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NBA Mock Draft, Version 1.0

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.

76ers Promising Rookies Playing Time, Big Market

The Philadelphia 76ers came out of Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery with the third and tenth overall pick in next month's draft.

Philadelphia had the second-worst record during the regular season, giving them a 19.9% chance at the top pick. Among the top four picks, they had the lowest chance of landing third (17.1%).

"We have a lot to be hopeful for with two top-ten picks in a draft like this, which is something a lot of teams would give a lot for," Sam Hinkie said moments after the order was revealed. "We're excited. There is a lot of work to be done in the weeks ahead, but we are looking forward to it."

The tenth pick was owned by the New Orleans Pelicans, but was sent to the 76ers as part of the Jrue Holiday trade.

"Depending on who you might have asked today, they might have said they were more nervous about the picks at the back half of the lottery and how that might go," Hinkie said in reference to the New Orleans pick. "We are pleased to have ended up where we did."

Despite not reaching the ultimate goal of landing the first overall pick, Philadelphia will still have the chance to pick Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid -- whoever is still available.

"There's a lot of work to be done. I think some of those players will come in and have physicals. Some will come in and meet with various teams. All the agents make decisions on how they want to do that, how they want to handle that," Hinkie added.

"I suspect, from our discussions thus far, that most of the top players find Philadelphia a really attractive place. They want to be in a place where they'll have opportunity, they want to be in a big market and they recognize what a big platform it is to play in Philadelphia. They also want to get better and they realize with our coaching staff and roster, you can come and play and get better."

Hinged Upon Ping Pong Balls: Thaddeus Young’s Tenure With 76ers

Not until recently (predominantly due to the lack of legitimate NBA players on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster) has Thaddeus Young been a player that gets plays called for him, yet he always has found a way to get himself involved. Throughout his career, his on court demeanor and innate ability to become his coach’s favorite player (Doug Collins has been brought to tears on multiple occasions at the mere mention of Thad’s name) have endeared him to the Philly faithful. He is beloved by those who appreciate his energy and unrelenting play, and he may have already played his last game with the franchise.

While some may remember the 2007 NBA Draft as Greg Oden versus Kevin Durant, I remember being somewhat confounded by the 76ers’ selection of the 6’8 forward from Georgia Tech. I saw a tweener who seemed to fit the same mold of player who Billy King (GM at the time) coveted: athletic with upside, but not a clearly defined position in the NBA and a lack of shooting prowess. The previous three drafts had yielded Rodney Carney, Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala.

By the end of Young's first season, the Lamar Odom comparisons were pervasive, and the expectations for his career skyrocketed. Contrary to the 76ers’ coaching staff that currently preaches player development as their utmost priority, Young's maturity as a player may have been unfairly hindered by the team’s coaching carousel (Maurice Cheeks, Tony Dileo, Eddie Jordan, Doug Collins - four coaches in his four years).

During that time, his position constantly shifted between small forward and power forward. Some coaches allowed him to shoot threes, some kept him shackled. As a consequence, he has never developed a consistent jump shot, or a reliable right hand. His strengths have always been a beautiful touch around the rim with his left hand, and the ability to blow by larger power forwards with his speed. He’s carved himself a niche in the NBA as a small-ball power forward who can disrupt the game with his activity and hustle.

Now a seven-year veteran, Young is no stranger to “rebuilding”, and he isn’t naive. He recognizes that Sam Hinkie is trading away veterans to any rival GM willing to part with 2nd-round picks. During the epic 26-game losing streak this season, Young continued to play the part of consummate professional, perhaps best illustrated by him putting an arm around a referee and pointing out who his current D-League teammates are

With the draft lottery coming up on May 20th, the positioning of the 76ers’ top-5 pick will play greatly into Young's future. Winning the #2 pick or #4-5 will probably have the Sixers targeting Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kentucky’s Julius Randle. A draft selection of either of these players will likely signify the end of Young’s career with Philadelphia. It’s also entirely possible that Hinkie will look into scenarios of packaging Thad with the #10 pick in order to move up a few spots in the draft to nab Indiana’s Noah Vonleh. 

Seven years after he was drafted, Young may not have exactly lived up to irrational hopes. He has the same weaknesses that he had when he first came into the league, but he will always be appreciated for his time in Philadelphia, and forever remembered for this, perhaps his greatest moment

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