Yet while the league drags its feet, we are already on mock draft No. 3. For the first time there is a major shakeup high in the lottery, which means things are finally starting to get interesting. We will also go all the way through the first round, not just the lottery, as we did in versions one and two.
So check out our picks, and if you disagree with any of the selections, keep in mind that as in every mock draft, these are all just informed guesses. Or leave an angry comment below. It’s up to you.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (SF/SG, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds)
Still the best player available in our eyes.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke (F, 6-8, 240)
With the NBA going smaller, the Sixers might be able to get away with a smallish front line of Parker and Nerlens Noel. Taking Parker over Joel Embiid would give Philly far more scoring potential, though it would rob the marketing department of a ready-made “Joel & Noel” advertising campaign.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, Kansas (C, 7-0, 250)
Embiid has a “spinal stress fracture” — as in, a broken bone in his back. We don’t know about you, but that kind of terrifies us, which is why Embiid drops a slot. Expect Orlando, at least, to bite down hard and make this pick regardless.
4. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, Arizona (F, 6-8, 210)
Gordon’s motor never stops on the court, which leads us to believe he will work just as hard off it. At just 18 years old, his ceiling has yet to be defined.
5. Boston Celtics: Dante Exum, Australia (G, 6-6, 180)
The Celtics have not had a go-to scoring guard since Reggie Lewis, and that was more than 20 years ago. (Ray Allen was more of an off-the-ball, catch-and-shoot type.) That could change if Exum is anywhere near as good as his proponents claim.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (PG, 6-3, 225)
Assuming the Lakers keep this pick and don’t trade it for a player who will help them win now, Smart might just be the only player in this draft whose desire to win approaches that of Kobe Bryant.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, Indiana (PF, 6-10, 240)
Vonleh can be a little rigid at times, but the fact that the Haverhill, Mass., native has not even turned 19 yet entices scouts who believe he could grow into a stud.
8. Detroit Pistons: Julius Randle, Kentucky (PF, 6-9, 225)
Randle makes a precipitous fall this week after holding steady at No. 4 in our first two mocks. It’s not that we’ve soured on him. We are just extremely high on Gordon, while Vonleh appears to have greater upside.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, Croatia (F, 6-10, 225)
Team executives will have a hard time turning down Saric’s combination of size and versatility, even if he moves like he is standing in four feet of water.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Pelicans): Gary Harris, Michigan State (SG, 6-4, 210)
Harris’ competitive mentality and shooting prowess should make him a fan favorite on South Broad Street.
11. Denver Nuggets: James Young, Kentucky (SG, 6-6, 215)
At times last season, he was automatic on the catch-and-shoot, whether spotting up or off screens. He will have to be more consistent to earn playing time as a pro, however, due to his nonexistent defense.
12. Orlando Magic (from Knicks via Nuggets): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (PG, 6-2, 180)
We firmly believe Orlando goes to the backcourt here after addressing either their frontcourt scoring (Parker) or defense (Embiid) at No. 3.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, Creighton (F, 6-8, 210)
With Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and McDermott all on the same team, which one would be considered the “token white guy“?
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, Michigan (SG, 6-6, 205)
Coach Jeff Hornacek might see a little of himself in Stauskas, who can flat-out shoot despite being at a physical disadvantage against most shooting guards. He also handles the ball better than he is given credit for.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, Duke (SF/SG, 6-8, 180)
Hood was in the lottery in our initial mock, but we are not sure if his length and shooting make up for his lack of intensity at both ends.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Hornets): T.J. Warren, NC State (F, 6-8, 215)
Throw Warren in the bucket with the other roughly 6-foot-8, 210-pound forwards with so-so athleticism. He can score and rebound, but he’s only likely to be good, not great, at either skill, whether as a power or small forward.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): P.J. Hairston, D-League (SG, 6-6, 220)
A knockdown shooter and physical defender capable of guarding small forwards, Hairston played last season in the D-League after he was banished from North Carolina for accepting improper benefits.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Adreian Payne, Michigan State (PF, 6-10, 245)
Probably the best stretch-four option in this class would fit in well with the Suns.
19. Chicago Bulls: Clint Capela, Switzerland (PF/C, 6-11, 210)
Rail-thin and raw, Capela nonetheless captivates scouts. He reportedly has a 7-5 wingspan and a 32-inch vertical, so prepare for some highlight-reel dunks — although if he turns sideways, he disappears.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, UCLA (SF, 6-9, 230)
Just 20 years old with an old man’s game, Anderson has the makings of a capable stretch-forward, though his other tools lag behind other NBA players at his position.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Mavericks via Rockets, Lakers): Jordan Adams, UCLA (SG, 6-5, 220)
Though not an impressive athlete, Adams has a nose for the bucket. What better place for him than beside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two of the elite athletes at their positions?
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State (SF, 6-8, 220)
Early could go anywhere from the early post-lottery to the second round, but there are two places where he truly fits: Memphis and Chicago. The Bulls’ picks are probably a bit early to take the physical swing-forward, but this is a great spot for the Grizzlies to add a player with Early’s length and grinder’s mentality.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): Zach LaVine, UCLA (SG, 6-5, 180)
If the Jazz pass over Exum at No. 4, they could grab LaVine, a hyper-athletic swingman capable of spreading the floor and running the lanes alongside Trey Burke.
24. Charlotte Hornets (from Trail Blazers): Jerami Grant, Syracuse (SF, 6-8, 210)
This is as low as you will see Grant on any mocks. A lot of folks see Grant nipping at the lottery. We just don’t see it. He is long and athletic, but not uniquely so for a pro forward. Like most Syracuse players, he is liable to be behind most incoming prospects in his understanding of man-to-man defensive principles.
25. Houston Rockets: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette (PG, 6-3, 190)
Payton struggles to put the ball in the hoop and turns it over a lot, but, man, can he go, go, go. His size, quickness and ballhandling ability will fit seamlessly into Houston’s system, which desperately needs some oomph at the point.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, UConn (PG, 6-1, 180)
LeBron James loves the 2014 NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player. Now he might get a chance to play with him. Napier is already better than Norris Cole was when he stepped into a backup role out of Cleveland State, but he’ll have a tough time cracking the Mario Chalmers-Cole point guard combo that has worked for Erik Spoelstra.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana Pacers): K.J. McDaniels, Clemson (SF, 6-6, 200)
McDaniels is a perfect example of why we’re not NBA general managers, because if we were, we would take him much higher than anybody probably should. McDaniels’ ridiculous hops and willingness to attack opponents both offensively and defensively will make him both loved or hated by fans, depending on which side they are rooting for.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Deonte Burton, Nevada (PG, 6-1, 190)
A shoot-first point guard with an aggressive mindset, Burton could be an effective backup to the measured Chris Paul, sort of like a poor, poor man’s Eric Bledsoe before he was traded.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Austin, Baylor (C/F, 7-1, 225)
Austin is very raw, but his length and athleticism, combined with a surprisingly good handle and jump shot, provide tons of tools for OKC’s coaching staff to play around with.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia (SG, 6-6, 200)
Call Gregg Popovich the “International Player Whisperer” and bank on Popovich turning the 21-year-old swingman into a useful NBA player.
Photo via Twitter/@NBAFollowTrain