POSTED: Jun 26, 2014 1:47 PM ET
NEW YORK -- The Day has arrived, even if all the answers have not. Several teams with lottery picks in tonight's NBA Draft still are considering deals and the trade market is picking up, with three swaps since Wednesday.
Uncertainty around the league remains over what Cleveland will do with the first pick, although no one seems to be bracing for a repeat of an Anthony Bennett-level surprise. Players from overseas will have a prominent role in the first round, partly because they're here now (Dante Exum, Jusuf Nurkic) and partly for the specific reason that some will stay overseas.
For now, after conversations with executives, scouts and coaches:
Draft HQ: Jabari Parker
Parker is the most NBA-ready top prospect, without the same high ceiling as the others but also without the same risk, and now certainly without the risk of Embiid. That could become the deciding factor for a general manager who likes job security. Plus, some teams see Parker as a power forward, an appealing versatility that gives the Cavs more options.
Despite the flameout in the NCAA tournament and criticism that he didn't play hard all the time in the one-and-done college career, the head-shaking athleticism and potential to become a two-way star make it impossible to turn away from Wiggins as the possible No. 1 pick. Going second would certainly be an energy infusion for the Bucks, the first big move with the new ownership group. It would also mean last year's rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo, gets a long look at shooting guard.
Philadelphia is giving injured center Joel Embiid a long look and will, according to some around the league, take the biggest risk of the draft, or of several drafts. That possibility makes grabbing Exum the safe pick amid doubts he can become a playmaker. The Sixers would have great size with Michael Carter-Williams and Exum in the backcourt, but that would be a guard that struggles with his shot alongside another guard that struggles with his shot.
Smart will be a physical force, has a chance to be very good defensively and has a great attitude, but the team that takes him will have to see true point guard through an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.8-2.6 on a college squad with other NBA prospects. Some front offices see it. Orlando continues to search for a point guard and quickly brought Smart back for a second workout.
Vonleh can play physical inside or step outside and hit shots from the perimeter, a promising start after one season as one of the fast-risers on the board. That offensive versatility is one reason some teams like him more than Randle. The Jazz have a large financial commitment to Derrick Favors, but will take the best player available, see if Vonleh can play with Favors or pairs better with center Enes Kanter, or consider trades after the draft.
The call belongs to the Boston doctors as much as Boston management. A healthy Embiid, cleared from the fractured back that ended his one-and-done college career early, would probably be No. 1 with room to spare. But that changes with the right foot stress fracture. The Celtics need a rim protector and have to look hard at the bold move that could either end in disaster or a huge payoff into the next decade.
Draft HQ: Julius Randle
Randle, with a physical presence and a nonstop motor, has a chance to be special and has beaten back the report that he may need foot surgery and miss summer league. Some teams rate him as the best power forward in the draft, just not as good an offensive fit for the Jazz with Favors, so this would be a very good outcome for the Lakers. Able to play right away and work on adding a mid-range as he goes, he would immediately become part of the solution.
A guy who does a lot for a team that needs a lot. Gordon's lack of perimeter game is a concern for someone who might play small forward, but he is an elite athlete who should grow into being able to defend multiple positions, plays hard and has an advanced feel for the game. He doesn't turn 19 until about six weeks before training camp. The Kings desperately need his defense, and Gordon pairs very well, better than Vonleh and Randle, with DeMarcus Cousins as someone who can make a big impact without the ball and will not take shots from Cousins.
A small forward who can shoot joining a roster with non-shooter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the position? Sold. Charlotte has made upgrading the perimeter game a focal point for the offseason and McDermott has range plus the experience of four years in college. The lack of athleticism will hurt on defense and in his ability to create on offense.
This changes to Nik Stauskas if Philly goes Embiid at No. 3. But Exum near the top means the Sixers will look for a center to pair with power forward Nerlens Noel, a 2013 lottery pick. Nurkic does not show star potential, but he is improving, can be a consistent physical presence and has good energy. Most importantly for his draft stock, he is the second-best center in the draft, a strong selling point.
He shot 47 percent overall, 44.2 percent on threes, packed a lot of experience in pressure situations into two college seasons ... the Big Ten Player of the Year checks a lot of boxes. His height and ability to handle the ball enough to be a complementary playmaker is important in a backcourt alongside Ty Lawson.
Hood went from Mississippi State to sitting out 2012-13 as a transfer to working out for teams in the top 10 as a catch-and-shoot specialist with 3-point range. The 42 percent from behind the arc and 80.7 percent on free throws draws attention. Telling statement about his personality: Hood was named a captain at Duke before he played his first game there.
A solid pick for someone in the teens and especially for a team that might have to find a new power forward. The 41 points in the Spartans' tournament opener, while suffering from mononucleosis, was merely the public notice to the masses. Payne showed an expanded offensive game all season and added muscle, the kind of upward trajectory front offices love to see. He already has the athleticism.
Maybe Phoenix, not wanting three first-round picks in camp, takes Dario Saric with the knowledge he is expected to stay in Europe two more seasons. Harris' stock took a hit as a shooting guard who went from 45.6 percent shooting as a freshman to 42.9 in 2013-14 and from 41.1 percent on threes to 35.2. He has good strength and can get to the rim, even though a little undersized.
Though lacking consistent 3-point range, Warren can score in bunches, has nice instincts and does damage on the boards. Good reviews from some teams for his defense during workouts earned a late hop up the charts and showed he can become a solid contributor for a lot of reserve units.
Prospect Profile: Elfrid Payton
Point-guard depth is always an obvious concern in Chicago, until Derrick Rose proves he can last a season at big minutes. Payton has good size, ball skills and experience with the United States under-19 national team last summer and could become very good defensively. He has been getting looks into the middle of the lottery. He didn't face top competition much in 2013-14, and when he did: six of 19 against Baylor, three of 11 against Louisville, nine of 20 against Creighton. The jumper has been a question all along.
Boston has Rajon Rondo -- for now -- but can use the depth at point guard and, no matter what, need more 3-point threats. LaVine is an electric athlete who needs to prove to some teams he can handle the point full-time. If he proves it, there is a huge upside with the physical gifts, the size for the position and the shooting range.
Saric pulled out of the 2013 draft late, kept his name in for 2014 and after that deadline still agreed to a three-year deal to stay in Europe. There are concerns about his actual career path. Saric insists he will be in the NBA after two more seasons at the latest. He would have been a decent prospect in the lottery under ordinary circumstances, so it's not a bad investment for the Suns at this stage.
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown called him a human stat sheet. McDaniels scores, rebounds and blocks shots as a mega-athlete who will be able to use those physical gifts to overcome the size disadvantage waiting for him in the frontcourt in the pros. He has been getting workouts high up in the first round, indicating a possible late climb up the boards.
This is a little low for the player who is, at worst, the second-best true point guard in the draft, behind or alongside Elfrid Payton. Ennis doesn't have the wow factor of Exum, Smart or the other prospects at the position, but he commands an offense and handles pressure very well for someone with one year of college experiences. Picking the Toronto native would not be for popularity. It would be for need heading into an offseason of free-agent uncertainty for the Raptors.
He moved well into the first round with good showings in France, flashing mobility to go with the size and toughness inside. Capela does not appear to be ready to contribute now, and might not even come to the NBA right away, but he has the chance to develop into a player who would go top 10 in a future draft.
Though he doesn't have ideal athleticism, Young will be a nice scoring addition. Memphis can use the points, especially from the perimeter. Playing when defenses have to pay so much attention to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside is an enviable way to break into the league.
He can handle the ball for a forward, is versatile, has good size and a nice feel for the game. A lack of athleticism will hurt his ability to create and defend, though. Some teams see a role as a point forward, oversold because NBA defenses will take away a lot of what made him effective in college. The Jazz can use a secondary playmaker and played Richard Jefferson 27 minutes a game last season at small forward.
While he won't beat people off the dribble, Micic is a pass-first point guard with vision, size and the ability to deliver the ball at the right time and place. He would be a nice complement off the bench to the smaller, quicker Kemba Walker.
P.J. Hairston Highlights
Hairston has mid-teens talent but is facing a potential hit because of off-court concerns. He finished last season with the Texas Legends at 21.8 points and 32.3 minutes in 26 games, reinforcing the college standing of a first-rounder who can score from the perimeter or go hard to the rim. Teams are looking at his personal conduct after being suspended by the NCAA, in part over some acquaintances.
After four years in a championship program that produced other NBA talent, few players at any position are more prepared to handle the expectations of Miami's win-now approach. Napier plays fearless with composure and heart. He improved as a distributor as a senior, an important development since he would never be good enough as a scorer to make an impact.
Harvey's son/Horace's nephew, a reserve for the Orangemen, scores, rebounds and has the kind of wingspan and athleticism that indicates he could become a standout defender. The Suns will also be strong trade candidates, a primary target for teams looking to add a pick late in the first round. What Phoenix does with its two earlier choices -- uses them, packages them, delays them by taking an overseas prospect -- will obviously be a factor whether they keep this pick from the Pacers or move it.
It's in the range that could put Big Dog's son in Milwaukee early in the second round, but the Clippers have been trying to find dependable wings for a while. GRIII moved from lottery contention to the first-round bubble by being too passive last season and failing to capitalize on the opening of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. moving to the pros and Mitch McGary being hurt. Robinson has a lot of skills, though, and more upside than a lot of players who will go ahead of him.
Oklahoma City has obvious issues at shooting guard, with Thabo Sefolosha having quickly played his way from years as a starter to somewhere near the end of the bench by the Western Conference finals. Adams may be the third UCLA player taken, yet could turn out to be the best, thanks to scoring instincts in transition or half-court and a tenacious attitude.
He went from being a key part of the U.S. team that won the under-19 world title to helping to lead Tennessee to the Sweet 16, an ideal platform for a power player on the rise. Stokes is slightly undersized but uses strength and a long wingspan to rebound at a high rate, especially on the offensive boards, and score inside.
Bogdanovic developed into one of the top players in Europe as a consistent threat from the perimeter who can also score from other spots and handle the ball well enough to probably be a secondary playmaker in the NBA. Given the Bucks' need for depth at shooting guard, he would have a chance to play right away if he comes over now.
The older brother of Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo has athleticism, size and the potential to become a very good defender. His decision to leave Greece and face tougher competition in the United States as a member of the Delaware 87ers paid off. He will likely spend time in the D-League again, but as an NBA rookie who needs experience and coaching to really develop.
McGary is recovering from a serious back injury, a comeback shrouded in every misdirection and a ed flag that his agent won't send medical reports to teams. Healthy, he has the chance to be part of a big-man rotation.
Early will almost certainly have to transition from playing a lot of power forward in college to mostly small forward in the pros. And he is 23, an age when the NBA wonders how much more developing a player has left. But he was a versatile scorer for one of the best teams in the nation last season, leading the pros to believe he can be a nice weapon off the bench.
If Utah goes point guard at 23 and has no need for Deonte Burton or Jordan Clarkson here, Tavares becomes especially intriguing as a very raw big man who could develop into a talent of first-round proportions. He is 22 and has been playing basketball only a few years, yet has drawn a lot of attention from front offices because of the mobility that goes with his size, plus a large wingspan. If there's a project worth a flier, it's Tavares.
Milwaukee does not lack for point guards, but Burton or Jordan Clarkson become too hard to pass up at this stage. Despite playing for a 15-17 team, Burton emerged as a first-round candidate with a mix of strength to score inside, elite athleticism to play fast and the ability to create shots. The question is whether he can get others involved.
Dinwiddie is coming off a torn knee ligament that ended his junior season in January, making it impossible to go through the series of individual workouts that could have helped his stock. He said he hopes to be going 100 percent by early August, a schedule that means no summer league but full participation in training camp. Healthy, Dinwiddie has 3-point range and the experience of extended work as a ball-handler, making him a good fit off the bench in a lot of backcourts.
Clarkson had rough stretches in his transition from shooting guard to point guard, raising concerns he is a tweener with limited range on his shot and a low ceiling on how good he can become as a distributor. A potential combo guard for the bench, who can get to the basket with a size advantage if he plays the point, is a decent investment in the second round, though.
Inglis isn't the best available player, but he is the best available player who can stay overseas another season, a valuable consideration for a team that will already be making its fourth pick and will have a carryover rookie, Nerlens Noel. Inglis is a good prospect anyway, with an NBA body at 19 years old, good instincts and the chance to be a defensive standout.
Wilcox would be the latest move for Minnesota to add shooters, a priority since the 2013 draft and still an issue after finishing 23rd in field-goal percentage and 26th from behind the arc. The chance to have a larger role as a senior after the departures of Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten and Isaiah Thomas showed he has range and can handle the ball well for the position.
While the wiry body is a concern, especially if he hopes to use his speed to attack the rim and draw contact, Daniels has expanded his game by becoming a consistent 3-point threat. His standout play in the tournament as a major piece of the UConn run to the national title showed a player who thrives in pressure situations.
Harris has boosted his stock since the end of the regular season, first by being named MVP of the ACC tournament, then with a prominent role as the Cavaliers reached the Elite Eight, and finally with a good showing at the Chicago combine. Houston played Francisco Garcia and his 40.1-percent shooting at small forward last season. Harris, or maybe C.J. Fair, would boost the bench.
Atlanta could have a new look even without the draft, especially if Al Horford comes back healthy and 2013 first-rounder Lucas Nogueira makes the jump from Europe. Fair or another wing would have a chance to stick. The Hawks are also in a position to take another international (Alessandro Gentile, Ioannis Papapetrou) as an investment pick for the future, hoping choosing in the 40s now leads to the return of a player who could have gone in the 20s.
Front offices noted the inconsistent play last season, a concern in general but especially for a senior, yet Powell continued to impress as a smart big man with a smooth offensive game that includes a nice shooting touch from several spots, mobility and passing skills. If he becomes dependable, a team will have a solid role player.
Part of the Charlotte push to get bigger. O'Bryant has a versatile offense that creates scoring opportunities inside and with a mid-range game, along with playing tough on the boards. A lack of explosiveness means the potential for trouble under the basket at the next level.
Marcus Smart's running mate in the backcourt in Stillwater will be slightly undersized at the next level, but able to compensate as a mega-athlete who will be a terror in the open court and may be able to defend both guard spots. If the jumper continues to improve, after nice gains last season, his career hopes take another step forward.
Philadelphia could go for two draft-and-stash picks and still have a big rookie class in camp. Carson would be an intriguing choice for the Sixers in particular, a warp-speed point guard as the complement/backup to the size of Carter-Williams. Amid the obvious concerns about his size and ability to get others involved after being asked to carry a large scoring load in college, Carson plays at the pace that changes games.
A physical presence. Young doesn't have the upside of some second-rounders, but he is the kind of tireless digger who can make a team, then contribute heart and muscle. Any opponent will know he's in the game.
A key player at the University of Texas as a freshman before returning to his native Greece, Papapetrou lacks ideal small-forward athleticism, but he does have good size, 3-point range and experience in Europe and NCAA play. Chicago is a good candidate to look overseas at some point in the draft, with two picks in the first round plus the possibility that Nikola Mirotic will come to the NBA this season.
The Australian impressed with physical play and high energy complemented by a soft touch on a mid-range jumper, part of a big move up draft boards as a senior. He won't be able to overpower opponents the same way in the pros.
This is the land of taking one of the best two or three guys on the board and not targeting a specific position. Finding someone who sticks on the roster makes it a successful pick. Bachynski lines up well. He should go in this range anyway and also addresses depth at center after New York traded Tyson Chandler. Bachynski would become one of several Canadians to be picked, but the rarity of a product from the prairies of Alberta.
The nephew of Hall of Famer Dennis Johnson faces a very difficult move from shooting guard to almost certainly having to play point guard in the pros because of his size. The flip side is that Nick has such an elite level of athleticism that teams will want that long look and see if he can be developed with practice and the D-League.
A 7-footer with that much mobility and a standing reach within six inches of the rim? Yeah, that's worth No. 53 for a look. Maybe he doesn't come over for two years. Maybe he doesn't come at all. But maybe ...
A hard-hat worker who doesn't need shots to make a difference. Birch started his college career at Pittsburgh, transferred to Las Vegas and became a two-time Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year, a non-factor on offense who was among the best shot blockers in the nation.
Brown led the SEC in scoring and broke 20 on 19 occasions, the most by a Missouri player in 14 years, since another NBA-bound shooting guard, Anthony Peeler. Brown is especially dangerous from behind the arc, making 41 percent of his attempts last season.
The unanimous All-Big East selection is an aggressive, attacking threat with the size to absorb contact when he goes to the rim. That starting point alone makes him a worthwhile investment in the second round. Christon still has rough edges, though, needing to improve his shot, in selection and execution, and reducing turnovers as part of making better decisions as a distributor.
Ejim's game should translate well enough in the move from college power forward to his best chance for an NBA future at small forward, with aggressive play inside for scoring and putting up big rebounding numbers. He won't come close to the production of 9.3 boards per game as a junior and 8.4 as a senior, but it shows his approach and attitude.
He needed two seasons to go from lottery candidate who decided to stay in school to second-round pick, and maybe not even that. McAdoo struggled to be consistent once the stars left and the Tar Heels became more of his team. That either indicates someone who is not getting better with time and doesn't want the expectations or a prospect who is made to be a solid complementary player capable of contributing.
Already a veteran of the Italian leagues at age 21, Gentile has continued to get better with a combination of strength on the wing, scoring ability and confidence that reaches arrogance. While temperament has been a concern, and would be a real red flag for an organization that prides itself on the proper personality, some NBA executives believe Gentile is dropping the attitude and maturing with the years.
Dawkins does one thing, but he does it very well: In three college seasons, he shot 42.7 percent, 39.2 and 42.1 on 3-pointers. That's someone with a chance to become an NBA role player, especially on a team with other players that demand attention from defenses, creating more open looks for Dawkins at the arc.
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