Wiggins and Embiid challenge each other for the
first overall pick
The last Eye on the draft was eleven days ago… things can change quickly though. The Celtics have lost all seven of their games in that time span and now share the same lottery odds as the Jazz with the fourth worst record in the NBA. 

There has also been some shuffling amongst NBA draft boards. In the previous piece, Joel Embiid was mentioned as someone with the potential to jump to the first overall pick. Today Embiid could be the favorite to be selected in that spot, much thanks to his breakout game Monday at Iowa State. 11 days can change things.

Before we switch into mock draft mode, lets cover the top players that are rising/declining: 

Joel Embiid (Kansas/Fr): The more you watch him, the more you love him. Embiid has been rising all season, and now he is at the top. Here are Embiid's averages in his last seven games: 13.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3 blocks. Now consider that he has put up those numbers in 24.1 minutes per game on 72% shooting from the field. 

Embiid is a much better passer than the numbers lead on too (1.4 APG), and has looked fantastic kicking the ball out of the low post. Now Embiid comes with a grain of salt too: fouls and turnovers. Yup, two very bad things. In his 16 point, nine rebound, five block, two assist, two steal outburst Monday night he also fouled out and committed seven turnovers which got lost in the hype. His season averages are 2.1 turnovers (not as big a deal), but 3.7 fouls (a very big deal). 

Accumulating that many fouls, especially in so few minutes, at the college level means Embiid really needs to clean up his game on defense. But he has been playing basketball for two years and his defensive ceiling is the sky. On top of that, his offensive game is light years ahead of where it was expected. Combine all of these things and GMs will gladly take the good with the bad, Embiid has the most room to grow in the entire draft class.

Andrew Wiggins (Kansas/Fr): Wiggins has been up and down all season. Coming in with the highest expectations, Wiggins is still a top three pick no matter who you ask. Some still even keep him in the number one spot just based on that lightning first step and his pogo stick-ish second jump. 

Wiggins should be shooting better than 44.6% from the field and 32.7% from three though, his season averages so far. He also is still wildly inconsistent. But there has been more good Wiggins than bad Wiggins, especially in his monster game again Iowa State: 17 points and 19 rebounds. 

Jabari Parker (Duke/Fr): Parker has been on a horrible slide since ACC play started. In Parker's four ACC games he is averaging 10.5 PPG on 30.4% shooting. Things have been bad of late, but make no mistakes on Parker, he is absolutely a superstar at the next level. 

Parker is a great player going through a bad stretch, the same thing is sure to happen during his rookie season in the NBA. Parker still has the best numbers of any freshman this season: 18.8 PPG and 7.3 RPG, but the eye test tells you all you need to see. Parker is in control of his silky smooth game, he is poised and smart, and most of all - always the most talented player on the court. In a draft where Embiid and Wiggins have the most upside, Parker still could turn out to be the most special player.

Julius Randle (Kentucky/Fr): Randle has only played two game since the last update… but yikes! Randle shot 3-7 for eight points and 3-10 for seven points against Miss. State and Vanderbilt. Not what we were hoping to see from a kid once considered locked in as a top three pick.

Randle did haul in 14 and 11 rebounds in those two games, but like I have said, he seems to just bully his way around in the college game. The NBA could be a real wake up call for him, Randle needs to round his game off and become more than a paint presence. 

Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State/So): Smart has been fantastic all season long. As previously discussed, Smart has had some huge games when called upon, but since his team has blown out multiple opponents, his minutes are streaky. Smart played 33.5 MPG his freshman year, but only 29 MPG this season… until his last two games. Smart still has better averages this season in less minutes, but just needed some tighter games to show he's still got it.

Against Texas last week Smart showed he can dominate a game based on physicality without even shooting well. Here is the stat line: 24 points (4-11 FG - 16-20 FT), 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and the cherry on top - zero turnovers. Next up against West Virginia: 22 points (8-15 FG - 3-5 3PT FG), 13 boards and five helpers.

Those stat lines show everything we need to know about Smart. When called upon, he can ball and dominate every aspect of the game. He's a scorer at all costs, inside/outside… doesn't matter. One game he forces it to the rack and shoots 20 free throws, next game he kills you from downtown. He's a 6'4 combo guard that dishes assists and forces steals… but he's 220 pounds and crashes the glass. Marcus Smart is on the rise people.

With the draft getting closer, it's fun to keep throwing a mock top 10 out there. Based on NBA standings of games played before 1/14, My Mock Top 10:

1. Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid: Yup, Embiid is at the top, potential like this can not be ignored. Of course with Henson, Sanders and the Greek Freak someone has to be on the way out. Sanders name has been discussed in trades and would be a perfect fit in Boston next to Sullinger if this were the case.

2. Orlando Magic - Jabari Parker: Might be getting tighter than it was with Wiggins here, but Parker is the better player. Fits a need at forward with a young guard and center already in place for the Magic.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins: Best player on the board, crazy potential, Philly would gladly take this scenario. No controversy on who to take here. And wait until later...

4/5. Utah Jazz - Dante Exum: This pick could be the Celtics' too, same record but Boston beat them head-to-head. Tough decision here, Parker and Wiggins are the perfect players for the Jazz. Take Exum here and play him at the off guard to go with Burke, Hayward (if he stays), Favors and Kanter. The "future five" looks good in Utah.

5/4. Boston Celtics - Marcus Smart: Whether Rajon Rondo and/or Avery Bradley are here next season or not this pick makes sense. Smart can play the two guard beside Rondo, then Boston is a center away from contending. Smart can play the point guard beside Bradley, then the Celtics presumably have multiple assets from a Rondo trade to use for their center and more. Or Rondo-Bradley-Smart can make up the toughest NBA backcourt… by far. Keep Sullinger and add a Larry Sanders trade on top of this draft pick and the Celtics are a couple role players away from contending. You're welcome Danny Ainge.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers - Julius Randle: The Cavs, fresh off the Luol Deng trade, are probably not even close to picking here in June. But it doesn't matter, whoever has the six spot would take Randle in this scenario. He is falling, but six is probably his floor unless scoring continues to be this difficult for him. 

7. Sacramento Kings - Aaron Gordon: Since the start of the season, Gordon has been anywhere from 4-20 in mock drafts I have seen. Right here seems about right for him. He has been playing well lately, maybe not Blake Griffin, but a very useful player in the NBA. Could be special alongside Cousins. 

8. Los Angeles Lakers - Willie Cauley-Stein: Zach LaVine from UCLA is the sexy pick here. But with a max player expected to come to LALA land (think 'Melo) and team up with Kobe, a point guard may be a useless pick. The seven footer could turn into a nice Tyson Chandler type player for the west coast Knicks.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Doug McDermott: The Cats have enough raw talent: MKG, Biyombo and Zeller all have a ways to go. Take the best senior who can play now with Kemba and Big Al and hope those other kids pan out. McDermott has some serious game and can play in the paint or out on the perimeter. 

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans) - Rodney Hood: Man is it nice to be Philly if it plays out like this. Hood has been picking up Parker's slack at Duke and is having monster games lately. Philly's core would now be Wiggins, Hood, Carter-Williams, Turner, Thad Young and don't forget Nerlens Noel will be a rookie next season too. Wow.

Long way to the draft, but it continues to become more entertaining to explore options by the day.

Julian Edlow 1/14/2014 08:50:00 PM Edit
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