2014 NBA Mock Draft

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers | Joel Embiid | C | Kansas | Yes, I know that injury issues might scare teams off, but the Cavs need to draft the best player, and the best player in this draft is Embiid. The chance to add Wiggins should be too much for the team to pass up, but with Anderson Varejao getting older – and already being injury-prone – they could draft Embiid as their center for the next decade… that is, assuming his body holds up. The past few drafts (Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters) have shown this franchise is anything but predictable.

2. Milwaukee Bucks | Jabari Parker | SF | Duke | Parker might slip to Philly, but Parker is a “hometown” guy as he grew up just over a hour away from Milwaukee. He’s also the most NBA ready player in the draft and will average better than 20 points at least a handful of seasons in the NBA. Getting the chance to pair Parker with Giannis Antetokounmpo gives the Bucks a fantastic duo to build around.

3. Philadelphia 76ers | Andrew Wiggins | SF | Kansas | Somehow the player the Sixers covet will fall into their laps. Philly hasn’t been shy about their torrid love affair with Wiggins, and despite the Embiid question marks, they won’t have to trade up to get their man. Having the chance to build around current Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Noel and Wiggins is a great foundation for Philadelphia.

4. Orlando Magic | Dante Exum | PG | Australia | The chance to pair Victor Oladipo and Exum is a match made in heaven for the Orlando Magic. Julius Randle will probably win Rookie of the Year, but Exum is the better long-term fit.

5. Utah Jazz | Noah Vonleh | PF | Indiana | Utah will probably flip this pick for veteran help, but, if they do keep this pick, Vonleh could step in immediately and play alongside Derrick Favors. The two twin towers would give the Jazz a big edge on the glass. Julius Randle is the better player, but not a good fit on Utah’s roster.

6. Boston Celtics | Julius Randle | PF | Kentucky | This would be a great pick for the Celtics.. if they keep the pick. Look for Boston to be aggressive in trying to obtain Kevin Love and using this pick as leverage.

7. Los Angeles Lakers | Marcus Smart | PG | Oklahoma State | Smart is one tough hombre and he’s a sponge. Look for the Lakers to draft their point guard of the future and for Kobe Bryant to act as a great mentor for Smart.

8. Sacramento Kings | Aaron Gordon | PF | Arizona | Having Gordon drop to Sacramento – when he could go as high as #5 to Utah – is like manna falling from Heaven. Gordon is a bit undersized to play the 4 in the NBA, but when sandwiched between DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay he’ll fit in just fine. Gordon’s height (6’8″) scares me because he’ll have the dreaded tweener label, but at this point in the draft, he’s a nice pick.

9. Charlotte Bobcats | Dario Saric | PF | Croatia | I was tempted to give the Hornets another wing – Gary Harris and James Young are options here – but the Hornets need more bigs. Enter Sandman Saric.

10. Philadelphia 76ers | James Young | SF | Kentucky | Gary Harris is a player I’ve been high on all season, but his draft combine measurement of 6’2″ isn’t going to cut it in the NBA as a shooting guard… even if Philly’s point guard has height to spare. Young is a player who can step in right away and start for Philadelphia.

11. Denver Nuggets | Doug McDermott | SF | Creighton | This might be a bit high for McDermott, but he could also be great insurance for if danilo gallinari isn’t able to return to form after issues with his ACL’s that kept him off the court all of last season.

12. Orlando Magic | PJ Hairston | SG | NDBL | A bit of a stretch, but Orlando needs another young wing and Hairston is the best on the board.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves | Rodney Hood | SG | Duke | Kevin Martin will likely be packaged with Kevin Love this summer, so Hood could step in and start for Minnesota next season. Hood could also be long gone as he will be an option for Charlotte at #9 Philly at #10.

14. Phoenix Suns | Gary Harris | SG | Michigan State | Harris be a little small, but that won’t matter as the Suns rolled with two point guards for most of last season. He could act as insurance in case Eric Bledsoe bolts town or act as a perfect third guard.

15. Atlanta Hawks | T.J. Warren | SG | North Carolina State
16. Chicago Bulls | Nik Stauskas | SG | Michigan
17. Boston Celtics | Adreian Payne | PF | Michigan State
18. Phoenix Suns | Jerami Grant | SF | Syracuse
19. Chicago Bulls | Jusuf Nurkic | C | International
20. Toronto Raptors | Tyler Ennis | PG | Syracuse
21. Oklahoma City Thunder | Kyle Anderson | PG | UCLA
22. Memphis Grizzlies | Clint Capela | PF | Switzerland
23. Utah Jazz | Shabazz Napier | PG | UCONN
24. Charlotte Bobcats | K.J. McDaniels | SF | Clemson
25. Houston Rockets | Clearanthony Earl | SF | Wichita State
26. Miami Heat | Jahii Carson | PG | Arizona State
27. Phoenix Suns | Zach LaVine | SG | UCLA
28. Los Angeles Clippers | Spencer Dinwiddie | PG | Colorado
29. Oklahoma City Thunder | Damien Inglis | SG | France
30. San Antonio Spurs | Jabari Brown | SG | Missouri

Pat Riley Should Be Worried About This Summer

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Pat Riley delivered an epic rant to the media yesterday.

During his media scrum, he was full of pride and seemed confident in Miami’s ability this summer to retain LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“I don’t think we’ve got to recruit Chris (Bosh), Dwyane (wade) or LeBron (James),” Riley boasted to the media . “I’m not dropping rings on the table for those guys. They could drop their own.”

It’s a great sentiment, but there are a lot of problems with his thinking.

Miami has gone to four consecutive NBA Finals since the Big 3 united in South Beach.

However, the Eastern Conference has offered little to no resistence.

While Miami has two NBA Championships over the past four years, people shouldn’t be so quick to forget San Antonio was a Kawhi Leonard free throw or a Tim Duncan rebound away from winning a championship last season.

That means the Miami Heat are pretty close to being the Buffalo Bills of the NBA.

This isn’t the kind of success LeBron James envisioned when he famously boasted, “Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four.”

The ugly reality for Miami and James is that Chris Bosh has hit his peak as a player and is now adjusting his game to one where he’s not in the paint as much and he prefers to set up shop out on the perimeter.

While Bosh is a talented defender when he chooses, his comments about wanting to get away from elbows isn’t an encouraging one for his future as an elite big man in the NBA.

Bosh has claimed he’s willing to leave money on the table this summer so it’s likely he comes back at a reduced rate which means he’s a nice piece moving forward. However, that hinges on Bosh leaving money on the table (again) and Miami also being able to find an imposing big man to play alongside Bosh.

Those are currently two big ifs.

Where things get scary is with Wade. He was limited to 54 games during the regular season in order for him to rest his body and be ready for a deep run in the playoffs. That plan didn’t work out as Wade shot 43 percent from the field in the Finals and only averaged 15.2 points.

Even with his 20 games he played in the playoffs, Wade’s total games this season was less than an 82 game regular season.

That’s not the kind of sidekick LeBron James envisioned when he bolted to South Beach.

It’s also not the kind of second option that will keep James around.

The problem is Wade is in the twilight of his career so asking him to turn down $42 million over the next two seasons is something he likely won’t do. However, without him taking less money, Miami won’t have room in the salary cap to sign James, Bosh, Wade and whatever reinforcements they need.

This is where things get sticky because Miami needs a lot of help. They need a bruising big man to pair alongside Bosh, a floor general to get everyone their touches and take that pressure off of James and they need to strengthen their bench.

During the NBA Finals this month the Heat basically relied on a seven-man rotation. That won’t cut it when the San Antonio Spurs leaned on their depth and went almost 10 deep most games depending on matchups.

While the likely situation is that Miami will retain James, Bosh and Wade, the reality is a lot of things need to swing Miami’s way for that to happen. Primarily the team needs to convince Wade into leaving a lot of money on the table when it’s likely Wade’s last contract in the NBA.

If that first domino doesn’t fall the right way – and it’s likely Wade takes his money – then Riley is in a lot of trouble this summer.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Dilemma

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In two weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the 2014 NBA draft with the first overall pick for the third time in four seasons.

Last season the Cavaliers felt their days of drafting in the lottery were behind them. When they went out and added Andrew Bynum to the core of Irving, Thompson, Waiters, and Varejao, many felt Cleveland would be back in the playoffs for the first time since “the decision”.

Unfortunately for Dan Gilbert and Co., the Cavaliers season nose-dived and consisted of the following highlights:

• Andrew Bynum was a malcontent and was eventually traded for 2014 free agent Luol Deng
• There was a reported beef between Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving during the season
• Number one overall pick, Anthony Bennett, looked lost and was a non-factor
• Head Coach Mike Brown was fired one year into a five year deal
• Key free agent signing, Jarrett Jack, was a bust after inking 4 year, $25 million deal
• The team finished 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 33-49 record

As bad a season as it was, there once again is now a light at the end of the tunnel for Cleveland. The basketball gods have decided to give the Cavaliers another chance at redemption, as they will now have their choice of Embiid, Wiggins or Parker on draft night.

Based on Chris Mannix’s latest mock draft, it appears the Cavaliers are down to either Embiid or Wiggins with the first pick and according to Chris Sheridan, Cleveland would even consider dealing the first overall pick for Kevin Love if they could.

But who should the Cavaliers draft? Or would they really consider trading the first overall pick?

Drafting Joel Embiid

When you look at the front line for the Cavaliers, you can make a strong case that Embiid is the right pick. Anderson Varejao will be 32-years-old next season, and has only played in 44% of games since 2010.

Recent draft picks, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson are solid forwards, but don’t appear to move the needle, and their trade deadline acquisition, Spencer Hawes, is an unrestricted free agent.

Although Embiid has only played serious basketball since he was 16, he would step in right away and be an upgrade to the Cavaliers front court. According to NBA.com, the Cavaliers finished 17th in defensive rating this past season. The addition of Embiid would most certainly improve this ranking, and if Varejao can stay healthy to pair with Embiid, the Cavaliers would have a nice duo on the defensive end.

However, out of Embiid, Wiggins and Parker; Embiid is the riskiest pick. If the Cavaliers do draft Embiid, they will need to be certain that he has a clean bill of health. After the Bennett pick last year, the Cavaliers can’t afford to draft “Greg Oden”, instead of “Kevin Durant”.

Drafting Andrew Wiggins

Making the case for drafting Andrew Wiggins is very similar to that of Embiid. When you look at the Cavaliers wing players, an upgrade is needed. Luol Deng is a good bet to leave via free agency, Dion Waiters seems to have worn out his welcome, and the reserves consist of Alonzo Gee, C.J Miles and Anthony Bennett – not guys who put fear in opposing teams.

Like Embiid, there would be a learning curve for Wiggins, but with his speed and athleticism, he automatically upgrades the Cavaliers perimeter defense and will now make opposing guards work at both ends of the floor.

With a Wiggins and Irving backcourt, the Cavaliers would be set and can look to add pieces up front this offseason. According to BasketballInsiders.com, the Cavaliers could have up to 23.4 million dollars in cap space this offseason, and could also use Waiters, Thompson and Zeller as trade pieces to land a free agent.

Landing a Pau Gasol or Marcin Gortat in free agency would be an upgrade on the front line, and they could also possibly sign and trade Deng to bring in another starter like Chandler Parsons from Houston.

A starting line-up of Irving, Wiggins, Gasol/Gortat, Thompson and Parsons would get the Cavaliers back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Trade the Pick

One of the gutsiest moves the Cavaliers could pull off is trading the pick. If I’m David Griffin, the only chance I trade this pick is if I am blown away with an offer that would put my team into the Eastern Conference elite for not only next season, but for years to come.

The Kevin Love rumours are circulating, but there is zero chance he signs on with the Cavaliers after this season. So unless I get a guarantee from Love, I’m not even thinking of doing a deal with Minnesota.

Cleveland is not a prime destination for players, so the only chance they trade the pick is if they are able to acquire a superstar, with time left on his deal. Right now, when you circulate the market, there really is no big name superstar that is available, and worth the risk of trading the first overall pick. Of course there is LeBron and Durant, but we both know they are not being traded to Cleveland.

The only real name right now is Kevin Love, and with his sights set on LA in 2015, I think it’s a safe bet for Cleveland to stand pat.

Canada And Australia Should Play Regular International Matches

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AUSTRALIAN and Canadian basketball exist in very similar places despite being, geographically, so far from each other.

Both countries love the sport, both have a stack of players and coaches who we can claim as “world class” talents and we both have several NBA first round picks either in the league or coming in upcoming classes.

We also have struggling national leagues, both called NBL, and for this we can blame the NBA and our strong European links which allow so many elite players to claim foreign passports and double their wages on the continent.

With so much in common, why don’t we play regular international matches against each other?

For all the common ground we share, I would contend, that the Australian and Canadian men’s teams play arguably the least matches of any major national teams.

This shouldn’t be the case considering the depth of talent in our teams and the wealth of our societies – it shouldn’t be hard to pull together national teams, find some affordable venues and play an annual series, especially if we played in Canada and used took players from the US college system, where both nations have a number of talented players.

Timing would be a major issue but between July and early September surely there could be a workable time for a three or five game series.

Maybe we could organise some games before or after the NBA Las Vegas Summer League so to give lesser know players a chance to play serious games near NBA scouts.

If one could be a little more imaginative – why aren’t we creating a four-nations type tournament with Commonwealth cousins in Great Britain and New Zealand.

Those two nations are truly emerging basketball countries and both can claim NBA and US college players.

I’m far from the first person to propose this sort of tournament but at this time of year, as we prepare for the NBA Draft I can’t help but think about how good this could be for all four nations.

Sure it’s not easy for Canada or Great Britain to pull together a team and fly to Sydney or Auckland but there are enough Australians and New Zealanders playing in the NBA and college basketball to be able to bring together strong sides – you could almost make the same argument for British players considering their recent advancements.

Can you imagine the rivalries which could be created and the opportunity to see young stars in action?

If we had already made this series last year we could have had Dante Exum (Australia) playing against Andrew Wiggins (Canada) – a matchup which a year later would be much talked about.

Also TV providers in all four nations are always looking for affordable sporting content so providing a series of matches so in time it could also offer both additional exposure and maybe even a little extra revenue for the four federations.

In 2017 international basketball will undergo an enormous re-generation as FIBA adopts a world cup soccer style qualification system within each continent where national teams play a series of qualifying matches to qualify for the FIBA basketball world cup over a number of years.

Gone will be those forgettable qualifying tournaments and in their place will be regular international windows each year in which nations like Canada and Australia will suddenly need to be ready and able to bring together national team squads to play must-win matches against their neighbors.

This will be a massive cultural change for our national bodies, both in cost and in organisational requirements.

Australia already plays an annual series against China called the Sino Series, this year’s installment is currently in session with Australia winning the first game in overtime.

The Boomers side just one European-based player and a few US college players – the bulk of the team comes from Australia’s NBL but the first game was still compelling viewing.

With the 2016 Olympic qualifications on the horizon, then the Olympics themselves – all nations will need to get used to regular games.

Why not get ready now and lock in such a series?

The San Antonio Spurs: What Could Have Been

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The NBA Draft Lottery was held on May 20th and the Cleveland Cavaliers received the first pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

For the third time in the past four years, the Cavs will again be picking first overall come June.

One day later, the San Antonio Spurs took a 2-0 series lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 35 point throttling and now look to be well on their way to their fifth NBA Finals appearance during their remarkable 17 year playoff streak.

The Spurs were last at the draft lottery 17 years ago. During the 1996-1997 season, David Robinson played only six games before suffering a fractured left foot; the Spurs finished 20-62 that season, finishing with the third worst record in the NBA.

Much to the chagrin of the Vancouver Grizzlies and Boston Celtics, the Spurs landed the top pick in the 1997 NBA draft and selected the prized power forward from Wake Forest; Tim Duncan.

Since that draft, the Spurs have not stepped foot in the lottery; wondering many to think just how have the Spurs survived without a lottery pick since 1997. As we have seen this season with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, generally there is a shelf life on winning and teams eventually need to hit the reset button for a season or two.

So, how have the Spurs been so successful for so long? Why haven’t they had to hit the reset button? Much of the well-deserved credit goes to Gregg Popovich and the Spurs executives. Over the past 17 years, time and time again have made the right personnel decisions. But what if they whiffed on their big three? It’s always fun to wonder what could have been if San Antonio did not win the lottery back in 1997, or if they missed out on picking Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili.

Scenario #1 – Spurs pick 3rd in the 1997 NBA draft

It’s hard to imagine where the Spurs would have been had they not landed the first overall pick. However, if the ping pong balls didn’t fall their way and they stayed at number three, who would they have drafted? Let’s assume the top two picks go the same way; Duncan goes first overall and Keith Van Horn goes second. The Spurs finished the season with Will Purdue and Carl Herrera on their front line, so it’s safe to assume they were looking to draft a big man. Can you imagine if the Spurs drafted Tony Battie to fill their big man void? Battie was the next big man taken in the 1997 NBA draft going 5th overall to the Denver Nuggets. Although having a serviceable 14 year career, Battie finished with career averages of 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game; with zero all-star appearances.

Even if the Spurs decided to draft Chauncey Billups or Antonio Daniels, who were drafted 3rd and 4th respectively in 1997, it’s safe to assume winning a championship during the 1998-1999 season would have been unlikely without Duncan.

Scenario #2 – Spurs pass on Tony Parker with the 28th Pick in 2001

With the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA draft, the San Antonio Spurs select… Gilbert Arenas! With Avery Johnson leaving via free agency in 2001, the Spurs were looking to add depth at the point guard position. After Parker was drafted 28th overall, Arenas was the next point guard taken at #30 by the Golden State Warriors. While Arenas finished his career as a 3x All-Star, injuries and off the court issues derailed a once promising career.

One could argue that if drafted into the Spurs system, Arenas probably would have had a better NBA career by playing with Duncan and being coached by Popovich. However, it’s also safe to assume that the Spurs would not have been as successful with Arenas as their floor general.

If you had a 2001 draft re-do, you could argue that based on his career Tony Parker would have been the first overall pick and the Spurs got him at #28.

Scenario #3 – Spurs pass on Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in the 1999 NBA draft

What if the Spurs decided not to draft Ginobili with the 57th overall pick in 1999 draft? What if they traded out of the second round, or just stashed their draft pick in Europe with never the hope of bringing him over?

Ginobili has since become a two-time all-star, the 2007-2008 sixth man of the year, three-time NBA Champion and generally known as the key piece in the Spurs dynasty era.

Not taking anything away from Duncan or Parker, but Ginobili’s savvy play and clutch performances have been vital to the Spurs success over the past decade.

Spurs management either totally lucked out in 1999, or new exactly what they were doing when they drafted Ginobili; as you can pretty much guarantee that there are only a few late second round picks that even make it to the NBA, let alone become future hall of famers.

Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom and Johnathan Bender were the top five picks in 1999; again it’s quite possible that if the draft were re-done today, Ginobili could arguably have been the first overall pick.