The NBA as viewed by 4 Aussies, with the latest news, reviews and opinions
Today was an incredibly eventful day, with Cleveland again acquiring the #1 pick, for the third time in the last four years! With them only having a 1.7% chance of getting it, everyone was surprised. Maybe tanking isn’t such a good idea…? This had interesting repercussions for the rest of the draft order, namely Detroit’s pick being conveyed to Charlotte. This article will mainly focus on the players fit to the team, you can find detailed analysis on most of these players here. Without further to do, here we go!
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid, Kansas, C
Cleveland have a tendency to screw up picks and reach heavily for players (Hello Thompson, Waiters and Bennett!) but with this years class and the number one pick in tow, it’ll be extremely hard for them to go wrong. With this pick there were three main options, Embiid, Wiggins and Parker. The ‘Elite 3’ have been outstanding all year, and are at the top of nearly every big board. All three have their strengths and weaknesses, so for Cleveland it’s about who will be the best fit for their team. For the Cavs, I believe Embiid is the right choice. This is a guy with Olajuwon type upside, easily the most in this draft, who would fit into their rotation nicely. With Irving, Waiters, Deng, Thompson/Hawes and an injury prone Varejao their current starters, Embiid would be a wonderful addition. With Varejao often being out for extended periods, Embiid would get plenty of game time. Knowing the Cavs, as soon as they pick Embiid, his back issues will become irreparable and he’ll end up known as the Greg Oden of this class. Let’s hope that isn’t the case. If the Cavs were to pick Wiggins or Parker, it would be because they are relying on Luol Deng leaving, in which case either would be a safe pick. With other teams having decent front courts, Embiid could fall to 3rd-5th pick if he isn’t taken first.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, SF
If they Cavs do decide to pass on Wiggins, the Bucks would be foolish not to take him with this pick. This is a guy with freakish upside. He is already a star on the defensive end and in transition, whilst his offense has plenty of upside. The Bucks cannot rely on Brandon Knight to be the best player on their team any longer, and if they were to draft Wiggins, he wouldn’t be. The Bucks could possibly have the most athletic wings in history if Antetokounmpo and Wiggins come together. With decent frontcourt depth of Ilyasova, Henson and Sanders, the real need for the Bucks is a wing to partner Antetokounmpo. Even if Embiid was still on the board, this selection is Wiggins v Parker, and Wiggins wins out for me.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Jabari Parker, Duke, F
The 76ers have made no secret of their tanking and the fact that they were ‘Riggin for Wiggins,’ but it hasn’t quite panned out and they’ve landed the third pick. Yet in this draft, Jabari Parker is a very nice consolation prize. Prior to March Madness, Parker had almost become the consensus number 1, but after his poor showing there, he slipped down in a few big boards. The 76ers have absolutely no depth on the wings, leaving it open in the knowledge that this draft had two brilliant wings coming through. With MCW filling out the point and Nerlens Noel at Center and Thaddeus Young likely to be held at PF, the wings are a gaping hole. Enter Jabari Parker at Small Forward. He will provide instant scoring in this rotation and can space the floor well for a guy like Carter-Williams who struggles with his shot.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, Australia, PG/SG
The Magic need a Point Guard, Exum is the best in this class, it’s a match made in heaven. If the Magic were to pick the Aussie guard, it would leave them with a backcourt of Exum and Oladipo: one of the most exciting in the league. But Dante Exum isn’t a guarantee to go this high. When picking an overseas player, there is always risk involved, most of Exum’s hype is based on his performances at a couple of competitions and his elite size and athleticism (as shown at the Combine). Despite this, Exum has a multifaceted game, he is an exquisite driver, a good defender and has a promising shot. This guy could very well be the best, if not one of the best, players in this class.
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh, Indiana, PF
What the Utah Jazz will do with this pick is unclear. With the four top prospects off the board, the Jazz will be forced to pick the player with the most upside. In this case, Noah Vonleh. With Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, the Jazz have some solid building blocks. But, with Favors and Kanter both suited to the Center more than Power Forward, Vonleh is a nice fit. The Jazz need a back to the basket player and Vonleh is just that, but along with this, he also has shooting potential and is an excellent rebounder. With the three bigs Favors, Kanter and Vonleh, the Jazz will be an extremely physical team who will rarely be beaten on the boards. If Exum was to slip through the Magic (unlikely) then he could form a nice backcourt at the SG, with Trey Burke.
6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon, Arizona, PF
The Celtics have an interesting one here at pick 6. With Vonleh off the board, they can go down three roads. They can pick Marcus Smart and develop him into the future franchise Point Guard, in the knowledge that Rondo may be leaving. They can pick Julius Randle, a safe, but limited prospect who has been touted by many as a top 5 talent. Or, they can do the option that I believe they will chose, pick Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. After the Draft Combine, Gordon appeared the standout, recording outstanding athleticism for someone of his stature. Although I personally don’t like Gordon, he has too much upside to ignore for the Celtics. With Jared Sullinger currently on the trade table, there is no doubt he will be dissatisfied. Although they both play the same position, Sullinger and Gordon play completely different games. Gordon relies on high-flying athleticism, Sullinger is a brilliant rebounder and has a good back-to-the-basket game. Whether or not these two will work is up in the air.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, Kentucky, PF
There is next to no depth in big men at the LA Lakers at the moment. Pau Gasol is almost guaranteed to leave in the trade period and the next best bigs are Chris Kaman, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hill: hardly superstars. Julius Randle would slot straight into the Power Forward position at the Lakers with ease and would probably clock up big minutes. Randle is a very old-school PF, he has a good post game and attacks the rim vigorously. He is also an excellent rebounder, but his shot his poor, limiting his ability to stretch the floor. Coming in at 6’9 at 250 pounds with a 7 foot wingspan (Draft Combine Measurements), Randle is a solid size but not outstanding. He will come up against bigger Power Forwards, but he is by no means undersized. If Randle is on the board come the Lakers pick, they must take him, if not, Marcus Smart or Gordon, or even Vonleh if he’s still available would be solid choices.
8. Sacramento Kings – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, PG/SG
Smart at the Kings just makes sense. With 5’9 current Point Guard Isaiah Thomas a Free Agent this offseason, Smart is a nice backup plan…at the very least. Thomas, whilst being a star, is more suited to a 6th man role, providing instant offense and facilitation of the bench. Whether Smart on the court with Shooting Guards Ben McLemore or Jason Terry or Thomas, all these guys are shooters and floor spacers. Smart provides that hard-nosed leadership and great driving that a team like the Kings could use. Plus, Thomas and Smart can be on the court together, due to the fact that Smart is brilliant off the ball as a 2-guard as well. The Draft Combine measured Smart as having a 6’9 wingspan, one of the reasons he is an excellent defender, he also ran an agility lane time of 10.82, faster than Westbrook, Wall and Chris Paul. Very impressive. The Kings need either a guard like Smart or a Power Forward with this pick, and with Vonleh and Randle both off the board, Smart is the best pick here.
9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit) – Nik Stauskas, Michigan, SG
Bobcats Hornets could do two things with this pick.
1. Pick a Power Forward, who is solid defensively to provide depth alongside Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson
2. Pick a Shooting Guard to provide instant offence; possibly off the bench.
With no legitimate Power Forwards left using this pick on (unless they risk Dario Saric), the newly named Charlotte Hornets should pick Stuaskas. With no floor spacers on the roster, Kemba Walker is often forced to try to get through multiple defenders to get to the rim. With Stauskas hitting 44% of 3’s in his time at Michigan, he is the floor spacer they’re after. Stauksas also has great basketball IQ and is a good passer, plus, at 6’6.5 he should have no issues against bigger guards. What he lacks defensively can be covered by excellent defenders in Henderson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans) – Gary Harris, Michigan State, SG
Having already selected Jabari Parker, the 76ers next focus will be on getting another wing to add to their dire stocks. Picking Gary Harris makes sense for the 76ers, he is one of the most solid and complete players in this class and is a safe bet to do well in the pros. He can get to the hoop well, plus he can shoot from long-range, adding another dimension to the 76ers. The main knock on Harris is his size. He is only 6’3 and he plays solely off the ball, this could be an issue guarding bigger bodies in the NBA. Despite this, Harris was a good defender in college and that should translate to being at least a solid defender in the NBA. Alongside Parker and MCW, the 76ers look to have a bright core for the future. The 76ers should also consider James Young for this pick, as a far riskier, but higher upside option.
11. Denver Nuggets – James Young, Kentucky, SG
Kentucky’s James Young is an intriguing prospect. At 6’7 with a 7’0 wingspan, he is an excellent size for a Shooting Guard. Young is a good shooter and a good slasher who can provide energy off the bench, his likely role in his first year at Denver. With Denver’s best Shooting Guard at the present Randy Foye, Denver should take a risk on the boom or bust Young with this pick. Other options for the Nuggets to consider are Dario Saric to give a different style to their frontcourt or Gary Harris if he’s still on the board.
12. Orlando Magic (from New York) – Dario Saric, Croatia, SF/PF
With the Magic having already filled the need at Point Guard, they can look towards Dario Saric with pick 12. Saric is a high upside prospect from Croatia who has dominated the Adriatic League. He is a very versatile player who likes to dribble the ball and take jumpers. He has a lot of upside and despite the Magic already having Tobias Harris at Power, Saric brings a whole new skill set to the table. With both he and Harris being able to play Small Forward, the Magic could have a nice Forward combo on their hands. The Magic may take Aderian Payne with this pick, or even Tyler Ennis as a backup Point Guard, but Saric seems to be a nice fit.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Adreian Payne, Michigan State, PF
The Timberwolves would not select Payne here if they were confident Kevin Love will stay. Payne cannot be ignored by the T’Wolves if he is on the board when they go to select. He is a very poor mans KLove (I love Payne, but Love is at another level) and with his 23 year old body, 6’10 frame, 240 pounds and 7’4 wingspan, he has all the right assets to be a successful Power Forward. Payne is solid in the paint, a good rebounder and importantly, he has the ability to stretch the floor, with rapid improvement in his 3-point stroke this season. Add all this to the fact that he was playing with mono (Chad Ford, ESPN), his season is extremely impressive. It would be a mistake to pass up on Payne at this point.
14. Phoenix Suns – Rodney Hood, Duke, SF
Phoenix could go a number of ways here. They could select a guard, in preparation of losing Bledsoe to Free Agency, they could risk international center Jusuf Nurkic if they don’t see Plumlee or Len as a long term answer, or the could select a Small Forward to strengthen their starting lineup, over P.J Tucker. I think they’ll go the latter option. Hood lit up the Draft Combine, nailing plenty of shots and standing out in the 3v3s. He is a good defender and is a good size at Small Forward. Couple this with his shooting prowess and Hood is clearly a better option for the Suns than Tucker or Marcus Morris.
Unlucky to miss the lottery:
Tyler Ennis: Ennis is definitely a lottery calibre prospect and will most likely be a starting Point Guard in the NBA. Great IQ, passing ability, awareness and has the ability to shoot 3s. Great option for any playoff team.
Doug McDermott: One of the greatest college ballers of all time. Averaged 27ppg in his last year at Creighton and will translate well offensively into the NBA. Questions on his D keep him out of the lottery.
Kyle Anderson: The UCLA product is intriguing. At 6’9, he played Point Guard in college, but may be required to play Small Forward in the NBA. Has a great shot from deep and is an extremely smart player, but is extremely lacking in athleticism. Riskiest prospect in the first round.
Find out more about nearly all the lottery prospects and the unlucky guys right here, in Jack and I’s four part Draft Analysis.
Alright, that wraps up my mock draft! It’s been a great college season and a great NBA season, but my favourite part of the year is still to come! 26 June is the draft date, it’ll be interesting to see if any of these predictions come true.
Yours in Basketball,