pair nicely in the frontcourt with Nikola Vucevic and has a much higher upside.
  5. Utah Jazz – Aaron Gordon, At this point, the Jazz would be thrilled if either Exum or Vonleh fell into their lap. Gordon is the third prospect they were considering along with that duo and with the latest shakeup, he is who they seem destined to end up with. Gordon fits a positional need in Utah, yet he won’t give them the type of offensive upgrade they crave on the perimeter. Luckily, they also own the No. 23 pick.
  6. Boston Celtics – Joel Embiid. Boston’s pursuit of Kevin Love could obviously change things, as could their claim that they’ve medically cleared Julius Randle. But given the Celtics needs, it is here where rolling the dice on Embiid starts to become worth it. The C’s are said to be targeting size if they stick at six, and in Embiid, they’d get a big with more upside than any in recent memory.
  7. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle. The Lakers are another team that could trade its pick. If L.A. stays put, Randle would be the type of instant-impact player that could help Kobe Bryant sooner than some of the other prospects who have higher ceilings. Smart also fits that mold if Mitch Kupchak prefers to upgrade at point guard. We saw how injury concerns allowed Noel to plummet a year ago, but Randle’s foot seems less worrisome than a torn ACL.
  8. Sacramento Kings – Marcus Smart. The Kings are reportedly more likely to trade this pick than use it, but there seems to be a consensus that they’ll target a point guard should they stay put. Elfrid Payton is rocketing up draft boards, but I’m not yet buying that he’s a top 10-pick. Smart’s toughness makes him a no-brainer at eight for Sacramento.
  9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott. The Hornets should look at McDermott or Nik Stauskas here to inject some long range shooting into a roster full of great athletes. Charlotte was pitiful offensively when Al Jefferson was out, though the Hornets’ other first rounder and ample cap space make them a bit unpredictable.
  10. Philadelphia 76ers – Dario Saric. The Sixers have quickly become the team most difficult to project for in the draft. Their “sure thing” at No. 3 turned into Exum, which may hamper their roster with positional overlap. Taking Saric at 10 represents the type of outside-the-box thinking that Hinkie may employ to compensate. Keep an eye on Philly leading up to Thursday. Stauskas, James Young or Zach LaVine are also options.
  11. Denver Nuggets – Gary Harris. This pick could go to Minnesota in a package for Love or to Chicago for picks 16 and 19. As a shooter who can defend and contribute quickly, Harris makes sense in all three scenarios. He’s not the sexiest name out there, but there’s a reason he hasn’t slid down on many draft boards.
  12. Orlando Magic – Nik Stauskas. After adding Vonleh at four the Magic will look for some backcourt help. The shooting skill of Stauskas, along with his ability to help at the point, make him a fitting selection at No. 12 for Orlando. The Magic could use a more traditional point guard but after opting for Vonleh over Smart, Stauskas and Victor Oladipo will have to split duties. This also probably represents the first realistic landing spot for Jusuf Nurkic.
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood. What they get for Love will likely dictate their draft strategy, but it’s pretty clear that the Wolves will try to win now regardless. Hood gives them a sniper with size to go with the shooting-inept Ricky Rubio. Young makes sense as well, but Hood is more ready.
  14. Phoenix Suns – James Young. Both Young and LaVine have the type of upside that could land them in the top 10. The Kentucky product is a better fit in Phoenix, which won’t need the point guard skills of LaVine with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe dominating the ball. Watch out for T.J. Warren here, too.
  15. Atlanta Hawks – Zach LaVine. There is also some Warren buzz here, but LaVine makes more sense given that the Hawks already have one undersized forward in Paul Millsap. At No. 15, LaVine’s talent makes him great value. If the Hawks decide they need more NBA-ready talent, they might look at P.J. Hairston.
  16. Chicago Bulls – Adreian Payne. The Bulls want to get to No. 11 to secure one of the draft’s best shooters. If they fail, they’ll happily settle for Michigan State’s Payne, who can shoot and provides some size should Chicago succeed in jettisoning Carlos Boozer. A healthy Derrick Rose will have the Bulls in contention, making Payne’s age (23) less of a concern.
  17. Boston Celtics – P.J. Hairston. I’m optimistic about Hairston, who turned heads in the D-League after it was certain that he was not welcome back at North Carolina. After shooting for the moon with Embiid at No. 6, the C’s will look to upgrade offensively with more of a known quantity. Hairston and Rajon Rondo would make one tough backcourt.
  18. Phoenix Suns – T.J. Warren. The Suns got their upside with Young at 14. Warren gives them a creative mid-range element to go with their dynamic guards and sharpshooting bigs. It’s no surprise that the crafty ACC Player of the Year is dominating less experienced prospects in NBA workouts. Payne would fit, too, if available.
  19. Chicago Bulls – Tyler Ennis. With Ennis, Payton and Shabazz Napier all likely to be on the board at No. 16, the Bulls would be wise to wait until the 19th pick to address the point guard position. Rose has played 49 games in the past three seasons, making his backup a position of priority. Ennis has all the skills to be a steady understudy, though one report claims that the Bulls prefer Napier.
  20. Toronto Raptors – Elfrid Payton. If the Raptors have to replace Kyle Lowry, Payton’s length and athleticism offer more upside than the attributes of Ennis or Napier. At least one report says that he has a promise in the teens, but No. 20 is about as high as I can stomach pegging him for now. Still, all it takes is one team with the belief that it can fix his jump shot.
  21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jusuf Nurkic. As usual, there aren’t many reports linking international prospects directly to specific teams. But many think that No. 21 is the worst-case scenario for Nurkic, a 280-pound Bosnian big man. With two first round picks and a talented roster, the Thunder can afford to gamble. If they don’t, Napier and K.J. McDaniels will be in the mix.
  22. Memphis Grizzlies – Shabazz Napier. While McDaniels and Jarnell Stokes seem almost tailor-made for “grit and grind” in Memphis, they’d also give the Grizzlies more of what they have. Point guard isn’t a need, but at No. 22 this reshuffled front office should seek the best player rather than the best fit. Napier can instantly provide some punch off the bench.
  23. Utah Jazz – Jordan Clarkson. A Jazz selection of Clarkson would make it four point guards in five picks, though the Mizzou product projects as more of a combo guard who could split backcourt duties with Trey Burke. Ultimately, Utah needs some shotmakers and Clarkson fits the bill. Hairston is perfect if he’s somehow still on the board.
  24. Charlotte Hornets – Cleanthony Early. The Hornets added McDermott at No. 9 and their affinity for excellent college players continues with the selection of Wichita State’s Early here. Early’s versatility seems to be a double-edged sword, landing him in the teens in some mocks and in the second round in others. While he might not possess any elite NBA skills, his polished game will help a win-now team like Charlotte.
  25. Houston Rockets – K.J. McDaniels. Someone has to make up for James Harden’s porous defense, right? McDaniels is ready to be an above-average defender in the NBA immediately, and he showed enough offensively at Clemson to make him worthy of a first-round selection. Expect McDaniels and Jerami Grant to be mentioned together quite a bit over the next week.
  26. Miami Heat – Kyle Anderson. As the Heat became a one-man show in the Finals, it became brutally obvious that Pat Riley needs to get some offensive help for LeBron Jamesshould the four-time MVP stay in Miami. You’re not going to find a more unique and intriguing prospect here than UCLA’s Anderson, who is a long, skilled point-forward type well worth a flier at 26.
  27. Phoenix Suns – Clint Capela. The Suns can also afford a flier with their pick, albeit for different reasons than Miami. Young (at No. 14) and Warren (at No. 18) would be locks for Phoenix’s roster, while the Suns could stash Capela. Whenever he arrives in the NBA, the Swiss big man would give the Suns an element of frontcourt athleticism absent from their current roster.
  28. Los Angeles Clippers – Jarnell Stokes. Stokes could go higher, as some reports indicate certain teams regard his talent only a tick below Randle’s among power forwards. The Clips could use frontcourt depth and his physicality would go nicely behind the explosiveness of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
  29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jerami Grant. Grant would be a steal at No. 29. He combines elite athleticism with a freakish wingspan, causing some to liken his skillset to Kawhi Leonard‘s I don’t see nearly the polish that Leonard had coming out of San Diego State, but that’s not necessary this late in the first round.
  30. San Antonio Spurs – Mitch McGary. It must be nice to have no needs, huh? In all seriousness, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw are unrestricted free agents whose playoff performances warrant significant paydays. And with the uncertainty about Tim Duncan’s future – not to mention his age – the Spurs would do well to land McGary to close out the first round.
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