In just two days, all of the speculation surrounding the NBA Draft – of which there has been no shortage – will be over.
The Wiggins/Parker debate will be settled. Doug McDermott will have a home. Dante Exum will bring mysterious optimism to a struggling team. And perhaps most importantly, we’ll find out if any rookies measure up to the increasingly high, and increasingly daring, standards of NBA fashion (James Young is my early favorite for best suit of the night).
This draft has been among the most difficult to predict. With talk of trades and players moving up and down draft boards ramping up in the past few days, it’s become increasingly clear that most teams just aren’t sure how it’s going to play out. I’m in the same boat – tough to believe, I know – but here’s my best guess as to how things will look when the dust settles Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jabari Parker, F, Duke, Fr.
The Cavaliers are reportedly torn between Parker and Wiggins, but Parker was the apparent frontrunner just a few days ago. This one is a toss-up, though I’ll give the nod to the more polished Parker.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas, Fr.
Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry all but ruled out Embiid as a possibility, so Milwaukee will decide between two high-upside prospects in Wiggins and Dante Exum. Wiggins is the heavy favorite and would team with Giannis Antetokounmpo to form the league’s longest wing combination.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Dante Exum, G, Australia
The Sixers are believed to be enamored with Wiggins, but Exum is the likely pick if they’re unable to strike a deal with the Cavaliers to move up.
4. Orlando Magic
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas, Fr.
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t touch the fragile Embiid this high. But, alas, it’s not. Orlando takes a major gamble that could pay huge dividends down the road. It’ll be feast or famine with Embiid.
5. Utah Jazz
Noah Vonleah, F, Indiana, Fr.
Utah is another team reportedly looking to trade up to No. 1, likely with its sights set on Jabari Parker. If a package of picks + Derrick Favors (and maybe Alec Burks) isn’t enough, they’ll settle for the raw, but talented freshman.
6. Boston Celtics
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky, Fr.
Marcus Smart is also in play here, but Randle is an instant upgrade over a heap of mediocre Boston forwards.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State, Soph.
I’ve had Smart going to the Lakers all along. While they’ll be actively looking to deal on draft night, Smart could step in and contribute immediately for a franchise that’s never in rebuilding mode.
8. Sacramento Kings
Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona, Fr.
Gordon has flown under the radar for much of the pre-draft process, but he has as good a chance as anyone to be a star in the NBA. His defensive abilities alone would be an instant upgrade over Jason Thompson.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Doug McDermott, F, Creighton, Sr.
The Bobcats are in the market for a shooting guard, but a proven commodity is too tough to pass up at No. 9. Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris are also very much in play here.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan, Soph.
It’s anyone’s guess whether this pick ends up in the hands of Philly when all is said and done, but Stauskas fills a need for the league’s worst three-point shooting team last season.
11. Denver Nuggets
Gary Harris, G, Michigan State, Soph.
Denver needs help at shooting guard, and Harris is one of the better all-around scorers in the draft, even if he’s undersized.
12. Orlando Magic
Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jr.
Payton’s meteoric rise from the late-first round to the late-lottery lands him in Orlando, where he’d join Victor Oladipo in one of the most athletic backcourts in the Eastern Conference. In this scenario, Orlando would likely look to cut ties with longtime point guard Jameer Nelson, who is guaranteed only $2 million next season.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke, Soph.
The Timberwolves have struck out with wing prospects in the past, but Hood is a much safer prospect – although his upside is considerably lower – than Derrick Williams or Wes Johnson, especially at this point in the lottery.
14. Phoenix Suns
Zach LaVine, G, UCLA, Fr.
A young Phoenix team can afford to roll the dice on arguably the draft’s best athlete. LaVine will require some seasoning, but his upside is as high as any guard’s in the draft not named Andrew Wiggins.