NBA Trade Deadline: Winners & Losers

Winners:

Goran Dragic and the Heat

It’s safe to say that Dragic and the Miami Heat were the blue-ribbon winners at the trade deadline. Dragic wanted out of Phoenix, and realizing that they would need to pay their third point guard this summer, the Suns front office obliged. The Heat acquire the point guard they desperately needed to go along with Dwayne Wade, Hassan Whiteside, and Chris Bosh (who is hopefully OK). Dragic’s stats have dropped this year but that is attributed more to splitting time with Isiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe as opposed to a drop in performance. Expect big things from the Slovenian slasher over the final thirty games of the season. He could be what the Heat need to rise up to fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder obtained some much needed front court depth. They acquired Enes Kanter along with D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, and Steve Novak at the net cost of Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins and a future first round pick (Grant Jerrett too, but I’ve never heard of him). Kanter provides some offensive firepower in the front court, an area where Nick Collison, Steven Adams, and Mitch McGary have struggled. I also like the acquisition of D.J. Augustin, who is a good fit to backup Russell Westbrook. With all of their new pieces and the Suns shooting themselves in the foot, the Thunder look poised to make some noise in the playoffs.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland got the second-unit scorer they needed in Arron Affalo at the cost of NBA scraps and a  2016 protected first round pick. Affalo will boost a bench that has little to no scoring potential, and take some pressure off Nicolas Batum, who has been absolutely dreadful this season. This is a sneaky good move for a team that is very well put together. Though they don’t get much attention, but come playoff time we could very well be seeing Portland in the conference finals.

 

Losers:

Phoenix Suns

Ryan McDonough blew it up. I have no problem with GMs blowing their teams up. But blowing your team up while tied for the last spot in the playoffs is very questionable. Yes, Thomas and Dragic both wanted out of town and could have been cancerous in the locker room. But the Suns are mortgaging their present for their future, which isn’t a great move in the heat of a playoff race. They got three first round picks, but won’t see any until 2016 at the earliest. That leaves nearly a season and a half for coach Jeff Hornacek to figure out how this team is going to mesh, which will be a tall task. Phoenix took themselves out of the playoff hunt on deadline day this year.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

From an economical perspective the Sixers pre-deadline moves have their merits. Michael Carter-Williams was probably going to get overpaid in the next couple of years and K.J. McDaniels was due to leave this year anyway. But at some point you’ve got to keep some of the players that are going to win you games . What gets lost in valuing all these players as assets and not people is that with every move it becomes harder and harder to build team chemistry. Continuity is important for the development of young players, and Sam Hinkie seems to care nothing for it. Developing young players like Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel becomes more difficult when every player is on the chopping block. It will be interesting to see when Sam Hinkie finally decides which Sixers aren’t expendable, and starts to try and actually build a team.

 

Brandon Knight

Poor guy. Knight was having a career year on a Bucks team that was the feel-good story in the East. He’s now second banana on a Phoenix team that likely will miss the playoffs. At least the weather is better in Arizona.

2014 NBA Orlando Summer League: What We’ve Learned So Far

At some point, it’s silly to speculate about the summer league. Each team has about four players who might make the NBA squad, as the rest of the team is composed of undrafted castoffs and second-round journeymen. However, speculation sure is fun and the summer league does provide valuable game time for young high-caliber prospects. With that being said, here what we have learned after a few days watching the summer league in Orlando.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can score, provided he gets the chance.

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In the Piston’s final game of the 2013-14 season, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope exploded for a career-high 30 points on 5-7 shooting from deep along with six rebounds. It was an otherwise disappointing year for the #8 overall pick in the 2013 draft, as he only put up six points per game in less than 20 minutes a night. However, so far in Orlando, KCP has exploded to the tune of 27 points per game and eight assists per game. The Georgia product has taken about 20 shots per game, but his scoring ability is definitely on display in Orlando. With a new coach, KCP could get more chances in the Detroit offense if he keeps it up.

Marcus Smart is probably is the player we thought he was.

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Young NBA players often don’t turn out as expected. In every draft, there are players who don’t live up to expectations or whose skill sets don’t translate to the NBA. Coming into the draft, Marcus Smart was seen as a great defensive player who could facilitate and rebound as well. So far, Smart has been pretty much accurate with his projected skill set. He’s put up almost 12 points per game, but on a ghastly 25% clip, including 17.6% from deep. However, he’s also averaged 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game as well as a league-leading 2.7 steals per game. Smart should be a very good defensive presence from the get-go, and if he improves his long range shot, he’ll be a great NBA guard.

Aaron Gordon could struggle to make an impact during his rookie year .333% shooting 0-5 on threes , payton good 6.7 5.7 apg 4.3 rpg but 3.67 topg.

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Aaron Gordon is having a rough time trying to provide positive minutes for the Magic summer league team. If this persists, it’s hard to see him making an impact for the Magic during the 2014-15 season. The Arizona product is averaging 6.7 points per game on 33% shooting and has yet to make a three pointer. He only has one block and twelve rebounds in four games. While Gordon can impact a game with his energy and defense, he appears to be a project currently, and might not see the floor a lot during the beginning of the the season.

Nerlens Noel could be a pleasant surprise for the Sixers.

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In his first competitive game in over a year, Nerlens Noel certainly lived up to expectations. Noel put up 19 points on 11 shots and racked up four steals. While he only had two rebounds and one block, the 2013 #6 overall pick has average eight rebounds and 3.67 blocks per game in the three contests since. While the Sixers might be hard to watch this year, Noel should be plenty of fun to watch. And when Joel Embiid returns, watch out.

Shabazz Napier will not be handed the Heat point guard role.

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The two-time national champion has really struggled during his time in Orlando. In his first game, Napier scored 12 points on 15 shots and turned the ball over 8 times. He’s turned it over 16 times in three games and only shot 3-18 from range. Obviously, Napier will need to improve.

NBA Free Agent Signing Grades (Week 1)

The NBA never sleeps. When San Antonio wrapped up a convincing championship win over Miami, the buzz simply shifted to the draft. When the calendar turned to July, free agency officially opened and with it, speculation and rumors. While teams cannot actually sign players to contract until July 10, the first of the month marks the day when front offices can try to court their free agent Prince Charmings. The 2014 free agency crop is a talented one, and plenty of questions are present. Will the Big Three stay together? Where will Melo end up? Who is going to pay Lance Stephenson to blow in Lebron’s ear? Though it’s only been open season for a few days, several notable signings and re-signings have occurred. Here are some grades for early decisions so far in free agency.

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Kyle Lowry re-signs with Toronto; 4 yr, $48 million

Lowry proved himself as probably the most important Raptor during their playoff series versus the Nets. He should have been an All-Star and he’s a borderline star in the NBA. Toronto made him priority #1 this offseason, locking him up through his prime at a relatively cheap cost given his value to the team. The Raptors still have work to do this offseason in order to maintain their success, but fans should trust the Midas touch of GM Masai Ujiri.

Grade: A

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Marcin Gortat re-signs with Washington; 5 yr; $60 million

Marcin Gortat was one of the vital components of a Wizards team that ended up losing in the conference semifinals. Washington’s front office believes it can compete in a weak Eastern Conference, and in order to do so, re-signing Gortat was vital. Of course this led to a player-friendly contract. Gortat is worth his $12 million a year, but the length of the contract could bog down the Wizards when the center passes his prime (right about now).

Grade right now: A-; Grade in 2016-17: C

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Shaun Livingston signs with Golden State; 3 yr, $16 million (third year not guaranteed)

Golden State looked to former Nets combo guard Shaun Livingston as the man to ease Stephen Curry’s minutes as the backup point guard. While Livingston can’t shoot and isn’t a great creator, his size will allow him to guard both guard positions and create mismatches in the post. He should be a great role player for a Warrior team that had plenty of bench problems this past season. Given Livingston’s injury history, the third year of the contract is not guaranteed, so the Warriors should look good coming out of this deal no matter what, even if Livingston isn’t a splashy signing.

Grade: B+

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Darren Collison signs with Sacramento; 3 yr, $16 million

Kind of a confusing move from the Kings here. Collison is essentially a backup point guard who brings good defense but limited offensive potential. The Kings’ incumbent point guard, Isaiah Thomas, put up a career high 20.3 ppg and 6.3 apg. Thomas is a restricted free agent, so this move could be an insurance policy in case the Washington product receives a huge offer sheet. While the Collison deal is relatively cheap, the contract is a bit confusing as Sacramento is not in a good position to be downgrading at the point guard position.

Grade: C+

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C.J. Miles signs with Indiana; 4 yr, $18 million

Former Cavs small forward C.J. Miles should provide some needed long range accuracy for a Pacer squad looking for more bench production. Though Indiana boasts one of the best starting fives in the NBA, their bench needs some work. Miles should be able to thrive as a sniper off the bench. While this contract seems a bit long for a role player, it’s also very tradeable if things between Miles and the Pacers don’t work out. Indiana will try to re-sign Lance Stephenson next while staying under the luxury tax.

Grade: B

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Jodie Meeks signs with Detroit; 3 yr, $19 million

Despite all the cries that Jodie Meeks was overpaid and that he is a one-dimensional player, he will actually provide a great fit for the Pistons. Obviously, his three-point stroke will bolster an awful Detroit perimeter game, but Meeks also brings solid defense and a range of offensive skills that will ease the pressure off of the Pistons’ frontcourt. Stan Van Gundy obviously has a plan, and he got one of his targets in Jodie Meeks.

Grade: A-

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Spencer Hawes signs with Los Angeles Clippers; 4 yr, $23 million

The Clippers missed an opportunity to get a big man during the NBA Draft, but once free agency started, they didn’t hesitate to fill a void in the frontcourt. Los Angeles signed 7-footer Spencer Hawes to provide valuable backup big man minutes behind Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. The Clippers’ frontcourt behind Griffin and Jordan was a mess last year, so credit the front office for identifying their need and going after Hawes. The former Cavs center would start on plenty of other teams, so he should see up to 25 minutes a game. Hawes provides range out past the three point line as well as solid rebounding numbers. With this new addition, Los Angeles will be a force in the Western Conference.

Grade: A

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Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts sign with Miami: 2 yr, $4 million (Granger), 4 yr, $23 million (McRoberts)

Pat Riley made his first two free agent signings of the 2014 offseason after rumors tossed around names like Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, and Pau Gasol. Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts are not the splashy signings that the Heat hoped for, but given their cap space (or lack thereof), Miami can’t do much better. McRoberts and Granger will likely do little to influence Lebron James to stay in Miami, but the Heat don’t really have the capacity to sign anyone better than average rotational players. McRoberts should be a good distributor and defender at the four, while Granger can provide scoring in spurts. However, neither of them project to be as impactful as Chris Bosh and James should the two of them re-sign.

Granger Grade: C; McRoberts Grade: B

NBA Draft Winners and Losers

The NBA Draft might not have been as ripe with trades as we had hoped, but it didn’t lack for excitement. There were prospects who rose and those who fell, but in the end, the draft seemed more predictable than expected. Despite the predictability, the fortunes of several teams were definitely changed. Here are some winners and losers of the draft.

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Winners:

Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh (9); P.J. Hairston (26); (45) Dwight Powell; (55) Semaj Christon

Outside of Cleveland, the Cavaliers’ winning of the lottery probably had the largest effect on the Hornets. They got the Pistons’ lottery pick as a result of the Cavs moving up from the sixth spot to the first. The Hornets scooped up Indiana forward Noah Vonleh at the nine spot, as Vonleh had a mini-slide through the lottery on draft night. While he will join a crowded backcourt in Charlotte, GM Rich Cho is probably very happy to pick up such a great asset in the back half of the lottery. Charlotte also filled its need for shooting by picking up North Carolina native P.J. Hairston late in the first round. Hairston should be able to jump right into the rotation and help out a weak-shooting Hornets team.

Denver Nuggets: Jusef Nurkic (16); Gary Harris (19); Nikola Jokic (41); Roy Devyn Marble (56)

In a mutually beneficial trade, the Nuggets acquired the rights to Jusef Nurkic and Gary Harris from the Bulls for the 11th pick, Doug McDermott. Earlier in the day, Denver also traded for Arron Afflalo, at the low cost of Evan Fournier and a second round pick. The quality of the Nuggets backcourt increased exponentially yesterday, something that should help Denver rebound from their tough 2013-2014 season. In addition, centers beware Jusef Nurkic whenever he lumbers into the NBA. It’s not everyday you play basketball against a bear.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart (6); James Young (17)

The  Celtics didn’t make any loud picks, but their selections were high quality. Marcus Smart and James Young should immediately improve a shallow Boston backcourt. Rajon Rondo and Smart will combine to form one of the scariest defensive backcourts in the NBA. Boston took a step in the right direction in terms of building a tough team identity with these picks.

Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle (7); Jordan Clarkson (46)

In the leadup to the draft, Julius Randle seemed like the Lakers’ guy. The heir to Pau Gasol at power forward, Randle should be able to jump right into the Laker rotation and make an impact. In terms of fit, Randle is probably one of the best first round picks in this draft. Clarkson should also be able to make an impact if given some time to develop. Los Angeles has a need at both guard spots, and Clarkson’s size and skill set should make him a serviceable combo guard in time.

Utah Jazz: Dante Exum (5); Rodney Hood (23)

The Jazz should be ecstatic with both of its picks. Both Dante Exum and Rodney Hood fell into Utah’s lap in their respective spots. Exum was projected to go as high as #2, and Hood has lottery level talent. An Exum-Trey Burke backcourt pairing will be deadly, and Hood’s three point stroke will get him minutes immediately on a rebuilding Utah squad. The Jazz could have used a big man, but they should be more than happy with their draft haul.

New York Knicks: Cleanthony Early (34); Thanasis Antetokounmpo (51); Louis Labeyrie (57)

If anything, the Knicks made themselves more exciting on draft night. A day after shipping Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, Phil Jackson picked up the best player on a one-loss NCAA team (Early) and the Greek Freak’s brother (Antetokounmpo), as well as a Euro-stash player (Labeyrie) who will probably never make an impact on the Knick’s salary cap. Positives everywhere! In all seriousness, Jackson and Co. parlayed a couple of second round picks into one solid player and one project whose name should at least be fun for New Yorkers to say. Consider the draft a success for New York, one of the only ones in the past year.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia 76ers (for now): Joel Embiid (3); Dario Saric (12); KJ McDaniels (32): Jerami Grant (39); Vasilije Micic (52);Nemanja Dangubic (54); Jordan McRae (58)

The Sixers actually used all of their picks! Don’t expect to see all their players on the Sixers roster next year; there’s actually only three who could physically play on the team. GM Sam Hinkie stayed with his M.O. of a slow, painful rebuilding process. He used his two lottery picks on players who will likely not suit up for Philly in 2014-15; Embiid’s foot injury will shelve him until at least December (Philly will likely Noel him) and Saric signed a contract to stay in Europe for at least two more years. However, both players project to be stars in the NBA. Selecting K.J. McDaniels at 32 was a solid pick for the Sixers as well, as they get an uber-athletic Swiss Army Knife kind of player in the Clemson product. The Sixers lineup is so barren that McDaniels could easily be starting by January. Sixers fans, brace yourselves for 2014-15, it could be worse than this last year.

Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne (15); Walter Tavares (43); Lamar Patterson (48)

Atlanta was stuck in a tough position at the 15 spot. Two guys who would have been great fits, Zach LaVine and T.J. Warren, were drafted right before Atlanta’s draft spot. GM Danny Ferry decided to draft for talent, taking Adreian Payne from Michigan State. However, considering the depth Atlanta has in the frontcourt, the Hawks could have gone with a better option, preferably a wing like Gary Harris or James Young. Walter Taveras was a good value pick midway through the second round, but he needs to develop overseas for several years.

Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo (20); Deandre Daniels (37)

Toronto definitely won the “Who the hell is that guy?” draft contest with their first round pick. Some draft experts had Caboclo going in the second round, but no one saw him going this early. Apparently, Toronto loved him in pre-draft workouts and promised to take him with their second round pick, but were scared by the notion of Oklahoma City pouncing on the Brazilian. The Raptors reached for Caboclo at 20, indicating that GM Masai Uriji is building for the future. That’s probably not the best sign for Raptors fans, especially since they were just given a smidge of hope with a division title.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine (13); Glenn Robinson III (40); Alessandro Gentile (53)

It doesn’t take an expert lip-reader to understand what Zach LaVine uttered when he was picked by Minnesota. The two-word phrase basically sums up Minnesota’s offseason so far. A Kevin Love departure is imminent; whether the Timberwolves get assets in return depends on if they can make a trade before next summer. The front office gambled on two high-risk, high-reward players with their first two picks: UCLA’s Zach LaVine and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. LaVine has world class athleticism, but still doesn’t really know how to play basketball. On the other hand, Robinson needs to develop secondary skills beyond his nice knack for scoring. The Timberwolves are about to embark on a massive rebuild, and the longer it takes, the more pundits will look to this draft as a reason why Minnesota’s rebound was so slow.

New Orleans Pelicans: Russ Smith (47)

Thanks to last year’s draft day trade, the Pelicans were left without a first round pick for the second consecutive year. Granted, last year’s would-be pick (Noel) wouldn’t have helped much, but New Orleans is going to regret missing out on such a loaded draft class. While the Pelicans have a bunch of good young assets, they could have used some mid-lottery talent infuse more energy into their team. If the Pelicans can’t get over the hump and get into the playoffs the next couple of years, they’ll be kicking themselves for not picking in this lottery.

 

2014 NBA Mock Draft

In the context of the past five drafts or so, the 2014 NBA draft is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating. While top prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Aaron Gordon are unfortunately not (yet) the Hall of Famers they were hyped to be, they are still talented, franchise-altering players. The depth of this draft class through the lottery and beyond rivals anything we’ve seen in the past. However, the most exciting thing about the draft is what its significance will be in a few years. Will we see a Finals MVP drafted 15th, like Kawhi Leonard? Will an All-Star be drafted in the second round, like Marc Gasol? Will three of the first five picks unite to form a super-team (you should know this one)? That’s the beauty of the draft; no one knows what will happen on draft night, or beyond. With that being said, here’s an idea of what will happen on June 26 at the Barclays Center.

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke (6’8”, 240 lbs)

As lucky as Cleveland has been with regards to the draft lottery the past four years, you have to feel a little bad for the Cavs. Gifted with the number one pick for the third time in four years, the Cavs were all set to choose from the trifecta of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, far and away the best prospects in the draft. Embiid was a perfect fit in Cleveland, a outstanding defensive big man who didn’t need the ball in his hands very much. But doctors found a fractured bone in the center’s foot, compounded by Embiid’s prior back issues. To make it worse, it was Cleveland’s doctors who discovered the injury. Embiid will likely be out for 4-6 months. Cleveland has a tough decision here: stay with Embiid to fill a team need, or take the safer pick with Wiggins or Parker. Taking Embiid would really be challenging fate; we know what the book is on drafting banged-up centers (see: Oden, Greg). Considering the Cavs past top-five history (Tristan Thompson over King-slayer Kawhi Leonard, Dion Waiters over rebound machine Andre Drummond, Anthony Bennett over literally anyone else), Cleveland should not be challenging fate. If Cleveland takes Embiid, there’s a high chance that Embiid will be revealed to be a cyborg designed by the NBA to test just how disillusioned the Cleveland front office is. Expect the Cavs to play is safe and take Parker, considered the most-NBA ready prospect. Parker was one of the most offensively versatile players in college basketball this past year, exhibiting range out beyond the three-point line but also using his big frame to battle forwards in the post. Defensively, Parker might have some issues, as he isn’t quick enough to guard anyone on the perimeter, yet NBA power forwards will likely abuse him in the post. Cleveland will need to pick a spot for him and develop his defensive skills, but Parker’s  good instincts and offensive skills should help out a floundering Cavaliers franchise.

2. Milwaukee Bucks- Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas (6’8”, 200)

Jabari Parker seemed to be the Bucks target here, assuming Embiid had gone to the Cavs, but Milwaukee will be happy to take high-flying Andrew Wiggins with the second pick. The Bucks are looking to build excitement in a city that hasn’t seen a lot of good basketball recently. The Kansas product’s highlight dunks and above-the-rim play should fill some seats.  Wiggins was the can’t-miss prospect out of high school, the number one recruit, the “Canadian Lebron”. Considering he was overshadowed by Kansas teammate Joel Embiid as the season progressed, one could consider Wiggins’ only college season a disappointment. That wouldn’t be true. Wiggins had a very successful freshman year, exploding for 41 and 30 in back to back games at the end of the year while showing stellar defensive instincts and above-average rebounding skills. Wiggins’ insane athleticism actually projects better on the defensive end, where his quick first step and good length will allow him to guard anyone on the perimeter. His offensive game is what needs refinement, as he needs to improve his handles and find a way to score aside from blazing a path to the basket and trying to dunk on someone. Wiggins will see the floor as a rookie for his defensive prowess and his ability to play above the rim. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Wiggins should help form one of the more exciting young perimeters in the NBA, capable of swatting shots, and throwing down dunks whilst playing great defense.

3. Philadelphia 76ers- Dante Exum, PG, Australia (6’6”, 188 lbs)

Out of all the teams in the lottery, the Sixers seem like the most likely to make a move. The Philadelphia front office is enamored with Andrew Wiggins, so a trade with Cleveland or Milwaukee is very likely. Philadelphia is stocked with plenty of assets, with two lottery picks and five other draft picks as well as forward Thaddeus Young, a solid two-way veteran with a manageable contract. Out of the first four teams picking, the Sixers are in the toughest position. Most scouts agree that the four best players in the draft- Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, and Exum- are a level above the next tier of players. The two players that fit positional needs on their team- Wiggins and Parker- will be off the board, and the top two players remaining- Embiid and Exum- would fill a position already occupied by a young Sixers player. It’s doubtful that GM Sam Hinkie would hinge the future of his franchise on two creaky rim protectors in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Therefore, the more likely scenario would be the Sixers drafting Dante Exum, the 6’6” point guard from Australia. Exum’s long build allows him to wreak havoc in transition as well as finish through contact at the rim. Exum’s outside shot needs work, as well as his quickness, but his size and exceptional instincts will allow for a relatively easy transition into the NBA. Exum can also learn a lot from another long, young point guard who might have won the Rookie of the Year in 2013-2014. Philadelphia will likely look to trade Exum to for a wing player. Perhaps Exum and the 10th pick for Andrew Wiggins?

4. Orlando Magic- Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (6’3”, 227 lbs)

Orlando has realized that Jameer Nelson is not the point guard of the past, present, or future, and will look to the draft to find a ball-handler to complement Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. The Magic’s two primary options would appear to be Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State or Dante Exum all the way from Australia. Exum seemed like a perfect fit for the Magic, but he moves up the board to three with Embiid slipping due to a foot injury. Orlando could take a chance on Embiid at four, but center Nikola Vucevic is young and producing solid numbers. Smart was rumored to be a target for the Magic to trade down for, but with Exum off the board and the Magic desperately in need of a point guard, Orlando will reach a bit for the Oklahoma State sophomore. Smart’s physical play and thick build will make him an instant defensive presence in the backcourt. His outside shot desperately needs refinement, but Smart should be able to get to the rim and make plays for other teammates. Smart’s NBA-ready body should allow him to stuff the stat-sheet as a rookie and form one of the toughest defensive backcourts in the NBA along with Victor Oladipo.

5. Utah Jazz- Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana (6’9”, 250 lbs)

The Jazz have many holes to fill, even assuming they can re-sign restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. A major deficiency for the Jazz is the lack of another efficient post presence to complement Derrick Favors. Enes Kanter has not proven himself to be compatible with Favors, and Rudy Gobert still needs to develop. The Jazz have said that they consider Favors to be a center, not a power forward. Vonleh seems like a good fit to complement Favors’ back to the basket tendencies. Vonleh possesses range out to the three point line, but at the same time is able to battle in the paint. He is an exceptional rebounder and plays with endless energy. Utah would need to develop his offensive game, as he is very raw, but Vonleh has the physical attributes as well as the intangibles to be an important player in Utah for years to come.

6. Boston Celtics- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (7’0”, 240 lbs)

It’s hard to imagine Embiid falling past the number six spot. Boston lacks a true center, with Kelly Olynyk playing more like a four, and Jared Sullinger standing only 6’9”. While Embiid still lacks great instincts or awareness- due to the fact that he’s only been playing for four years-, his athleticism and mobility for his size are unparalleled in this draft class. An imposing defensive presence, Embiid should add to a strong defensive team in Boston, and the coaching staff will look to develop him into a force on the block. With the kind of upside Embiid possesses, the Celtics can take a risk here, especially considering that they have the Nets’ first round pick from now until whenever the Cubs win the World Series. The Celtics picked Sullinger and Avery Bradley amid injury concerns, so GM Danny Ainge is obviously unafraid.

7. Los Angeles Lakers- Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky (6’9”, 250 lbs)

The Lakers are in an unfamiliar place: the lottery. Los Angeles missed the playoffs for just the fourth time in 30 years. However, missing the playoffs in a year ripe with draft talent could be a blessing in disguise for the wildly competitive franchise. The Lakers have a chance to begin to stock the team for the post-Kobe era, something that the front-office hasn’t done very well, as the Los Angeles roster is littered with NBA journeymen. Julius Randle is a perfect building block for the Lakers to start with. With an NBA-ready body, Randle is prepared to battle for rebounds in the paint and possesses great scoring touch around the basket. The Kentucky product’s best feature is his face-up game, where Randle uses his quickness to get to the basket and then his strength to finish at the rim. If Randle can develop his right hand and find a jump shot, he could be a 20 and 10 guy, similar to David Lee.

8. Sacramento Kings-Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette (6’4”, 185 lbs)

An under the radar prospect playing for a low-level Division I team, Payton’s draft stock has been shooting up, as he has been impressing teams in pre-draft workouts. Before individual workouts, Payton was seen as a late-first round pick. But sources out of Sacramento reported Payton held his own against Marcus Smart and the Kings have expressed their interest in the Louisiana-Lafayette product. He possesses great size and length, something that will make him a great defensive NBA point guard. Payton also has great handles, allowing him to distribute in the paint and create his own shot. At the NBA level, Payton projects as a defensive-minded guard, similar to Patrick Beverley. In need of a point guard should Isaiah Thomas not re-sign, Payton’s motor and sneaky skills should prompt the Kings to reach for him.

9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit)- Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan (6’6”, 207 lbs)

The renamed Hornets are looking for a three-point presence to complement their paint-attacking offense. Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both poor shooters and the Hornets need more of a three-point threat to keep up with the more and more three-point happy NBA. Stauskas fits the mold perfectly, as he is likely the best shooter in the draft. That’s not to say he is a one dimensional player; Stauskas improved by leaps and bounds this year in terms of creating his own shot and distributing the ball. While his foot speed needs improvement, Stauskas should thrive off of kick outs for now, and Charlotte should hope he develops into a Klay Thompson-type of player.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)- Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona (6’9”, 220 lbs)

With the Sixers employing the fastest offense in the league, they’ll be looking for athletes that can run the floor easily and play above the rim. Aaron Gordon is an athletic freak of nature whose high motor and explosiveness make him a great defender and proverbial glue guy. He enters the NBA as a player as likely to win a game for his team by diving into the stands for a loose ball as he is to throw down a 360º dunk. Gordon should be able to score easy points in transition for the Sixers, but his offensive game needs serious work. Only 18 years old, Gordon should develop into a great rotational player for Philadelphia.

11. Denver Nuggets- Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton (6’8”, 218 lbs)

Doug McDermott would be welcome in a Nuggets rotation that lacks a lot of scoring talent. McDermott had one of the most prolific college careers in history in terms of scoring, and projects to continue his high volume yet efficient scoring in the NBA. The Creighton product can score from the post all the way out to the three point line, and he’s able to create his own shot but also can play within an offense. Teams are concerned about his defense and low ceiling, but McDermott has proven he can score consistently for four years in college, and there’s no reason it won’t translate to the NBA.

12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver)-Dario Saric, PF, Croatia (6’10”, 225 lbs)

Dario Saric, a forward out of Croatia, remains one of the draft’s largest mysteries, because he plays in Europe and he hasn’t participated in many pre-draft workouts. Saric recently inked a contract that will tether him to an European team for at least two more years. But Saric’s talent is unmistakable. He functions as a point forward, possessing great instincts and ball-handling skills for his size. He has a high motor, which led him to be one of the best rebounders in the Adriatic League. Athletically, Saric is limited, which could hinder his transition to the NBA, and his outside shot needs some work. With time, Saric could develop into a carbon copy of another foreign player who came to the NBA, Boris Diaw. And we just saw how important Diaw was to the Spurs’ championship run. In the midst of a massive rebuild, the Magic can gamble on Saric with their second lottery pick, considering that scouts see him as a top-ten talent.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves- Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (6’4”, 205 lbs)

With all the Kevin Love rumors swirling around, it seems like the Timberwolves are on the verge of a franchise facelift. While Gary Harris is not a franchise changing player, he’s a start. Harris has a great feel for the game, as he was asked to take care of the ball a lot at Michigan State. His basketball instincts and strong defense should earn him minutes on a Minnesota team that quite simply, doesn’t play defense. The sophomore will try to help the T’Wolves turn over a new leaf should they deal Love.

14. Phoenix Suns- James Young, SG, Kentucky (6’7”, 215 lbs)

Young burst into the national spotlight with strong performances throughout Kentucky’s March Madness run. He was consistently Kentucky’s second best player behind Julius Randle, displaying a nice shooting stroke and a knack for finding the basket. Young’s range should project well to the NBA, though he can be streaky, and when he adds weight to take on bigs on drives to the paint, he should establish himself as a very good scorer. Young needs to work on his defensive intensity and fundamentals, but his long frame will help him invade passing lanes and even get some blocks. Phoenix’s up-tempo offense should suit Young well, and budding stars Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe should be able to get Young plenty of open shots.

15. Atlanta Hawks- Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA (6’6″, 180 lbs)

Athletically speaking, Zach LaVine is as good as they come. His vertical measured out at 41.5 inches at the draft combine and video of him throwing down a behind the back dunk at a Nuggets workout surfaced this past week. LaVine is a great shooter who is lethal in transition, and his above the rim play would bring excitement to the woe-begotten Atlanta franchise. If LaVine can find some three-point consistency, he should be a staple in the Hawks rotation.

16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte)- Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse (6’2”, 182 lbs)

Knowing that Derrick Rose will never be a sure thing at point guard, Chicago will look to the draft for a floor general to develop if Rose never returns to MVP-form. Ennis is an elite decision-maker, especially given his youth, and his uncanny knack for finding the open man will translate well to the NBA. While Ennis lacks scoring ability and killer athleticism, these deficiencies can be masked by running pick and roll and set plays for Ennis. If D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich don’t re-sign, Ennis could see major minutes at the point for Chicago.

17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)-  Rodney Hood, SF, Duke (6’8”, 208 lbs)

Rodney Hood should provide a prolific three-point scoring threat for a Celtic team that struggled from deep this past season.. Hood shot 42% from range for Duke, which would have been the highest mark for a Celtic playing at least 20 minutes per game. Granted, Hood will need to take a couple steps back, but his sweet shooting stroke should easily translate to the NBA. Jabari Parker’s running mate at Duke needs to add weight in order to absorb contact better and battle for rebounds, but Hood should immediately become a key role player for Boston.

18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)- Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State (6’10”, 240 lbs)

Payne opted to return for his senior season at Michigan State, and enjoyed an Elite Eight run along with solid statistics for the Spartans. He showed shooting range out to the three-point line, as well as good leadership. Payne’s strong character is something that NBA front offices value even if Payne isn’t as talented as other prospects. Phoenix will surely be happy in landing a high character, multi-talented player in Payne in the latter half of the first round.

19. Chicago Bulls- Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Hergovina (6’11”, 280 lbs)

Nurkic is a 6’11” bear in the middle of the paint, clogging up the lane the way donuts clog up arteries. Nurkic’s massive proportions allowed him to dominate the Adriatic League, but he was often on the bench due to foul trouble. He projects to be a phenomenal defensive presence, and he moves well for his Honda Civic-like proportions. While the Bosnia and Hergovina native’s offensive game needs refinement as do his instincts, the Bulls would gladly take on a project with such fantastic physical attributes.

20. Toronto Raptors- Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA (6’9”, 230 lbs)

Anderson is one of the most fascinating prospects in this year’s draft class, as he spend the majority of this past season tearing it up as UCLA’s 6’9” point guard. With Anderson’s poor athleticism, he can’t play point guard in the NBA, and he will likely be moved to the wing. Anderson possesses incredible passing skills along with great rebounding instincts and a decent three point shot. The UCLA product’s great basketball IQ and distribution talents will  enchant Toronto this late in the first round.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via Houston and Los Angeles Lakers)- Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (6’7”, 211 lbs)

Possessing great size and exceptional athleticism, Glenn Robinson III could very well become a great NBA wing. Robinson III regressed this year, partly due to the improvements from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but still has the physical attributes to see continued improvement. With a strong point guard in Russell Westbrook, Robinson III will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

22. Memphis Grizzlies- T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State (6’8”, 220 lbs)

T.J. Warren gets buckets. Regardless of what critics say about his athleticism or his “tweener” status, Warren can put the ball in the hole. Similar to Doug McDermott, the sophomore has a great feel for the game, moving without the ball and setting up easy for his teammates. He’s also a sneaky-productive rebounder. Memphis will love his knack for scoring off the bench and good play on the other side of the court as well.

23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State)-  Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut (6’1”, 175 lbs)

Utah would love to steal Napier from a playoff team at this point in the first round. Napier plays with the kind of swagger you can’t teach. He believes that every shot he takes will go in. This makes up for his lack of size and athleticism. For the Jazz, Napier will be serviceable back up to Trey Burke, but he will also be a great asset on the trade market, for many playoff teams would love to have a warrior like Napier come May.

24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland)- Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri (6’5”, 186 lbs)

Clarkson is a great game-manager, able to create his own shot as well as distributing for others. He’s exceptional in the pick and roll, finishing at the rim thanks to his good size. While his outside shot deserves no respect at the moment, there’s certainly room for improvement. Charlotte would love a backup point guard for Kemba Walker, and Clarkson will have plenty of offensive weapons to set up on the floor for the Hornets.

25. Houston Rockets- P.J. Hairston, SG/SF, Texas Legends (6’5″, 229 lbs)

Hairston’s sweet three-point shot is his calling card, and Houston’s three-point focused offense is perfect for the former UNC standout. He’s sneaky athletic, and his thickness will help him on defense, if he decides to put in the effort. Obviously, the Rockets will have to look into his past and his dismissal from UNC, but provided his red flags clear up, Hairston should be a great fit for Houston.

26. Miami Heat-K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson (6’6”, 196 lbs)

McDaniels was one of the top players in the ACC this past year, despite his relative obscurity. He’s got freaky athleticism, as his highlight tape opens with several high-flying putback dunks. McDaniels is not a horrible three-point shooter, and with some work, it could become add a whole new layer to his game. He is also a great defender, thanks to his exceptional length. His long arms led to 2.8 blocks per game, an incredible mark for a wing player. Despite his low notoriety, McDaniels should enter the NBA as an impactful rotation guy, and with development, could become a great two-way player. The Heat might also reach for a point guard like Spencer Dinwiddie here.

27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana)- Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA (6’4”, 210 lbs)

Expect Phoenix to trade one if not all of its first round picks to move into a position where it can draft a player with high-end lottery talent. However, if they hold onto the number twenty-seven pick, look for them to take Jordan Adams, a pure scorer out of UCLA. Adams moves well off the ball, possessing good basketball instincts and relying on guile to make up for his lack of athleticism. A versatile scorer, Adams can post up smaller guards using his bulk frame, shoot off the catch, and man the break in transition. He also averaged 2.6 steals and 5.3 rebounds a game, showing that he doesn’t completely check out on the defensive end.

28. Los Angeles Clippers- Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State (6’7”, 210 lbs)

Early was the best player on a Wichita State team that was undefeated prior to a second round loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Early carries great athleticism and a fortitude for putting the ball in the basket.  He can score with his back to the basket as well as possessing an improved shooting range. Early’s great size should help out a thin Clippers wing core, and with tutelage and effort, he can become a solid defensive player as well.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland (6’11”, 222 lbs)

Clint Capela has the kind of physical and athletic gifts that makes NBA scouts’ mouths water. He runs the floor like a gazelle, playing above the rim offensively and defensively. However, Capela is still a few years away; he has no offensive identity aside from easy transition points and his fundamentals are lacking. The Thunder would love for Capela to fill out in order to step into the void Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison leave when their contracts expire next year.

30. San Antonio Spurs- CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington (6’5”, 201 lbs)

Known for his silky smooth three-point stroke, CJ Wilcox developed into an exceptional scorer during his time at Washington. Though he gained notoriety for his three-point shooting, Wilcox can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He also can guard almost anyone on the perimeter, thanks to his great lateral quickness. San Antonio looks for high character, two-way players who will buy into Coach Popovich’s system. Wilcox fits the mold.