The 2014 NBA Draft tips off Thursday, June 26. But before Commissioner Adam Silver receives his annual standing ovation — in what will be his first draft since taking over the top spot from David Stern — there will be plenty of rumor-mongering and internet-trolling. After all, this draft is headlined by the Canadian Tracy McGrady, Mormon Carmelo Anthony, Cameroonian Greg Oden and Australian Penny Hardaway.
Here’s a rundown of the top pre-draft rumors and predictions heading into what should be one of the most hectic nights on the league calendar, as all 30 teams look to make themselves more attractive for LeBron James’ pending “Decision Part Deux.”
No. 1 pick is Andrew Wiggins — not Jabari Parker
The high-flying Wiggins is less polished but has top-of-the-backboard upside thanks to his reported 44-inch vertical leap. Parker may be more NBA-ready on draft night, but the Cavaliers (or whichever team trades up to No. 1) will be drafting for the long-term future — not a post-draft pickup game.
Joel Embiid falls out of top-5 due to back and foot injuries
The 20-year-old 7-footer out of Kansas was considered the top prospect in the entire draft until he was revealed to have a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot — an injury similar to those suffered by Yao Ming, Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and other big men with bad wheels. Oh, and the big fella also had his season cut short at KU due to a stress fracture in his back.
Dante Exum shocks draft by being selected in the top-3
His dad played ball with Michael Jordan at North Carolina in the early-80’s! He’s the greatest Australian player since Luc Longley, who also played ball with Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-90’s! This kid is practically Michael Jordan — who, come to think of it, was selected at No. 3 overall 30 years ago. Eerie.
Noah Vonleh gets drafted ahead of injured Joel Embiid
The Indiana freshman has a 7’4” wingspan and the second-biggest hands (11.75”) in Chicago draft combine history. In Vonleh’s one season in Bloomington he led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and hit 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from 3-point range. When all is said and done, Vonleh might have the best NBA career of anyone in this year’s class.
Magic love Marcus Smart at No. 2 in 2013 or No. 4 in ’14
Orlando likely would have taken the Oklahoma State combo guard over Indiana guard Victor Oladipo at No. 2 overall in last year’s draft. Sitting at No. 4 this year, the Magic will be tempted by Embiid or Aussie 1.5-guard Dante Exum, but will stick with the opinion they’ve held for two years now.
Jazz trade No. 5 pick and Derrick Favors for No. 1 or 2 pick
No need to take a private jet to Las Vegas, it’s party time in Salt Lake City. Expect the Jazz to roll the dice and push their chips on the table with a trade package that includes their best big man (Favors) and their top pick (No. 5) in exchange for a chance to acquire Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Celtics do not draft Julius Randle — but the Lakers do
Kentucky’s go-to guy is a polished lefty with nasty Z-Bo-style post moves and a foot that may or may not be about to break (again), depending on who you talk to. Randle skipped a second workout with the C’s to do a fashion interview with GQ. He may have a promise from the Lake Show or the Dallas native may have already gone Hollywood. Either way, he’s a future Laker, even if only for one night.
Kings trade out of No. 8 pick for overpriced veteran
Sac-town has DeMarcus Cousins locked up for the next four years and needs to make the most of their time with the young big man. Look for the Kings to go for broke with a blockbuster trade for either Josh Smith’s radioactive contract in Detroit or maybe a placeholder pick for a sign-and-trade max contract for Eric Bledsoe (DMC’s college buddy) in Phoenix.
Canada Tube gets drafted ahead of Dougie McBuckets
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Creighton’s Doug McDermott are the consensus top-two shooters in the draft. And while McDermott was everyone’s national player of the year — and reason for Kate Upton to “Dougie” — it will be the Canadian Youtube sensation Stauskas who hears his name called first, possibly earlier than anticipated.
Celtics take Dario Saric as draft-and-stash at No. 17
Croatia’s latest uberstar just inked a three-year deal in Turkey, but don’t expect that to prevent the 6’10” versatile forward from being a first-round draft-and-stash for an NBA team looking to either save money or cash in on the value of a potential top-10 talent falling down the board. Saric wants to be a Celtic or Laker, so expect Danny Ainge to make a splash with his second first-rounder.
Michael Jordan drafts Horace Grant’s nephew at No. 24
What was old is new again. His Airness has brought back the Charlotte Hornets name and colors, throwing away the Bobcats name — which was maybe the most egotistical in sports history, as the namesake of previous owner Robert “Bob” Johnson. In another “back to the future” move, expect MJ to draft Syracuse forward Jerami Grant, the nephew of former Bulls teammate Horace Grant and son of former NBAer Harvey Grant.
Kevin Love will not be traded to the Warriors or Bulls
Despite endless speculation that Golden State is willing to include Klay Thompson (or are they?) and that Derrick Rose would prefer to play with Love over Carmelo Anthony in Chicago, there will be no Love exchanged on draft night. Minnesota was swindled in the Kevin Garnett deal and will almost certainly suffer the same fate with Kevin Love. Rather than collect assets from one of the deepest drafts in history, the T-Wolves will wait… and wait… and wait… until it’s too late.