With the addition of Ed Isaacson to the Rotoworld team I haven’t had to be the lone source of info on the college/European players this spring and summer. In fact, I haven’t even thrown my two cents out there this year…until now. So here’s my first stab at an NBA mock draft, focusing on the lottery and first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
He’s being evaluated in Cleveland as I write this and my guess is they’ll take him at No. 1 if the stress fracture in his back is healed. Spencer Hawes is a free agent, Anderson Varejao is likely out, and Tyler Zeller looks like a career backup to me. So there is a fit and Embiid has a chance to be special if he can stay healthy. Just like Greg Oden and Sam Bowie.
2. Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Cavs could easily go with Wiggins at No. 1, but he shouldn’t fall lower than No. 2 if Cleveland goes with Embiid. Wiggins appears to have it all and the Bucks seemingly need help at every position, meaning they’ll be taking the best player available, regardless of position. And seeing Wiggins at No. 2 would be the best-case scenario for tortured Bucks fans.
3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker’s name isn’t being thrown around much in the race for No. 1 or 2, so No. 3 for the Sixers looks like the right place, unless Embiid’s back raises too many red flags for the Cavs or Bucks. He’s NBA ready and should start scoring right away, and could even start, as Hollis Thompson shouldn’t prove to be much of a road block.
4. Orlando Magic - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Almost every mock I’ve seen has Dante Exum going here, but he’s simply a mystery. The Magic are happy with Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and I can seem them going after another Hoosier here. I think Vonleh might be the most underrated player in the lottery and the Magic could use a true power forward, as most of their wings can play several positions.
5. Utah Jazz - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle would give the Jazz a solid bench option behind Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. He’s a good two-way player, but his pro career will probably get off to a slow start if he has to compete with the aforementioned big men for minutes.
6. Boston Celtics - Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Rajon Rondo’s name continuously pops up in trade rumors and the Celtics could use a young back up to join Phil Pressey in the backcourt, either way. Smart’s also a defensive stopper, just like Rondo, and I get the feeling Danny Ainge would be psyched if Smart is available at No. 6.
7. Los Angeles Lakers - Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
He’s a nicely sized point guard, but also a bit of a mystery, since most of us haven’t seen him play. Most mocks I’ve seen have him going at No. 4, but I’m not convinced the Magic will be ready to automatically take such a question mark, especially after the Fran Vasquez disaster a few years ago (he never showed up). Steve Nash is about done and the Lakers need help everywhere. Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar (free agent) are competent point guards, but both seem more like backups than NBA starters, at least at the point. Exum will probably need some time to learn the NBA game, but gambling on him at No. 7 could pay off in a big way in the long run.
8. Sacramento Kings - Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Kings are desperately trying to get Rudy Gay to stay, but if it doesn’t happen, this looks like a logical move. Saric could end up being an offensive phenom, but his defense is a question mark. But as long as Gay isn’t a sure bet, Saric looks like he could be their guy.
9. Charlotte Hornets, Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Cats took PF Cody Zeller last year and starter Josh McRoberts is a free agent, meaning the Cats have a serious need at power forward, for depth if nothing else. Gordon’s a serious athlete who can run the floor and plays solid defense. If he lands in Charlotte, the big hope will be that he’s not Tyrus Thomas, part 2.
10. Philadelphia 76ers - Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas is a sharp shooter and the Sixers, like most teams, could use one of those. He’s another player I view as undervalued and he could make a jump after he works out for some teams and they see his shooting skills on display. No. 10 just feels right.
11. Denver Nuggets - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Randy Foye was a pleasant surprise last year and Evan Fournier is an up-and-comer, but both players can also play other positions than shooting guard. Harris is a bit undersized, but is also highly skilled, and whether or not he goes to Denver, it looks like he’s going to be taken in the second half of the lottery.
12. Orlando Magic - Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Nikola Vucevic had a big year for the Magic but they are lacking some depth at center. Nurkic may not be ready to come over the U.S. right away, but is one of the most legitimate center prospects in this draft. Then again, the Magic got burned by Fran Vasquez a few years ago when he never showed up, so this will be a tough call for Orlando.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves - Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
McDermott is going earlier than this in most mocks and he may not fall out of the Top 10. He’s a pure scorer, with his defense being a liability, but Corey Brewer may be wearing out his welcome in Minnesota and Flip Saunders might be ready to find an offensive weapon at SF instead of a defensive specialist.
14. Phoenix Suns - Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
I see Hood as the last lottery pick and the Suns seem to be team that can do magical things with ‘tweeners. He’s athletic and can score, and would be a nice complement to guys like restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe and Gerald Green.
15. Atlanta Hawks - James Young, G/F, Kentucky
The Hawks have Lou Williams, Kyle Korver and John Jenkins, and really need a true center, but Young is one of the better shooters in the draft and Korver and Williams aren’t going to be around forever. And they’re not going to find a game-changing center at this stage of the draft.