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With the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers…
Me, me, pick me! I know, I know!
The Cavs may not get it right because they often don’t. But it’s Simeon High School’s Jabari Parker who figures to be the second Simeon product in six years to go No. 1 overall in the NBA draft. Andrew Wiggins will go second to the Milwaukee Bucks and then the guessing begins with the Philadelphia 76ers, who were desperately hoping for either Wiggins or Parker when they threw their season for a top draft pick. They’ll get one. But now with the uncertainty regarding the health of Joel Embiid, it’s really a two-player draft at the top.
That’s not to say any of the next several players chosen will not have good NBA careers. It’s just not as likely as with Parker and Wiggins. And I’m still not sure about Wiggins. So it should be an entertaining evening Thursday. Not only considering the guessing and manipulating at the top of the draft, but with so many teams with multiple first round picks and looking to make trades.
The draft also could provide some clues toward free agency and whether some of the teams looking to make deals in free agency have included draft picks. Teams can make selections for another team because some deals cannot be consummated until July 1. The fate of Kevin Love will be a big story on draft night, though the thinking of late is the Timberwolves have not gotten knocked over with any offers and are not chasing draft picks; thus they see no rush to make a trade now as Love has one year remaining on his contract.
Here’s a look at the best players by position in a draft that is weakest at center, especially now given the uncertainty regarding Embiid. Given the 76ers are said ready to dump another season, there’s some thought now they’ll take Embiid, who likely will not play next season, at No. 3 to further erode their chances of having a better record next season. They’d probably like to forfeit all their games, but then they’d have to return ticket deposits.
- Dante Exum. The combo guard from Australia is just 18 years old, but is about 6-6 with a large wingspan. Teams have liked him personally and he can play both positions, vital in this guard oriented era.
- Elfrid Payton. This Louisiana-Lafayette product is the biggest riser in this draft as a defensive guard teams who’ve had him in say already could be all-NBA. Still with a bit of a broken shot that needs work.
- Marcus Smart. Suffers a bit from having been seen too much. Is more celebrated around the NBA for someone finally shoving a fan in Texas. Physical guard with questions about his shot who will defend and rebound.
- Tyler Ennis. Your classic distributing point guard who can run a team and make shots. But sounds better than he is as teams that have had him in weren’t that impressed. Coming from Syracuse you can defend but don’t have to and he didn’t.
- Shabazz Napier. The national champion. Somewhat under six foot hurts him, but teams make a lot of mistakes overlooking small guards these days. Sometimes because they can’t reach the door handles. He’ll defend, make shots and is intelligent and could move up on draft night.
- Andrew Wiggins. Thus far his only weakness as a shooting guard is he’s not a great shooter. Welcome to the world of NBA teenagers. He’s been a small forward at Kansas but probably will have to be a shooting guard in the NBA. You’re mostly going to see him in dunking highlights next season.
- Nik Stauskas. The best pure pro shooting guard prospect in the draft. Not a great defender with athletic limitations, but Kyle Korver now starts. Everyone wants shooting.
- Gary Harris. Maybe only 6-3ish, so he might be forced into that in between role like a Mo Williams type. Better overall, however, though some red flags supposedly came up in workouts and he could drop on draft day.
- Zach LaVine. A great pro prospect with all sorts of abilities and skills, but a baby with an undeveloped body. Can play some point as well as one of those guys with that elusive high ceiling.
- Jordan Clarkson. Another one of those combo guards in such demand these days as teams look for multiple players to make plays to thwart defenses. He’s almost 6-5 with a good stroke, so his shooting will improve. This is a deep position in this draft with many teams preferring players like James Young, P.J. Hairston and C.J. Wilcox.
- Jabari Parker. This reminds me of 2008 when a week before the draft a bunch of mock drafts still had Michael Beasley to the Bulls. I’d probably have taken Parker if Embiid were healthy as Parker is a sure All-Star, a player who’ll be terrific for a decade and could average close to 20 points next season. So what if Embiid became Bill Walton (pre injury). You’d still have a star in Parker.
- Doug McDermott. A terrific shooter, but also versatile. Sort of a higher level Wally Szczerbiak, and Wally made an All-Star team. Probably not quite as good a shooter as Kyle Korver, but more well rounded.
- Rodney Hood. Some pro scouts think he has to be a shooting guard given his slight frame. But a good overall shooter.
- T.J. Warren. Perhaps a stretch given some scouts seem him as a three/four tweener with some comparisons to a Shawn Marion type. An opportunistic scorer who isn’t a great athlete and uncertain with his shooting.
- Kyle Anderson. Considered by some maybe the most skilled player in the draft as probably a point forward. But not that fast, which raises some questions. Some teams prefer players like Jerami Grant or Glenn Robinson III.
- Aaron Gordon. This is probably the most loaded position in this draft with probably three of the top eight and some scouts say Parker will eventually play a lot of power forward in the pros. He’s a strong, quick guy compared often with Karl Malone or Blake Griffin with, like those players, a weak shot coming into the NBA.
- Julius Randle. There’s some debate on whether he should be behind Indiana’s Noah Vonleh. There were also rumors of a foot problem. But he’s got a ready to go pro game and looks like he can step out and make an 18-footer.
- Noah Vonleh. Considered immature, but with appealing size and abilities. Some scouts say he can even play small forward despite power forward size with a huge wingspan. Can shoot and athletic.
- Dario Saric. The book changes on him given he signed for at least two years in Turkey. Very skilled big man probably around 6-10 with ball handling skills. He’ll be an ideal player to park overseas for a few years as he probably was a lottery pick. One of the teams in the teens with multiple picks will get him and when he’s ready to come to the NBA will be the equivalent of a top five pick.
- Adreian Payne. Good shooting senior big man who is considered somewhat limited overall and doesn’t project as a starting level player.
- Joel Embiid. Even though he likely won’t play until 2014-15, some scouts drool over him and say he can be one of the top five players in the NBA in a few years. But he’s come up with multiple injuries despite not playing much and not having played that long. Someone in the top 10 likely will take a chance just based on the scouting reports.
- Mitch McGary. And he could go in the second round. Some quickness and a hard worker who’ll bang around and maybe make a team. And he’s the second best.
- Jusuf Nurkic. One of those strong European big guys who scouts says appears to keep glue on his sneakers as he’s always stuck to the floor.
- Walter Tavares. A giant with a huge wingspan who is playing basketball because he is a giant with a huge wingspan.
- Clint Capela. All those words to watch out for, like raw, unskilled. But he is a tall man.