Once we all got over the shock -- and, let’s be honest, the disappointment of seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers once again get the top overall selection in this month’s draft -- reality set back in, and the excitement returned for the June 26 NBA draft.
I believe this is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, and while I don’t think it will rival 1984, which featured five Hall of Famers, it could venture to that level. So without further ado, here’s my NBA mock draft:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/250, Kansas
Just last week, his college coach, Bill Self, seemed to be on a mission, and that was to sell Embiid, going on radio talk shows across the country. Self touted that Embiid could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon. And that may be true. He’s got a huge upside, he can move well on the court and in the low post, and he has barely tapped his basketball potential. The Cavs were once again looked upon favorably by the lottery ping-pong ball gods, and I think they can’t miss again with the top pick. At this point, the Cavs are looking for a finishing piece as they try to build their franchise back up. Embiid would complement Kyrie Irving quite well.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, SF, 6-8/200, Kansas
This seems like a no-brainer. Wiggins is the best overall player in the draft. There has been talk that Wiggins could go No. 1. Here’s why I have him going second to the Bucks: Embiid’s agent. They have made it known that they don’t want Embiid in Milwaukee, and are going as far as to possibly withhold Embiid’s medical records regarding his back. So that’s one reason. Another is that the Cavs don’t feel like they need Wiggins, and they’re lack of need falls right into the laps of the Bucks. Wiggins is a player who’s ready-made for the NBA. He’s got size, strength and shooting ability. On the same radio tour, Self, also his college coach, remarked that Wiggins was a “nice kid” and maybe didn’t have that “dog” in him when he played. If that’s why some teams pass on him, so be it (and have him "fall" to the Sixers). But I counter Self’s assessment with this: In the final three games of the Jayhawks’ season before the NCAA tournament, without Embiid, Wiggins scored, 41, 30 and 22. (Then he scored only four in KU's loss to Stanford in the Round of 32.)
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, SF, 6-8/235, Duke
Finally the Sixers receive some luck! I know every Sixers fan out there was disappointed not to receive at least the second overall pick, but picking third and having Parker there for the taking will quickly erase any of those sour memories. While I said that Wiggins is the most "ready-made for the NBA," I think that Parker is the most ready for the league. The knocks on him are that he lacks something on the defensive end and that he’s not as fit, athletically. I’ll counter with: Who is at 19? LeBron? Parker has a tremendous skill set, can shoot well, and I think he has great court vision. Brett Brown will get to work with a kid who’s already been well-coached, and as a result he can further exploit his many talents. Parker was undoubtedly one of the best and most consistent scorers in college last year, outside of McDermott. This is a boon for the Sixers and one I think they’ll take full advantage of.
4. Orlando Magic - Dante Exum, PG, 6-6/195, Australia
Another fortuitous bounce for the Magic. They will gladly take an NBA-ready point guard and put him in their backcourt with last year’s first-round pick, Victor Oladipo. Exum, the international man of mystery, is not as well known, but NBA execs and scouting personnel know him and his game. He’s rangy and tall, at 6-6, and has a real knack for defense. Some are suspect of his shooting game, but then again that was said about another lanky PG: Michael Carter-Williams.
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh, PF, 6-10/240, Indiana
This is where I thought I would have Kentucky’s Julius Randle. But teams seem to be falling for the draft combine stats of fellow power forward, Vonleh. I watched Indiana several times this past season, and I’ll admit, I didn’t see the kid as a top-5 pick. But his athleticism has shined through, and the NBA loves to draft on potential (see picks 1-4), so I’m thinking the Jazz take the upside vs. the known and draft Vonleh.
6. Boston Celtics – Julius Randle, PF, 6-9/250, Kentucky
I will venture to say there are few, if any, in the Delaware Valley who watched more of Randle this past season. Having said that, I think he’s a player who could fall a bit on draft night. And it’s not because he lacks talent. I feel like Randle is a known commodity, and as I’ve said, the league tends to draft on potential. Having said that, Randle is a double-double machine and would provide an immediate impact on anyone’s front court.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Marcus Smart, PG, 6-3/220, Oklahoma St.
The Lakers are in need of a point guard, and Smart will be the first college PG to go off the board. Smart is a bulldog of a PG. He’s tough, physical and isn’t afraid to drive right into the lane against the big men. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with his 6-9 wingspan and his strength. He enjoys being in the paint and creating the shot while taking contact.
8. Sacramento Kings – Aaron Gordon, SF, 6-9/225, Arizona
The Kings will gladly snatch up West Coast product Aaron Gordon at No. 8. Gordon is not as ready as some other forwards coming out of college, but he’s full of potential. He’s got a good jump shot, but his defense was his trademark in his lone year at Arizona. Gordon’s athleticism was also evident during that one year and the reason that some call him Blake Griffin with a jump shot.
9. Charlotte Hornets - Doug McDermott, SF, 6-8/225, Creighton
Sad to say it Sixers fans, but I think McBuckets goes one pick before the Sixers' next pick. McDermott is a tried and true shooter. His numbers are staggering. He is a big man who can shoot. And on a team like the Hornets, who were better known for their defense last year, he’ll provide some much-needed point production. Say what you will about his size and defensive abilities, McDermott is an NBA player. And if I’m the Hornets (yeah, back to the Hornets name), then I snatch him up. Have my other players defend -- this kid can score.
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Gary Harris, SG, 6-4/210, Michigan State
Like McDermott, Harris can shoot and can do so consistently. That’s what the Sixers need: POINTS! Like many of you Sixers fans out there, I watched the games and thought, where can they get some points? One of the lowest-scoring teams, while also allowing one of the highest point totals, the Sixers are in need of shooters and defenders. I feel that Harris fits the bill. There aren’t many quality shooting guards in the draft this year, and I think the Sixers snatch up the best of the bunch.
11. Denver Nuggets - Dario Saric, SF/6-10, 215, Croatia
The Nuggets have been looking for a small forward since the departure of Carmelo Anthony, so it seems natural they take one at 11. And in talking with CSNPhilly.com's John Gonzalez, he’s in love with Dario Saric, the small forward out of Croatia. However, word this week is that Saric won’t come to the NBA unless he “plays for the Lakers or the Celtics.” What is this? The '80s? The Sixers were pretty solid in the '80s too, Dario. So we don’t need you here. (But if you change your mind, let us know.)
12. Orlando Magic – Rodney Hood, SF, 6-8/215, Duke
The Magic need a small forward. They really need a lot actually, to go with Oladipo, but since they’ve addressed their backcourt with their initial first-round pick, I feel they will address small forward here. Hood is a reliable player who played one year at Duke but played his first year of college at Mississippi State and, of course, spent his transfer year learning from one of the best coaches of all-time. So he’s no one-and-done player. And the Magic don’t seem to be sold just yet on their current small forwards, including Moe Harkless.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – James Young, SG, 6-6/215, Kentucky
Again, not as many top prospects at the two-guard position this year as there are at forward, but there are plenty of teams that need shooting guards. Young was a bit inconsistent with his scoring during his one year at Kentucky, but he more than made up for it with athleticism on both ends of the court. He has a good stroke and can be a reliable outside shooter at the NBA level.
14. Phoenix Suns – Nik Stauskas, SG/6-6, 205, Michigan
The Suns were one of the surprises of the NBA last season, and seemingly they need only a piece here or there to put them in the playoffs, which they barely missed (but would’ve made had they been east of the Mississippi). Yes, they start a very capable SG right now in Eric Bledsoe, but I contend, move him to the point and pair with Stauskas in the backcourt -- point city. You’re welcome Phoenix.
15. Atlanta Hawks - T.J. Warren, SF, 6-8/215, North Carolina State
DeMarre Carroll is a very capable small forward, but the Hawks need a little depth and maybe a little competition at the position. I think they reach down a bit and take Warren here, who can score. Numbers: He averaged 28 points per 40 minutes for the Wolfpack last season, and in his career he was 56 percent from the field and 32 percent from the three-point arc -- not too shabby for a 6-8 forward.
16. Chicago Bulls - Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, 6-9/230, UCLA
Anderson is an intriguing prospect to me. He was much hyped out of high school, and perhaps it’s the East Coast bias in me, but I am not sure he fully lived up to that hype. Having said that, I like Anderson’s game. He’s very rangy and played the point for the Bruins. The Bulls are in need of a small forward and, unfortunately, the way theirs and Derrick Rose’s luck is going, they need a backup point. Anderson fits the bill for both.
17. Boston Celtics - Zach LaVine, SG, 6-5/180, UCLA
LeVine isn’t as well known as some of his other shooting guard prospects, but he paired nicely with Anderson last season at UCLA. The Celtics may end up moving off this pick, but if they don’t, I see Danny Ainge taking a shooter here. And LaVine could pair nicely with Rondo in the Celtics backcourt.
18. Phoenix Suns – Adreian Payne, PF, 6-10/245, Michigan St.
The Suns pick again, just a few spots from their initial first-round selection. Payne will be hard to pass up here at 18. He’s as skilled of a big man as there is this year. He’s got a few miles on him, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. But in a draft of 19- and 20-year-olds, Payne seems like the elder statesman at 23 and having played all four years in college (enter sarcastic what? here). Whichever team gets Payne will get a great defender and a great shooter. Anyone who watched him under Tom Izzo saw not only those qualities but also how he improved every year.
19. Chicago Bulls - Shabazz Napier, PG, 6-0/180, Connecticut
Napier burst onto the scene in late March when he led his Huskies team all the way to the NCAA title. Fans who may not have watched him much salivated at his athleticism, especially around the basket. “Ho hum,” said the not-as-bitter-now Kentucky fan. But I digress. The knock on Napier is his size, but he more than makes up for that in heart, desire and actual skill. He’s a great finisher and a winner. Two qualities that I think should always be admired in an NBA player.
20. Toronto Raptors - Tyler Ennis, PG, 6-2/180, Syracuse
With Villanova product Kyle Lowry wanting to test the free-agent waters, our friends to the North will be in need of a point guard. Ennis is consistent and has good court vision. I'm hesitant to say much else, but I feel like you can’t judge point guards in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone accurately (see Michael Carter-Williams), but Ennis definitely showed flashes of greatness on the court last season.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – P.J. Hairston, SG, 6-5/230, NBDL/North Carolina
Remember him? If you do, you know he's a player who could’ve put the Tar Heels back in the Final Four. A very reliable shooter, Hairston is a solidly built player who likes contact as well. Jeremy Lamb isn’t enough for the Thunder, who are looking to get back to the finals.
22. Memphis Grizzlies - Jerami Grant, SF, 6-8/215, Syracuse
The Grizzlies seemingly need a piece here and there to break through in the West. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Tayshaun Prince’s work, but the Grizz need a little more out of their small forward spot. I think Grant is an interesting prospect here for Memphis. He can be a consistent force for them, which they haven’t always enjoyed. And I hope he wears goggles like his uncle Horace.
23. Utah Jazz - DeAndre Daniels, SF, 6-9/210, Connecticut
I like Daniels here for the Jazz. He’s another guy who saw his stock improve drastically thanks to all of the extra eyeballs on the Huskies' run to the NCAA national title. (I’m still not as bitter.) He’s a bit inconsistent, but the Jazz could use a little depth at the small forward position.
24. Charlotte Hornets - Glenn Robinson III, SF, 6-7/210, Michigan
A run of small forwards continues when the newly re-minted Hornets select Robinson. Little Big Dog may have gotten lost in the shuffle this past season on the Wolverines' roster, but that doesn’t mean his shooting game diminished. He’s a strong player and can move well around the court.
25. Houston Rockets - Semaj Christon, PG, 6-3/190, Xavier
The Jeremy Lin experiment may be nearing its end for the Rockets. They may need to reach a little bit here to take a point guard, but they need one. And Christon is not a bad option for Kevin McHale. He certainly took the sophomore leap while at Xavier and should continue to improve at the next level.
26. Miami Heat – Jarnell Stokes, PF, 6-8/260, Tennessee
Talk about improving your draft stock. Stokes was a relative unknown to many until the Volunteers, as an 11 seed, made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. I saw Stokes quite a few times all year and came away impressed every time. Very physical in the low post, he would bang right along with Julius Randle, a more skilled power forward. And like Randle, even though teams will foul him, Stokes is still a double-double machine. He posted 22 double-doubles, tying the Tennessee single-season record set by Bernard King in 1976-77.
27. Phoenix Suns - Cleanthony Early, SF, 6-7/210, Wichita State
Hey, it’s the Suns again. No way the Suns pick here, but for the sake of argument and since they’d like me to complete the mock draft, I think if they do stay at 27, it’s a small forward. Early became somewhat of a known name for basketball fans because of the heightened profile of Wichita State this past season. He’s an excellent scorer and has a well-rounded game. The knocks on him are his decision-making, but he should improve that and flourish under Jeff Hornacek.
28. Los Angeles Clippers - C.J. Wilcox, SG, 6-5/205, Washington
The Clippers have J.J. Reddick on their roster, but what team doesn’t want a bona fide scorer, especially if you can pair him with Chris Paul? Wilcox fits that bill for the Clippers. He improved every one of his four years at Washington. In his senior season, he averaged 18.3 points a game, while shooting 39 percent from three-point land and 45 percent overall from the field.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Mitch McGary, PF, 6-10/260, Michigan
Now I’m not a fan of injury-prone players. But (and you knew it was coming), the Thunder can afford to have a player with huge potential sit back and get healthy while learning their style of offense and defense. McGary was a player who was a solid first-rounder the last two years, but injuries took him out of that conversation. I think the Thunder can gamble a bit here, and if McGary stays healthy, it should pay off for OKC.
30. San Antonio Spurs – ANYONE THEY WANT. (seriously)
The Spurs have drafted perhaps better than any team in the last decade-plus, finding and perfecting unknown talent while making the most out of sure-fire first-rounders. I’m guessing they go overseas and take a shooting guard. And he’ll likely turn out pretty good.