Kotoch: After Champions Classic, is Wiggins Still the Top Pick?

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Is Andrew Wiggins still the top pick in the 2014 NBA draft?

Wiggins certainly was good Tuesday night, when the Windy City was rocking for the State Farm Champions Classic. But so were Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, who may have closed the gap on Wiggins.

The event pitted Kentucky vs. Michigan State and Duke vs. Kansas – traditional powers from major conferences meeting on the hardwood in an early season measuring stick. But while many fans were entertained by the games and teams, the underlying story was the 2014 NBA draft as Wiggins, Parker and Randle – the top three players on my Big Board – were on the court.

Every NBA team had multiple scouts and executives in attendance including Sam Presti, Danny Ainge and Kevin Pritchard, among others. Even a who’s who of super agents and basketball insiders were in attendance, including Rob Pelinka, Rich Paul and Worldwide Wes.

Look no further than the loaded rosters of all four teams to understand why this event generated such attention. Kentucky alone might have seven future first-round picks on its current roster while Kansas could have three top-10 picks.

Make no mistake: All three prospects can stake a claim to being the first overall pick. With the draft more than seven months away, things are hardly settled. But here are some observations and intelliegence I gathered.

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NBA Draft 2014: Very Early Mock Lottery

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NBALottery-ping pongMid-October is not synonymous with the NBA draft. Basketball fans are usually starting to notice the NBA preseason and getting ready for the start of college ball.

But unlike past years, there has been a greater focus on the 2014 NBA draft and the overwhelming star power it has. That is why “Tankapalooza” is already part of basketball lexicon.

For a long time, this next draft has been called the Andrew Wiggins Lottery, and one year prior to the 2014 draft, the tanking began when the Philadelphia 76ers unloaded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans’ first-round pick, which is top-five protected.

While the Sixers were the first team to be accused of tanking this season, they will not be the last.

For anyone in denial about NBA teams tanking, just think back to the 2002-2003 season, when the Cleveland Cavaliers were doing everything they could to land LeBron James. Coincidentally, some compare Wiggins to James in his ability and potential franchise-altering impact.

Ultimately, there will be 14 teams whose fate will be decided by ping-pong balls. Here, as we sit in late October, is how I see the lottery going:

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Mock Draft 8.0.1: If Noel goes No. 1; Cavs are Trading Pick

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nbadraft13_300x250_3 (2)Happy Draft Night! Tonight when David Stern approaches the podium and is booed by the crowd at the Barclays Center at his final NBA Draft, we will finally have our answers.

In the meantime, Alex Len remains atop of our Final Mock as sources in Cleveland have emphatically stated the 7-footer from Maryland is on top of the Cavs’ draft board.

However, Cleveland’s first choice is to trade the pick and there are a half-dozen teams they were still talking to as of Thursday afternoon. Also, I now expect Orlando to draft Victor Oladipo over Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore.

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Mock Draft 8.0: Barring Trade, Cavs Will Take Alex Len No. 1; Orlando Likely to Trade No. 2 pick

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Happy Draft Day! Tonight when David Stern approaches the podium and is booed by the crowd at the Barclays Center at his final NBA Draft, we will finally have our answers.

In the meantime, Alex Len remains on top of our Final Mock as sources in Cleveland have emphatically stated the 7-footer from Maryland is on top of the Cavs’ draft board.

However, Cleveland’s first choice is to trade the pick and there are a half-dozen teams they were still talking to as of Thursday morning. Also, I expect Orlando to trade the No. 2 pick and draft Nerlens Noel on behalf of another team.

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Mock Draft 7.0: Noel rises to No. 2; Porter at No. 4; Oladipo drops to No. 7

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As the NBA Draft approaches, the Cavs are still actively trying to trade the 1st overall pick, Washington seems determined to take Anthony Bennett of UNLV at No. 3  – which has led Charlotte to shop Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to make room for Otto Porter.

Also, Kevin Love is once again being discussed as a trade candidate — to Cleveland, just as we reported in Mock 3.0.1 on May 29.

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