The NBA Draft Combine in Chicago has come and gone, and there is growing buzz as GMs, scouts, and coaches are all watching and analyzing every movement and every answer from the invited prospects. The teams get universal measurements and medical reports and the opportunity to sit down and interview prospects that they may select on June 26.
The beginning of the Combine was a bit flat as the top prospects Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid all pulled out. Other top prospects have also followed suit and limited their activities.
With still over one month before the NBA Draft, the consensus is that there is no clear cut first pick right now, and whoever wins the lottery will make the projected order more clear. Having talked to several teams so far, the consensus does seem that Embiied’s potential combined with his limited playing experience and skills makes him very tough to pass on, but his medicals will be closely monitored.
One name that stands out as moving up in the lottery is Indiana’s Noah Vonleh. Vonleh is a raw player that will need time to develop and must get stronger, but his skills, ability to handle the ball, and impressive measurements opened a lot of scouts’ eyes. Another power forward who teams want to see in workouts to solidify his position in the lottery is Kentucky’s Julius Randle. Randle is a freakish athlete with great size but has ball security issues and sometimes gets too far away from the basket.
After these top two tiers, there are plenty of great options for the late lottery and into the teens. Come draft night there should be a fair amount of wheeling and dealing.
We will update this Mock after the lottery results are known.
1. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas, 6’8″, 200 lbs
Wiggins is the safest bet to be the first pick. While Wiggins is still improving as a shooter and might not be the dominant force some thought he would be a freshman, he is a great defender that will be very good in transition and finishing at the rim. Wiggins is an explosive athlete and could be the second consecutive Canadian drafted first overall. Until the NBA Lottery sets the draft order, Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid could all lay claim to this spot.
2. Jabari Parker, SF, Duke, 6’8″, 235 lbs
One scout I spoke to calls Parker one of the most polished elite prospects to enter the draft in years. While Parker is not the athlete that Wiggins is, he has shown his scoring prowess, and his game will translate to an immediate impact as a rookie. Parker is able to run an offense or play off the ball. From the sound of things in Chicago, the Jazz would love a chance to make Parker the face of their franchise. A majority of the executives I spoke to at the Combine believed that Parker is the frontrunner to be Rookie of the Year. No chance Parker falls outside of the top-3.
3. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas, 7’0″, 250 lbs
At the midway point of the season, Embiid seemed like the top NBA prospect as he was showing an impressive arsenal, including the ability to face up and shoot from deep. What most scouts love about Embiid is how raw he still is, having only been playing a few years. Before the draft teams will pay close attention to Embiid’s medical reports as his back issues have raised some red flags. One executive said that Embiid is “by far the best prospect this year when you look at how little he has played and what he has done so far.” Still, will Greg Oden’s injuries serve as a reminder to teams and deter them from making Embiid the top pick.
4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia, 6’6″, 185 lbs
Exum is the top international prospect in the draft. Any team looking for help at point guard surely will be intrigued by Exum’s size, athleticism, and basketball IQ. While he has not played against top competition, the pre-draft workouts could help push Exum even higher. Currently Exum is the top PG prospect in the draft, and at 18 has plenty of upside. Exum has the length and athleticism to also slide over to SG, which should add to his value. Exum is the top prospect to appear at the Combine and has shown the athleticism and polish necessary to secure his position as the top prospect of the second tier.
5. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana, 6’10”, 240 lbs
Only 19 and blessed with excellent size and good athleticism, Vonleh is a prospect that is moving up boards with an impressive NBA Combine in which he showcased special skills as a big that can play inside/out and handle the ball. Still raw offensively, Vonleh has the physical measurables that teams salivate over. However, Vonleh’s immediate future in the NBA is on the bench and D-League as he develops and matures. Still will be hard to pass up for many teams. I am hearing that Philadelphia is intrigued by the chance of pairing Vonleh and Nerlens Noel.
6. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky, 6’9″, 250 lbs
Before Embiid supplanted Randle as the top big in the draft, scouts and executives around the league raved about Randle’s combination of size and athleticism. After an impressive freshman campaign highlighted by the Wildcats’ run in March, Randle is right on the cusp of the top-5. Executives in Chicago continue to ask about Randle’s shot selection, as he tended to make questionable decisions at times as a freshman. Randle still needs to be coached up, but if he is, he could reach his potential, comparing favorably to Zach Randolph. While Randle’s biggest wart is ball security, that can be easily fixed, and its hard to imagine a team passing on him.
7. Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona, 6’8″, 215 lbs
Looking at Gordon, it’s hard not to get excited about his potential as he is an athletic and explosive forward. From a size standpoint he is undersized for the 4, but as teams start to open up offensively they can create mismatches with Gordon’s athleticism. Gordon reminds me a lot of Blake Griffin, and I can see some team in the high to mid lottery falling in love with his highlight reel dunks. No big prospect wowed more during the agility drills and vertical testing in Chicago. Coming from a family of athletes, Gordon has impressive basketball IQ and is savvy beyond his years.
8. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State, 6’4″, 220 lbs
One year ago, Smart might have been the top pick in the draft but opted to return for a disappointing sophomore year, highlighted by an embarrassing on-the-court incident when he shoved a fan in the middle of the game. While most scouts I have spoken to said its a teachable moment for a young man, there will be some who might have reservations about Smart’s maturity. As a basketball player, Smart is physical, athletic, and a competitor. Orlando is a team to watch.
9. Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton, 6’8″, 230 lbs
McDermott was one of the most exciting players in college basketball the last few years, and his ability to score will surely lead to a lot of teams paying close attention to him during workouts. The major question mark with McDermott is whether he is starting-caliber wing in the NBA or more of a reserve or specialist due to lack of athleticism. Playing against the competition he did will make his workouts even more important. McDermott measured in a shade under 6’7″ and lacks the length that teams crave from their wings, but their is no denying his ability to score. Sources at the Combine indicated that Cleveland, if they keep their pick, has McDermott as their guy if he is still on the board.
10. Dario Saric, SF, Croatia, 6’10”, 225 lbs
Saric is a skilled perimeter player with great length and enticing abilities to handle and facilitate an offense. Only 20 and with at least another year overseas, Saric is a draft-and-stash candidate and could be a great investment for a team missing out on one of the top 8 players. Saric could be an intriguing prospect for a lottery team looking to break the bank in free agency and not wanting to have a rookie deal on the salary cap this season. Saric is the top European prospect in this draft and a lock to be in the Lottery.