2014 NBA Draft – The Lowdown

Dario Saric 568With the long awaited 2014 NBA draft taking place later on this week, teams, players, executives and fans everywhere are frantically scrambling to arm themselves with as much info as possible in order to make that fail safe lauded pick.
Thursday’s draft has long been anticipated as one of the strongest classes in 10 years and has had clubs positioning themselves accordingly for the last 2 years to give their team the best chance at securing one of the coveted top picks.

This time 2 years ago Andrew Wiggins was the next league phenom and the lock for the top pick in Thursday’s draft. Although Wiggins is still a star in the making and many teams’ potential golden goose, the top pick is no longer his by right.

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, most mock drafts had Kentucky centre Joel Embiid as the likely number 1 pick with Wiggins and Duke swingman Jabari Parker battling it out for 2nd and 3rd. But last week, one announcement shook the whole draft and sent team execs at the top of the order spiralling in a frenzy of scouting reports and combine results.

Last Thursday, exactly 1 week before the draft, the agent for Joel Embiid announced that his client had fractured a bone in his foot and would undergo surgery the following day. There were already question marks over Embiid’s back and now the news about a broken bone in his foot?

Unsurprisingly, the news sent shockwaves around the league and more significantly around Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Foot problems for centres are not uncommon. They can also be catastrophic. Yao Ming’s career was dogged by foot problems and the reality is the relatively small surface of ones foot often isn’t up to the constant pressure it is put under by larger than average humans being overly athletic and active. But my medical prognosis aside, several recent examples give cause for caution and concern for Embiid and his suitors. I’m sure Damien Lillard and co are just about helping the Portland fans over the dismay of selecting Greg Oden (with known red flags) number 1 over Kevin Durant in 2007.

So what impact does this news have on the top order? Truth is, we don’t really know until it’s all said and done, but we can certainly paint the picture.

Cleveland is in a position they had no expectation to be in. The freakish nature in which they won the lottery has given them a golden bonus pick that they never expected. However, they have very ambitious ownership and a solid young core who expect playoffs next year. Their rebuilding process is over. They expect progress and success.

Fortunately, they have the tools for this, but much will depend on the success of this pick. Depending on who you listen to, the Cavs were set to pick Embiid 1st prior to this injury to give them a genuine defensive presence inside to pair with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Obviously that may well change now. There is added to pressure on the Cavs to get this right after busting on the bizarre selection of Anthony Bennet at number 1 last year. Another false move in a draft likely to be littered with success stories just won’t rub.

So what about the Bucks? Well, the noises coming from Milwaukee co-owner Marc Lasry, were quite simple. He’s saved them a decision to make. The Bucks have all but confirmed that they will not take Embiid now he has picked up this injury. This is not necessarily a surprise but it lends you to beg the question of how far could Embiid fall?

Assuming Cavs pass in order to get a safer pick after last year’s bust, Milwaukee pass in order for much needed scoring from the wings in Wiggins or Parker, then does Embiid fall to Philly at 3? Well, I highly doubt that to be honest. If 2 weeks ago you would have offered their GM, Sam Hinkie, Embiid at 3 with the long term prospect of a twin towers front 2 of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid i’m sure he would have snatched your hand off. But drafting high 2 straight years for injured big men having sacrificed Jrue Holiday to get Noel is something i don’t see them doing.

Which brings Orlando in to play. Orlando had positioned themselves for this draft the moment Dwight Howard left for LA 2 years ago. They set about “rebuilding” and accumulated young assets and draft picks to go along with the multitude of losses. All with the aim of hitting the jackpot in the draft. But when the ping pong gods bounced in Cleveland’s favour and left the Magic on the outside looking in at the big 3, the sunshine state wasn’t short of a cloud or two. Most people had the Magic taking unknown Australian sensation Dante Exum at 4. He fills a need at PG for the Magic and has a Penny Hardawayesque skill set…. Apparently.

The problem is, nobody has really seen much of Exum but his stock has only risen since the draft combine in Chicago. But since the injury revalation to Embiid there is every possibility that Exum moves up from 4th with all top 3 teams reluctant to gamble. If that’s the case then Orland faces a dilemma. They could well have the opportunity to draft one of the “Big 3” that they have so coveted since the “Dwightmare” a couple of summers ago. But the circumstances here are different of course and GM Rob Hennigan has been shrewd and calculating if nothing else in his tenure with the Magic so far. He passed on Andrew Bynum in the Dwight Howard trade because of his injury record.

A move at the time that was widely panned. But in dumping Bynum on the 76ers and obtaining Vucevic in return as part of the same deal, there is no question 2 years on that Orlando got the best of that trade, with Bynum never stepping foot on the court for Philadelphia due to Injury. So would Hennigan take such a gamble this time? I suspect not! Even with the potential rewards so great for a player with such potential, the risk will just prove to great. I expect that if Exum moves up, then the Magic will fill their point guard needs with Marcus Smart.

So how far could Embiid really drop? I could see him dropping to Boston at 6 or maybe even Lakers at 7. Yes 7! The thing with a draft so deep is that there is enough talent in the top half of the board to not take the risk, so a Boston or LA could strike gold if everything works out. Much will also depend on Embiid’s agent Arn Tellem. Tellem plans only to release medical info on Embiid to select teams, which strongly influences where his client will end up, with the likely scenario that several teams facing the prospect of selecting the centre with little to no info on his updated medical status.

So it promises to be a fascinating and eventful draft night with Serb prospect Dario Saric (above) also in the mix. The one we’ve waited years for. You know, the best since the Lebron draft. Lebron, who has just opted out of Miami…..and Cleveland with the number 1 pick? Hmmm, makes one wonder doesn’t it??

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