I’m not an insider, and I don’t pretend to play one on TV. But, given the impact that this year’s draft will happen on the future of the Sixers’ organization, and the chances that Philly gets a parade in the next decade, I’d like to think that I can talk the prospects in this year’s draft with the best of them.
My original plan for this mock was to make an attempt at doing a full first-round mock, but time and staff constants have pulled me away from doing work on this mock draft (actually I was just writing other articles), so I decided to do a top ten. For a full lottery mock draft, check out the mock draft that our Somers Price released on Monday.
As for my mock, here we go.
1.) Cleveland Cavaliers-SF, Andrew Wiggins, 6’8″, 200 lbs. Kansas, Freshman
While I’m fully convinced that reports of the Cavaliers planning on taking Joel Embiid weren’t a smokescreen, Embiid is far too much of a risk to be taken by the Cavs with the first pick, especially in this year’s loaded draft.
In many senses, ESPN’s Chad Ford might have forced Jabari Parker out of the number one spot, with his analysis on Parker being in the first spot Monday. In his latest mock, Ford did have Parker going first overall to the Cavs, but passed along that Andrew Wiggins performed much better in his workout than Parker. Parker actually performed so poorly, that one scout suggested to Ford that he may have tanked his workout, because he prefers to go to Milwaukee with the second pick.
According to Ford, the team ‘is torn on the decision’ and ‘hasn’t decided’ on which direction they will go with the first pick.
In just about all senses, Wiggins makes more sense. He seems much more open to playing there, has a much higher ceiling than Parker, and would bring elite defensive potential to a team whose starting five isn’t exactly full of defensive player of the year candidates.
I think the only scenario where adding Parker over Wiggins would make sense is if the team seriously feels like they can make a run at LeBron James, and they feel the fact that Parker appears more NBA-ready, gives them a better chance to land LeBron. Even then, the two play the two technically play the same position, so that could be more of a reason to take Wiggins. You could also make the case that Wiggins’ elite athleticism could be even scarier if he got to begin his career with LeBron.
Assuming that the LeBron scenario doesn’t actually unfold, the Cavaliers have a chance to land a superstar here, and while Wiggins is more of a risk than Parker, he could very well turn out to be more of a reward.
2.) Milwaukee Bucks-SF, Jabari Parker, 6’8″, 241 lbs. Duke, Freshman
I tend to think that this one is a lock, assuming Wiggins goes first overall. While the Bucks are among an increasing amount of teams that are high on Dante Exum, Parker gives them someone who they can began to build there team around, offensively at least. The fact that he wants to go to Milwaukee also doesn’t hurt.
While a trade down would become more likely if Wiggins fell to the second spot, taking Wiggins would still be a risk that Milwaukee needs to take. Who was the last star that played for the Bucks? Michael Redd in the mid-2000’s? Ray Allen in the late-90’s? You get my point.
While they could attempt to move back into the top ten if Exum slides (which isn’t happening), simply landing Exum in the situation that they are in isn’t enough.
3.) Philadelphia 76ers-G, Dante Exum, 6’6″, 200 lbs. 18 years old, Australian Institute of Sport
While part of me still feels that Sixers’ reported interest in Exum could be some sort of smokescreen, I’m not sure what other options they have with the third pick. Joel Embiid is an option for the Sixers, but I think they would be hesitant to draft him with their first pick. Contrary to popular opinion, Embiid’s Navicular bone injury carries much more of a long-term risk than Nerlens Noel’s ACL did when they selected the Kentucky big-man a season ago. An ACL you normally recover from (it isn’t a guarantee), while stress fractures in the foot helped to end Yao Ming‘s career, and have drastically deterred that of Brook Lopez.
Noah Vonleh is on the radar, but I have gotten the impression that the idea of taking Exum and trying to move Michael Carter-Williams for another top ten pick (seven and eighth seem the earliest they could move up), to target someone like Kentucky’s Julius Randle, and then be able to find a shooter with the tenth pick, is the way that Sam Hinkie could make up for not getting a star in this draft.
Obviously all that would still go out the window if Sam Hinkie is able to move up to the first or second pick to select Andrew Wiggins, but I don’t see a scenario where that happens. The Cavs aren’t trading down to the third spot to take Embiid at this point, and the Bucks appear extremely unlikely to move down to take Exum, and pass on either Parker or Wiggins. Everything’s possible, but for all intents and purposes, it seems safe to say that the Sixers will be picking at the third spot.
For the record, I don’t think trading MCW is necessarily something that Hinkie planned on doing, but obviously the Embiid injury threw everything off. Barring a trade into the top two, or selecting Embiid and hoping he holds up in the NBA, the Sixers appear unlikely to leave this draft with their franchise player. So moving MCW, even if I’m not in favor of it, would allow the Sixers to fill two other positions of need in the top ten, rather than trying to reach for someone at three.
4.) Orlando Magic-G, Marcus Smart, 6’3″, 230 lbs. Sophomore, Oklahoma State
Smart is one of the harder players to gauge, because certain mocks have him going fourth or fifth, and other mocks have him going to in the bottom half of the top ten.
Obviously if Exum is available here, he becomes the selection, but the Magic will be happy to take Smart here, who will probably be a better offensive player from the get-go. Smart doesn’t provide Exum’s length at the point-guard spot, but then again, 6’6″ point-guards don’t grow on trees either. Except in Philly.
Smart’s all-around game-he can score, rebound, and pass-should gel well with the young core of Nik Vucevic (man, I wish we kept him) and Victor Oladipo. Getting to learn from Jameer Nelson should only help Smart, should they choose to bring him back for the 2014-15 season.
5.) Utah Jazz-F, Noah Vonleh, 6’9″, 250 lbs. Freshman, Indiana
Perhaps the biggest riser of the draft, Vonleh has greatly benefited from a strong draft combine and concerns about Joel Embiid’s health. Vonleh isn’t seven foot, doesn’t play as well with his back to the basket the way that Embiid does, and will take more time to develop than a healthy Embiid would have.
But Embiid isn’t healthy, and in the time that he is busy recovering, the Jazz can begin to work with the impressive attributes that Vonleh does have. He’s a very good on the defensive side of the ball, and could peak out at 14 points-per-game and ten or eleven rebounds. Obviously you would take a healthy Embiid, who people have compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, over that, but Vonleh will carve out a very solid NBA career, and doesn’t carry the health risks that Embiid does currently, or going forward.
6.) Boston Celtics-C, Joel Embiid, 7’0″, 240 lbs. Kansas, Freshman
The Celtics need to make some sort of splash to convince Rajon Rondo to stay in town past next season, and Embiid might go a long way in doing that. His potential means that if he can stay healthy, the Celtics have another franchise changing player alongside Rondo. As I highlighted earlier, keeping him healthy appears to be the real issue.
The other problem with the plan of trying to use Embiid to keep Rondo in Boston is that Embiid is expected to be out for four to six months (according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski), which means that chances are he won’t return until between Thanksgiving and Christmas, assuming things go as planned.
Even with all of the negatives taken into account, six isn’t technically a spot that your team has to hit on, but if you hit with Embiid, you are going to hit big. I don’t know if Embiid would be healthy enough in 2014-15 to keep Rondo in Boston, but even if he isn’t, he could give the Celtics their next franchise player. At the sixth spot, he’s more than worth that risk.
7.) Los Angeles Lakers-F,Julius Randle, 6’9″, 250 lbs. Freshman, Kentucky
If the Sixers do move Michael Carter-Williams, you would think they would prefer to keep him away from an Eastern Conference team like the Magic, so the Jazz and Lakers could become options. We’ve heard that the Lakers are high on Carter-Williams, but the Sixers don’t appear to have much interest in the proposed trade that would see them move Thad Young and MCW for the seventh pick and Steve Nash‘s expiring deal, so there’s work to be done.
I think whether the Sixers or Lakers pick here, Randle is the likely selection. Randle makes sense for the Sixers because as long as he does stay healthy, he gives them an immediate impact player at the seventh pick. They would be taking a risk in moving MCW and going for the relatively unproven Exum, so immediately getting 13 points a game and eight to ten rebounds would help to take pressure of Exum.
As for the Lakers, they have this twisted concept that they are going to compete for a title in the Western Conference next year, led by a 35 year-old Kobe Bryant, who played six games last year, and potentially, a max free-agent like Carmelo Anthony. So Randle gives them an instant impact player that could help aid them, should that miracle scenario actually unfold.
8.) Sacramento Kings-F, Doug McDermott, 6’8, 218 lbs. Senior, Creighton
Obviously “Dougie McBuckets” isn’t going to score the way that he did in college, but his length, ability to rebound, and elite three-point shooting, help the Kings to land a much-needed shooter.
While I don’t love Rudy Gay as a player, once they added him, this team could put up points. Between Gay, Isiah Thomas, and DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings finally look like a team with a bright future, rather than the annual lottery team they’ve become since David Stern decided that they wouldn’t be in 2002 NBA Finals.
I think it’s foolish to think that this core is enough to really compete in a loaded Western Conference, but adding McDermott in with Ben McLemore, gives the Kings back-to-back solid draft picks, and will help them to be an annual playoff contender, and potentially, get a new arena to stay in Sacramento long-term.
9.) Charlotte Hornets-G Nik Stauskas, 6’6″, 210 lbs. Sophomore, Michigan
The once-again Hornets crawled out of the shallow existence that they had in the late 2000’s, to make the playoffs for just the second-time in team history this past season. Stauskas is a strong fit for the
Bobcats, as he helps to fix the team’s shooting woes.
While he doesn’t provide the type of rebounding that McDermott does (he’s a guard, so that’s to be expected), I think he will average similar, if not better scoring numbers in the NBA, and is a better passer than McDermott.
If Stauskas falls, he seems like the likely selection for the Sixers with the tenth pick.
10.) Philadelphia 76ers-PF Aaron Gordon, 6’9″, 220 lbs. Freshman, Arizona
While trading MCW isn’t ideal, if the Sixers take Aaron Gordon, land Julius Randle, and Dante Exum, and add those three to Nerlens Noel, that gives them four of the long-term starting five. The move also makes Thad Young even more expendable, so if you pair him a couple of the five second-round picks that you own, it gives you the chance to add some sort of shooting guard with another first-round pick.
Obviously walking away without Andrew Wiggins is not only a massive disappointment to the fanbase, but it leaves you without your alpha-dog on offense. Who leads this team in scoring long-term? Likely no one on the roster currently, but the Sixers have a ton of cap space to figure that out. They also will be playing with those three rookies, and Noel, who is essentially a rookie, next season, so the idea that the Sixers won’t be drafting somewhere in the top five again next year is pretty silly. Maybe they get scoring in next year’s draft.
In the end, unless they move up to the number one pick, the Sixers aren’t going to find their superstar in this draft. That’s unfortunate, but they can still continue to build a complete team through this draft, and Gordon’s ability protect the rim with Noel and rebound, fits into the concept of trying to build a Spurs-esque team, where you allow your future superstars a chance to win a title without having to carry the team every night.