Kane's 2014 NBA mock draft 2.0


Kane's 2014 NBA mock draft 2.0

It's been two weeks since my first mock draft. Here is how I see the first round will shape up with my latest mock (you can compare my latest with John Gonzalez's and Amy Fadool's.):

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins, SF, 6-8/200, Kansas
Despite the on-going exodus from the Andrew Wiggins Fan Club, I'm holding strong. Mounting speculation suggests Cleveland is sold on Wiggins' college teammate Joel Embiid, but I'm not buying it. After gambling on Anthony Bennett with the top pick last year, the Cavs will go the safer route this time around. Wiggins is a freak athlete and lockdown defender who will develop into a perennial All-Star. Pick apart his weaknesses all you'd like, I'll focus on his strengths. And there are plenty of them. 

2. Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/250, Kansas
The Bucks will gladly take Embiid, who has the highest upside of any prospect in this draft. Health concerns are a legitimate issue, but Embiid has all the tools to become a dominant force on both ends of the floor. He's just starting to scratch the surface of his abilities -- a scary thought considering how much he's developed in the last two years.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, SF, 6-8/235, Duke
Nabbing Parker with the third pick would represent tremendous value for the Sixers. He is the most polished offensive player among the elite prospects in this draft and should have little difficulty transitioning into a 20-point scorer at the pro level. His defensive instincts were below average during his one collegiate season, but Parker's offensive game is too good to pass up.

4. Orlando Magic - Dante Exum, PG, 6-6/195, Australia
The Magic happily take Exum here and pair him in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo for years to come. Exum is a long, lanky point guard in the mold of Michael Carter-Williams. His shooting stroke is suspect but his playmaking skills and disruptive defensive tendencies are NBA-ready.

5. Utah Jazz - Julius Randle, PF, 6-9/250, Kentucky
Randle is a Zach Randolph clone who will be a force immediately on Utah's frontline. He was a double-double machine at Kentucky. Randle is tenacious attacking the glass on both ends of the floor, and will develop into a consistent shooter from 15 to 18 feet.

6. Boston Celtics - Aaron Gordon, SF, 6-9/225, Arizona
Gordon is as athletic as any prospect in the draft. His offensive game needs a great deal of polish, but he will be an impact defender the moment he steps onto the floor as a rookie.

7. Los Angeles Lakers - Marcus Smart, PG, 6-4/220, Oklahoma St.
The Lakers need an infusion of youth in the backcourt, and Smart fits that role nicely. His athleticism and floor game are outstanding, but his jump shot is a work in progress. Character issues won't negatively affect his draft stock.

8. Sacramento Kings - Noah Vonleh, PF, 6-10/240, Indiana
Vonleh's numbers were solid if not spectacular as a freshman at Indiana, but his measurables and athleticism stood out at the combine. The Kings will take him here based on his potential rather than his production at the college level.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Doug McDermott, SF, 6-8/225, Creighton
McDermott has the most well-rounded offensive skill set of any prospect in the draft. He is an elite shooter, can score on either low block and is terrific without the ball. He's also a willing defender with underrated athleticism and an unmatched understanding of the game.

10. Philadelphia 76ers - Nik Stauskas, SG, 6-6/205, Michigan
Brett Brown stresses the importance of surrounding Michael Carter-Williams with shooters. Nobody in this draft shoots the ball better than Stauskas, who was a 44-percent three-point shooter in two seasons at Michigan. He improved his all-around game significantly as a sophomore, attacking the rim more frequently and displaying tremendous passing skills.

11. Denver Nuggets - Gary Harris, SG, 6-4/210, Michigan St.
Harris' production increased during his sophomore season at Michigan State but his shooting numbers dipped. He should find his niche as a combo guard in the NBA, but I'm not sold on his ability to succeed as a long-term starter.

12. Orlando Magic - Dario Saric, SF, 6-10/215, Croatia
After taking Exum with the fourth pick, the Magic continue the international theme by grabbing Saric here. Saric is billed as a young Toni Kukoc, a creative player in transition who can play the point forward role in halfcourt sets.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves - James Young, SG, 6-6/215, Kentucky
Consistency was a problem for Young at Kentucky but athleticism and fearlessness were not. Young is a good outside shooter capable of attacking the rim. He could end up being a steal with the 13th pick.

14. Phoenix Suns - Rodney Hood, SF, 6-8/215, Duke
Hood has a lot of Thaddeus Young in his game -- from his size to his left-handed jump shot. Hood is a better shooter than Young was coming out of college, but he has work to do before he can match the other aspects of Young's game.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Adreian Payne, PF, 6-10/245, Michigan St.
The Hawks immediately improve their frontcourt with the selection of Payne, who can also step out and knock down the perimeter jumper. Payne is an experienced player who should crack Atlanta's rotation from Day 1.

16. Chicago Bulls - Zach LaVine, SG, 6-5/180, UCLA
LaVine didn't always stand out at UCLA, but his potential makes him an enticing mid-first-round pick. In a draft loaded with shooting guards, LaVine is viewed more as a project.

17. Boston Celtics - Elfrid Payton, PG, 6-3/190, Louisiana-Lafayette
Payton might be the most overlooked prospect in this draft. Don't put much stock into his mid-major background, he can play. He's a scoring point guard with tremendous athleticism. He was the only player in the country to average 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals last season. Payton calls to mind Damian Lillard, the former Weber State star who went the mid-major to NBA All-Star route.

18. Phoenix Suns - T.J. Warren, SF, 6-8/215, N.C. State
Warren is a great fit for how the Suns like to play under Jeff Hornacek. The ACC Player of the Year last season at N.C. State, Warren has little trouble getting to the basket.

19. Chicago Bulls - Shabazz Napier, PG, 6-0/180, Connecticut
No player helped his stock more in the NCAA tournament than Napier, who led Connecticut to a surprising National Championship. He has the makings of an explosive backcourt scorer and might be better suited in the Sixth Man role in the NBA.

20. Toronto Raptors - Cleanthony Early, SF, 6-7/210, Wichita St.
The Raptors made significant progress in the Eastern Conference this season and Early is the type of polished player who should help them immediately. He's a versatile player capable of scoring in the paint and on the perimeter.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jerami Grant, SF, 6-8/215, Syracuse
Grant is a risky pick but one the Thunder can afford. His upside is tremendous -- he's a great athlete with NBA bloodlines. Time will tell whether he can become a consistent performer at the pro level.

22. Memphis Grizzlies - Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, 6-9/230, UCLA
Anderson is a diverse offensive player with offensive skills that call to mind Jalen Rose. He is a big perimeter player who controls the game without the benefit of explosive athleticism. He can play three different positions for the Grizzlies, who will benefit from his versatility.

23. Utah Jazz - Glenn Robinson III, SF, 6-7/210, Michigan
Another prospect with pro bloodlines, Robinson often took a backseat to Stauskas, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. during his time at Michigan. But Robinson has the size and athleticism to contribute at the NBA level.

24. Charlotte Hornets - P.J. Hairston, SG, 6-5/230, NBDL
Hairston is a forgotten man in this draft. He was dismissed from North Carolina at the beginning of last season and eventually landed in the NBDL. Talent isn't the question, it's whether Hairston is able to avoid trouble off the court. But he's a great value pick this low in the first round.

25. Houston Rockets - Tyler Ennis, PG, 6-2/180, Syracuse
This would be a steep fall for Ennis, who was once viewed as a lottery pick. He was terrific as a freshman at Syracuse, an old school point guard who controls the flow of the game and always makes the right decisions.

26. Miami Heat - Mitch McGary, PF, 6-10/260, Michigan
McGary's sophomore season at Michigan was derailed because of a back injury, but he showed enough promise as a freshman to warrant consideration here. He is a gifted post player with a reliable 15-foot jump shot. McGary's back is a significant red flag, but if he's healthy he could be a steal for Miami.

27. Phoenix Suns - C.J. Wilcox, SG, 6-5/205, Washington
Wilcox is one of the top outside shooters in the draft and was a proven scorer at the collegiate level. He could be a nice rotation piece to help the Suns make the leap to the Western Conference playoffs next season.

28. Los Angeles Clippers - Semaj Christon, PG, 6-3/190, Xavier
Christon is a dynamic scoring guard capable of getting his own shot in the NBA. Whether he can be a consistent performer is the question. At the very least he gives the Clippers backcourt depth and learns under Chris Paul.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jarnell Stokes, PF, 6-9/260, Tennessee
With Kendrick Perkins on the decline and Serge Ibaka coming off an injury, the Thunder could use some size inside. Stokes is that and then some. But he's more than a bruising presence in the paint, he has underrated ball skills on the offensive end.

30. San Antonio Spurs - Nick Johnson, SG, 6-3/200, Arizona
Johnson was a first team All-American last season at Arizona, and he provides the Spurs with a much-needed shot of youth in the backcourt. He's a savvy scorer who will benefit from being around San Antonio's veteran cast.

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, CSNPhilly.com Sixers insider Jessica Camerato and CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?


The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by 10.2 points per game, also last in the NBA. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, the Sixers were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense.

Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?


The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown.

The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric.

The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick, Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. The Sixers are going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.

Sixers-Thunder 5 things: Season opener is here, let the fun begin

Sixers-Thunder 5 things: Season opener is here, let the fun begin

Finally, basketball is back.

The Sixers will look to put their miserable 2015-16 season behind them when they get the 2016-17 campaign underway with Wednesday's season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m./CSN, Pregame Live at 7).

It should be a fun ride. Let's take a look at the season-opening matchup:

1. Long time coming
If you thought you had a long wait for Wednesday's opener, just think how Joel Embiid and Dario Saric feel.

For Embiid, it will be especially gratifying to take the court for a regular-season game. After being selected No. 3 overall by the Sixers in 2014, the center has been forced to sit out two straight seasons because of a pair of surgeries on his troublesome right foot and endured countless hours of rehab.

Now healthy and fresh off averaging 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 14.7 minutes during the preseason, Embiid is ready for his first meaningful game action in 970 days.

"I can't wait (for Wednesday's game)," Embiid said, per the Inquirer. "That's going to be my first official NBA game. I just went through the preseason. I thought I got better game by game. I'm looking to finally get that first game."

As for Saric, he spent the past two years playing for Anadolu Efes in Turkey after being the 12th overall selection in 2014 and traded to the Sixers. By joining the Sixers a year early, the Croatian, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21.1 minutes during the preseason, passed on an opportunity to potentially earn more money.

Both Embiid and Saric have shown their committment to "Trust the Process" from the start, and now the rookies will finally get to prove their worth on the court for the Sixers.

2. Don't forget there is a D in Philadelphia
With Embiid, Saric, Jahlil Okafor, (maybe) Ben Simmons and some added outside shooting, offense shouldn't be an issue for the Sixers this season. However, the other end of floor remains a work in progress.

Head coach Brett Brown stressed Embiid's need to be the Sixers' anchor on defense throughout the preseason.

“He needs to be the crown jewel, the centerpiece to our defense,” Brown said of Embiid.

That was hard to do with the big man averaging just 14.7 minutes a game during the preseason. With Nerlens Noel sidelined because of knee surgery and a host of new faces trying to find chemistry together, it was more of the same defensive issues as the Sixers allowed 107.1 points per game during exhibition play.

Now, we get it, it's only preseason and a lot of the problems on defense have something to do with the roster's lack of talent in recent years. But it's still a continuing trend for the Sixers under Brown. In his three seasons at the helm, the Sixers have allowed averages of 107.6, 101.0 and 109.9 points per game.

Sure, Embiid can be the centerpiece on defense, but he can't be the only piece.

3. Watch out for Westbrook
Speaking of defense ... it will be tested right from the start by one of the NBA's best offensive players in OKC point guard Russell Westbrook.

With Kevin Durant's bitter departure to the Golden State Warriors, the Sixers and the rest of the league can expect a supremely focused Westbrook.

Just how focused? In 61 career games without Durant, Westbrook has averaged 28.0 points, 8.4 assists and 7.1 rebounds.

Those are MVP-type numbers. And you better believe Westbrook is out to prove he's capable of pulling in that hardware and much more without his former superstar teammate.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (ankle) is expected to play in the opener. Simmons (foot), Noel (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Alex Abrines (hip) is expected to play for the Thunder.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 14 straight matchups to the Thunder.

• Westbrook, who had triple-doubles in both games against the Sixers last season, has averaged 22.0 points, 9.4 assists and 7.9 rebounds against them in his career.

• Brown is 1-2 in season openers as Sixers head coach.

• Nik Stauskas scored a career-high 23 points in the March 18 meeting between the two teams last season.

• The Thunder grabbed 65 and 68 rebounds in the two games against the Sixers a season ago.