May 21, 2014 6:20 PM EDT
The problem with most mock drafts, especially early in the draft process, is the butterfly effect. If just one team in the lottery makes a surprise selection, it causes a chain reaction up and down the board that renders a lot of the previous speculation useless. At this point, I think it’s more useful to look at what each team in the lottery needs and what will be going into their decision-making process. With that in mind, here’s a quick sketch of one way it could go.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - Joel Embiid
This is from David Griffin’s interview with ESPN last night - “I think we need to get a better fit for our roster. We’ve got an awful lot of talent and we just need to find the pieces that can serve as a conduit to make it gel.” That screams Embiid to me. When you have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, the last thing you need is another perimeter player who needs the ball. That core needs interior defense and post scoring, which are Embiid’s two strengths.
2) Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker
If Cleveland takes Embiid, some combination of Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum go in the next three picks. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them and when you have multiple elite prospects on the board, you have to look at how they fit with the players already on your roster. In other words, which one makes the most sense playing with Giannis Antetokounmpo? I want an explosive scorer who can stretch the floor next to him, which would be Parker.
3) Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins
This would be a great fit for Wiggins, a guy who is more comfortable in transition than playing in the half court at this stage of his career. The one thing I wonder about with Wiggins and the 76ers is that he’s not the pick if you are going by advanced statistics. Here’s the PER of lottery picks from Kansas in the last two seasons - 28.2 (Embiid), 23.2 (Ben McLemore), 21.4 (Wiggins). He’s a guy you take based off the eye test and projecting future ability, not the data.
4) Orlando Magic - Dante Exum
Orlando will be happy to take whoever falls to them, but Exum is the best fit with the players on their roster. At 6’6 195 with a 6’9 wingspan, he’s a big guard who can run point, which would allow him to cross-switch with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. Taking Exum would free up Oladipo to hound smaller guards on defense and hunt for his own shot on offense. In a best-case scenario, those two would become Orlando’s version of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
5) Utah Jazz - Aaron Gordon
If the draft plays out this way, Utah at No. 5 would be one of the big swing picks in the lottery, as they would have first choice on a run of power forwards. Most people have Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle rated ahead of Gordon, but if they take one of those guys, they would have to go back to the two-post system they went away from this season. Gordon is going to be an incredible pick-and-roll player and he would allow them to play 4-out with Derrick Favors at the 5.
6) Boston Celtics - Noah Vonleh
In this scenario, Boston would have their pick of two fairly similar PF’s in Vonleh and Randle, which could be one of the more interesting debates in this draft. If you are going with the stats and collegiate success, you have to look at Randle, who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds on 50% shooting and lead Kentucky to the national title game. If you are looking at it from a tools perspective, Vonleh is the better outside shooter and he has much longer arms.
7) Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle
I hate to say this about a guy from Dallas, but Randle is the guy I would not want in the Top 7-8 picks. He will put up a lot of stats, but he doesn’t project as a great shooter or a great defensive player and I want my PF to do one of those two things. Given the amount of shots and minutes that could be up for grabs in the Lakers frontcourt, Randle would have a real shot at Rookie of the Year, but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as a lot of these other guys.
8) Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart
Smart is one of the wild cards in the lottery - there’s a pretty high range of where he could go. It’s hard to see him sneaking into the Top 5 and if he doesn’t go to either the Lakers the Kings, the teams picking after them don’t really need a PG. Smart offers a lot of line-up versatility, as he can play as a SG next to Isaiah Thomas or a PG next to Ben McLemore, but the Kings are an interior defender away from being a solid team, so I wonder if they would reach here.
9) Charlotte Hornets - Nik Stauskas
This seems like the first spot where Doug McDermott could come off the board. Charlotte desperately needs outside shooting and they have the personnel to hide McDermott on defense. However, if they are committed to Cody Zeller at the 4 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the 3, Stauskas would be the more logical pick. He’s just as good a shooter as McDermott and he’s a much better passer who has the ability to run the pick-and-roll and create shots for others.
10) Philadelphia 76ers - Doug McDermott
Philadelphia could go in a number of different directions, depending on who they take at No. 3. McDermott, for example, would make a lot more sense next to Wiggins than Parker. Wiggins can defend multiple positions and McDermott can’t defend any while McDermott’s shooting ability would open up the floor for Wiggins and Carter-Williams to attack the rim. I prefer players with more two-way ability, but he could score a lot of points walking into transition 3’s in Philly.
11) Denver Nuggets - Jusuf Nurkic
If Brian Shaw wants to run more offense out of the low post, Nurkic makes a lot of sense. At 6’11 280 with a 7’2 wingspan, Nurkic is a 19-year old who is already big enough to score over most NBA centers. He comes into the league with a pretty solid post game and he moves well for a player with his mammoth size. He’s not getting up and down the court particularly fast, so taking him would represent a complete turning of the page from George Karl’s small ball style.
12) Orlando Magic - Adreian Payne
If the Magic go with a perimeter player at No. 4, they will probably want to look at a front-court player at No. 12. Nik Vucevic is entrenched at center, but he isn’t much of a shot-blocker, so that’s a huge need in terms of how they are going to build their roster. I’m surprised at how far Payne is sliding in some of these mocks. He is a legitimate stretch 4 with elite athletic ability who has the ability to play interior defense and rebound - that’s exactly what Orlando needs.
13) Minnesota Timberwolves - Gary Harris
Minnesota was a perfect example of the problems with fielding a line-up of one-way players. Nik Pekovic, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin are all poor defenders, while Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer are both poor outside shooters. The result was a group that was worse than the sum of its parts. Harris doesn’t have the upside of a guy like LaVine, but he’s a safer pick who will instantly make the Wolves a better team on both sides of the ball.
14) Phoenix Suns - Zach LaVine
I’m going to put the Suns as the floor for LaVine. They have three first-round picks in this draft, so they will be willing to roll the dice on a guy with as much pure ability as anyone on the board. He didn’t do much in his one season at UCLA, but he’s a 6’5 180 with a 6’8 wingspan, he can jump out of the gym, he has unlimited range on his jumper and he can handle the ball like a PG. LaVine has a chance to be a special player in the type of uptempo system the Suns run.
Apr 26, 2014 3:14 AM EDT
In the middle of training camp in October, Troy Daniels listened to the Charlotte Bobcats’ front office inform him of his release. He was a prolific shooter at Virginia Commonwealth, a positive soul and a hard worker, and here was the Bobcats’ reasoning for cutting the undrafted Daniels: Too short, a point guard-shooting guard tweener.
For a night, Daniels justified his standing, draining three 3-pointers and the game-winning three-pointer in the Houston Rockets’ 121-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Friday night. This was Houston’s season – a 3-0 series deficit staring them all the way into an offseason filled with regret and questions surrounding coaches and players.
Everyone understood the shooting prowess in Daniels, but no one plucked him out of the NBA Development League like the Rockets in February. They signed him to a non-guaranteed contract through 2015-16, an investment to reward his play with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, whom Daniels remained with in agreement with Houston after it also released him before this season.
Two months later, Daryl Morey’s acquisition paid dividends in the most ultimate way. Daniels isn’t a pure point guard and steady defender yet, but that’s why Houston has Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley.
By releasing Ronnie Brewer to create roster space for Daniels, perhaps the Rockets feared some franchise was bound to beat them to the deadeye shooter. He was their own, too, helping implement a transformative playing style in the D-League, with an emphasis on launching three-pointers because, well, they’re worth more than two.
In the end, the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic closely monitored Daniels and had interest in him before his deal with the Rockets, leagues sources told RealGM. And yet, these Rockets were the recipients of Daniels’ 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range, honoring his four collegiate seasons and commitment to the Summer League and D-League route to the NBA.
“It’s a dream come true,” Daniels said at the interview podium after Friday's game.
The Rockets have utilized Rio Grande Valley for serious roster development and invest in the minor-league franchise to grow players for the main organization. They sell players on the Vipers’ system, the environment they’ve created with coaches.
Daniels averaged 21.5 points and made five three-pointers while attempting 12.5 with Rio Grande Valley, and this is exactly why Kevin McHale turned to the 22-year-old rookie in Game 3: his shooting is special. The Rockets had been reeling through Games 1 and 2, receiving poor performances from James Harden and the bench, but Harden went for 37 points and Lin and Daniels combined for 22 critical points on Friday.
The Trail Blazers kept coming back, and Damian Lillard was brilliant and took advantage of mismatches. They forced overtime despite trailing by double digits early in the fourth quarter, but LaMarcus Aldridge missed all three shot attempts after regulation. For the Rockets, the Blazers’ frontcourt allows them to use Dwight Howard and Omer Asik together, big men able to provide length on Aldridge.
Suddenly in overtime, Lin probed the lane out of desperation and a scramble situation, when he found a streaking Daniels wide open and aired the ball out to the 6-foot-4 guard. Without hesitation, with Aldridge closing out, Daniels rose, fired his smooth jumper and rattled in the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds left.
One by one, they all mobbed him, Harden and Chandler Parsons, Josh Powell and Beverley. The Rockets were on the brink of an upset to a younger, more inexperienced team, on the brink of a 3-0 hole, and Daniels revived the season and restored their promise in this series.
“A couple weeks ago, [Daniels] was in the D-League,” Harden told reporters. “He saved our season.”
It’s simply one jumper, people will say, but clutch shots in the postseason have enhanced careers and padded résumés in the past, and they’ll continue to.
An inch too short, Daniels had heard in training camp. For him, Friday was all part of his goals. This was his job. Other teams paid close attention as Daniels’ three-point totals flourished in the D-League, but no one made the signing. Season on the line in Game 3, and the Houston Rockets found their hero: Troy Daniels.
Apr 02, 2014 2:36 PM EDT
One of the most explosive and athletic swingman to come out of the 2013 NBA Draft class has been Victor Oladipo. Leading up to the draft, there was no question that Oladipo was a top-3 pick—and even talk as the top overall selection. Drafted second overall by the Orlando Magic, Oladipo had analysts dubbing him as the preseason favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award…that was until Michael Carter-Williams came out and took the league by storm to start the season.
Despite fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Carter-Williams seemingly coasting through the season as the favorite, Oladipo has shown that he should be more seriously considered for the award. Listed at 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan, Oladipo creates mismatches with his lanky frame against opposing point guards. His explosive first step allows him to blow by most two-guards and get to the paint with relative ease. The Sixers recent losing streak of 25—tied for the longest all-time losing streak with the 2011 Cavaliers—should be a major detrimental factor against MCW’s bid for the award.
Comparing both Oladipo and Carter-Williams on a statistical spectrum would be misleading. Oladipo currently averages 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds nd 4.2 assists while playing just less than 32 minutes per game. On the other hand, Carter-Williams plays at almost 35 minutes per game and averages 16.5, 6.1, 6.3, respectively. The Sixers currently lead the league in pace at 102 compared with the Magic who falls in at 96.1, ranked 16th in the league. With the uptick in both minutes and possessions per game for MCW, it is evident to see why his numbers look more impressive than Oladipo’s on the surface.
Additionally, the durability of a player should factor in for individual player awards. Numbers are most misrepresented when we do not get an accurate look at the quantity of total games played. While Carter-Williams has been missing games left and right throughout the season (due to knee issues), Oladipo played in the first 62 games of season, a feat none of the other top-5 picks could accomplish.
For the most part, injuries have kept the Magic from being more competitive in the Eastern Conference—as they sit at 21 wins with eight games left to go. However, through Orlando's rebuilding season, steady improvement has shown between the synergy of Oladipo and big man Nikola Vucevic.
“Early in the year, we couldn’t really get it together as far as pick-and-rolls and stuff like that, which is normal,” Vucevic tells Orlando Sentinel beat reporter Josh Robbins. “It just takes time, a lot of practice, a lot of work. I think now we have a pretty good chemistry pick-and-roll-wise when he drives…So it’s great. I think it’ll be huge for us in the future.”
Looking more in-depth at Oladipo’s play gives us a better idea of what sort of player Oladipo is. About 44 percent of Oladipo’s plays are run through as the pick and roll ball handler per Synergy Sports. He converts at a 0.77 PPP and shoots at an anemic 39.5 percent clip when running the play. On the defensive end, he gives up a similar 0.78 PPP rate when defending the opposing guard so he does make up for some of the offensive deficiencies with his defense. These numbers are nowhere where they should be for a future star but if Oladipo wants to take the next step, he must learn to develop a more consistent mid-range and perimeter jump shot.
According to NBA.com, about 43 percent of Oladipo’s 859 field goal attempts have been within 5-feet of the rim—where he converts at a 52 percent clip. Outside of 5-feet, he shoots just 32.6 percent from the field—including 9-for-40 between 5-9 feet. In order for Oladipo to continue to progress to the explosive star that many potentially see him as, he must learn to become more decisive and finish stronger around the rim.
At this juncture of Oladipo’s rookie year, we can see that he has no problems getting to the rim given his unmatched quickness and impressive athleticism. However, Oladipo must learn to control his body more when he finishes around the rim. ESPN Insider’s David Thorpe compares Oladipo’s slashing cutting game to that of Dwayne Wade’s.
“It’s the craft part that Oladipo needs to study the most – seeing when to speed up, when to slow down, when to try the Euro-step, etc. – because finishing at a high level requires more than just jumping high when you are shorter than 6-foot-6. Recognizing opportunities to race is also a Wade specialty, something Oladipo often misses out on in games.“
Despite these holes in his game, Oladipo should clearly be getting more recognition from around the league and the media as the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Certainly MCW has had an impressive campaign himself, but it has got to be tough to evaluate his rookie campaign given the Sixers’ D-League roster.
Feb 22, 2014
The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).
Dec 26, 2013
Rob Hennigan's first order of business after becoming GM of the Magic was to trade Dwight Howard, which is a deal that hindsight shows he clearly won.
Oct 29, 2013
The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.
Oct 23, 2013
Once players leave AAU basketball and enter college, their careers diverge quickly, even those with similar amounts of talent. Some declare too early, others too late. A perfect example of how our perceptions can change is to compare Jeremy Lamb to Victor Oladipo.
Aug 16, 2013
Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.
Jul 01, 2013
With the 2013 NBA offseason underway, here is a primer on what all 30 teams are facing.
Jun 28, 2013
Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.
May 20, 2013
One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.
May 19, 2013
We have seen a whole lot of changes since the pre-Tournament issue of the Lottery Lowdown. March Madness gave us a few players to watch both this year and for 2014 while the Nike Hoop Summit and Combine helped clarify the picture in terms of athletic ability and positional versatility.
Mar 30, 2013
Tobias Harris has gone from benchwarmer to trade throw-in and now he's widely seen as nice young piece with a lot of upside for the Magic. Needless to say he appreciates his new role.
Feb 21, 2013
The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.
Nov 01, 2012
While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.
Oct 30, 2012
Jameer Nelson has always been a leader, but now he is the go-to guy for in-game production and off-court leadership.
Aug 19, 2012
The Nuggets, Lakers, Heat, 76ers and Nets were amongst the teams with great offseasons, while the Bucks, Magic, Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers and Bulls were in the bad column. Here's how all 30 teams have fared in the 2012 offseason.
Aug 13, 2012
The Jazz and Thunder have had the most Gold Medalists since the USA began bringing NBA players in 1992, while Duke leads amongst colleges. How do the other 29 NBA teams rank?
Jun 28, 2012
Center represents the position of greatest need for nearly half the NBA, while power forward isn't the top priority for a single team.
Jun 27, 2012
Polling the Green Room candidates to determine who they think will be the second best player of the class, the rise of skinny guys, a new Harrison Barnes and which team workout was the toughest.
Older Blog Posts »
Basketball Wiretap Headlines