First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

With the NBA draft just around the corner, a mere nine and two-thirds months away, it's of course time to break out the first mock draft of the season. If that somehow seems a tad premature and excessive, that's because of course it totally is, but excitement about this 2014 draft--any Sixers fan who hasn't already bought a 2014 calendar so they can circle the dates of May 20th (Lottery) and June 26th (Draft) is of course no true Sixers fan--is such that any premature and excessive talk about it is still exceedingly welcome.

Anyway, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford (and we'll be referring to him as that so much over the course of the next nine and two-thirds months that we may as well just call him ESPNDGCF from now on) has projected next summer's draft, using the site's projected standings for all 30 teams to determine the order. Surprise surprise, Ford has the Sixers picking first overall, and surprise surprise surprise, he has them taking Canadian prospect and future Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins with the pick. Writes Ford:

I've been very bullish on the 76ers this summer; having the best shot at Wiggins is why. Wiggins is one of the best prospects to come into the draft in a decade. He has NBA size, elite athletic ability and does just about everything well. With young anchors in the middle (Nerlens Noel) and at the point guard position (Michael Carter-Williams), the Sixers could add an uber-athletic wing to the mix. Combined with the No. 11 pick (see below), they suddenly have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. Even if the Sixers don't win the lottery, a player like Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Jabari Parker would add another potential star to the team.

No real news there--the Sixers could start selling Wiggins jerseys at the Wells Fargo Center this upcoming season and he'd outsell actually anyone on the team 5 to 1. He'll be the most talked about player in Sixerland months before he even declares for the draft. More notable, however, is the player Ford has us taking at #11, where he projects the pick owed to us by the Hornicans in the Jrue Holiday trade to fall: Second-year Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell. Quoth the ESPNDG:

Putting Harrell on a team that already includes Noel, Carter-Williams and, if they win the lottery, Wiggins is just plain greedy. Harrell is a bouncy energizer who should be a great fit in Philly. He has a terrific motor, is an excellent rebounder and he proved this summer that his offensive game is coming along nicely. If he has a big sophomore year in Louisville, he might not be around at No. 11. But if he is, he'll be another great building block for the Sixers.

Interesting. I'll admit to not being nearly as familiar with Harrell as I am with Wiggins at this point--I had no idea he was even on the Louisville title team last year--but after reading Ford's write-up on him, and after watching this one perfunctory YouTube highlights compilation:

I'm pretty well sold. What's more, I agree with Ford's analysis that he'll be a likely target for the Liberty Ballers--he fits the young/athletic/lengthy mold the team has been consistently going for in the Sam Hinkie era to a T, and would be an absolute terror of a frontcourt partner with Nerlens Noel, catching lobs from Michael Carter-Williams and running the floor with (allegedly) Andrew Wiggins. Plus, his first name is Montrezl, and any name with a somewhat superfluous "z" in it is an automatic winner. He's definitely yet another college player worth monitoring for Sixer fans over the course of the year, to help us forget about the 85-68 losses to the Pistons the night before and whatnot.

Oh, and if you don't already watch them nightly as you fall asleep, here's some spare Wiggins highlights for the hell of it:

(s/o to Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers for the Twit-tip here.)

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots in the third period and 37 overall, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped the St. Louis Blues' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Evander Kane and minor-league callup Nicholas Baptiste each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's third straight win, matching a season best accomplished three times. Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres (26-23-10), who have three more wins than losses for the first time since closing the 2011-12 season 39-32-11.

Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis, which lost for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4 (see full recap).

Jets spoil Julien's return to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Claude Julien's return to Montreal with a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday.

Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg (27-29-5), and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots. The Jets had dropped five of six.

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday and hired Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track. Julien also coached Montreal from 2003-2006.

But Julien's first game back was more of the same for the first-place Canadiens (31-20-8), who have lost three in a row and seven of eight (see full recap).

Senators top Leafs to gain on Canadiens
TORONTO -- Mark Stone had a goal and four assists, Derick Brassard scored twice in the third period and the Ottawa Senators recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Senators pulled within two points of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa led 2-0 after one period but trailed 3-2 in the third before getting a tying goal from Mike Hoffman and a power-play goal from Brassard. Stone and Brassard added empty-netters, and Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the Senators.

Ottawa has won four of five overall and three of four against the Leafs this season. Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots.

Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored and Auston Matthews had two assists for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NBA All-Star Saturday: Glenn Robinson III dunk champion; Eric Gordon wins 3-point contest

NEW ORLEANS -- Glenn Robinson III is the NBA's new dunk king, with an assist to Indiana teammate Paul George, the Pacers' mascot and a Pacers cheerleader.

Robinson leaped over all three, snagging the ball from George along the way before finishing with an emphatic, two-hand, reverse jam, giving him a perfect score -- and the title -- on his final dunk.

Robinson edged out Phoenix's Derrick Jones Jr., who was done in by his failure to complete his difficult first dunk of two in the final round.

Jones still managed a perfect score on his second dunk, when he received a bounce-pass in the paint, put it between his legs and threw down a left-handed jam. But Robinson made sure it wasn't enough.

In the 3-point contest, Houston's Eric Gordon dethroned Golden State splash brother Klay Thompson. Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks won the Skills Challenge.

Both dunk finalists delighted the crowd with soaring slams over teammates and others that showcased the explosive spring in their vertical leaps.

Robinson had one dunk in which he leap-frogged one man sitting on another's shoulders, grabbed the ball from the elevated man's hands and slamming it home.

Jones jumped over four teammates including Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss in the first round. He also drew roars from the crowd when he took a pass off the side of the backboard from Booker with his right hand, put the ball between his legs to his left for a round-house jam.

The dunk that cost him was a bold one. He tried to leap a friend and the Suns' gorilla mascot, grab the ball on the way over, put it between his legs and then finish with a windmill. But he couldn't get the dunk to go down in his allotted three attempts.

DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers and Aaron Gordon of Orlando were unable to emerge from the first round. Jordan dunked over DJ turn tables and Gordon dunked after receiving a bounce pass from a drone that had flown over the court with the "Star Wars" theme music playing.

Eric Gordon got his win in New Orleans, where he played the previous five seasons before leaving last summer in free agency.

Gordon's score of 21 in a final-round tiebreaker defeated Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, the 2013 winner who had 18. The pair had each finished with a score of 20 in the final round, meaning they each had to shoot 25 more balls to decide it.

"I wasn't really concentrating on how many I made," Gordon said. "It's all about just knocking down the shot. I never counted in my head or anything. I just go out there and just shoot the ball."

Thompson was stunningly eliminated in the first round, missing a final shot from the corner that could have put him through ahead of Kemba Walker.

Big men reigned supreme for a second straight year in the skills competition, with the 7-foot-3 Porzingis beating Utah's Gordon Hayward in the final round.

Those vanquished in earlier rounds included guards John Wall of Washington and Isaiah Thomas of Boston, both because they couldn't make their initial 3-pointers required to close out the course before Hayward did, even though Hayward had trailed each of them dribbling down the court by a considerable margin before hitting his clinching shots.

Porzingis emerged from the big-men's division that included the Pelicans' Anthony Davis and Denver's Nikola Jokic.

"It's a good feeling that I'm able to showcase my skill with my size and show to the kids that you're capable of doing that even if you're tall and lanky like me," Porzingis said. "I think a lot of kids now growing up will improve those perimeter skills just seeing guys like -- I don't want to mention myself, but big guys with perimeter skills that can do it."

Porzingis and Hayward were neck-and-neck until the end of the course, but Porzingis hit his 3 first to end it.

The three-round, head-to-head obstacle-course competition tests dribbling, passing, agility and shooting skills.

Earlier on Saturday, Rollie Massimino, who coached Villanova to the 1985 NCAA championship, and Chris Webber were among the 14 finalists for this year's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.

Others include NBA referee Hugh Evans, Connecticut star Rebecca Lobo, two-time NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady, five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Kansas coach Bill Self and two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

Previous finalists returning to the ballot include point guard Tim Hardaway, record-setting high school coach Robert Hughes, Notre Dame women's coach Muffet McGraw, former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and 10-time AAU national champion Wayland Baptist University.

Enshrinees will be announced at the Final Four on April 3. The induction ceremonies in Springfield, Massachusetts are Sept. 7-9.