Potential trades, free agent moves add even more intensity to NBA Draft

Date: June 24, 2014

by John Fanta

While the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone off the map before, after taking Anthony Bennett out of UNLV with the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, it would not seem that Cleveland has that option entering Thursday night in Brooklyn. Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins appear to be the two main options, but a trade out of the top spot cannot be ruled out either. Cleveland has the cap space for multiple max deals, and with names like Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, and Lebron James circulating, the Cavs could make a move to lead them to landing one of the league's stars.

With Joel Embiid's back issues and a right foot stress fracture, his stock has dropped out of the top three, according to the national mock drafts. The question for Cleveland becomes whether the Cavs believe that they cannot only win with Parker immediately but if they can do it for the long term. The continuing belief is that Wiggins has the best potential in the draft. It's now up to general manager David Griffin, who took over a team that was 16-33 and kept them at a respectable 33-49 this past season, to make the franchise-changing selection. While there have been talks and rumors everywhere, a source close to the Cavs still does not think that the team has reached their decision yet.

Embiid will fall, but he could still go in the top five of a loaded class, which says a lot. But, if the fear rises because of Embiid's recent injuries, teams do have the options of making some strong selections without picking a center that has been injury-prone. The Orlando Magic saw what a superstar center can do after having Dwight Howard for eight years.

The Utah Jazz gave up 109.1 points per 100 possessions last season, a league worst, and while it is disappointing to be sitting at the fifth spot, they could get a shot at a rim protector in Embiid. Another big man to watch out for is 6-10, 240-pounder Noah Vonleh out of Indiana. On top of a stellar rebounding ability, the big man shot nearly 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc last season. Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are right behind in terms of big men. The views surrounding Randle are that he is one-dimensional and needs to find more than one way to hurt defenses. As for Gordon, his athleticism could lead a team like the Jazz, Celtics, or even the Hornets at the ninth spot to go after him. As of now, it looks as if the Lakers' frontrunner is Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State. LA could move up in the draft to target Dante Exum. The Australian point guard has worked out for the Cavs and could be drafted as high as the top pick, but many mock drafts have him going around the third or fourth selection. Another guard that has continued to climb up the ladder in the latest mock drafts is Nik Stauskas. With Mitch McGary missing most of the season due to a back injury, it forced Stauskas to step up. As a result, he garnered Big Ten Player of the Year honors with 17.5 points per game.

The other debate in the top ten is what power forward is the right one to go after. The nation's player of the year, Doug McDermott, has been projected from anywhere inside the top ten to just outside of the top 15. Dario Saric is his biggest competitor on the board, along with Randle, whose positioning could fall anywhere. Saric led the Adriatic League with nearly 17 points and 10 boards per game, while getting to the free throw line for almost six attempts as well.

Those talents' destinies will be determined by whether the order changes. The Sacaramento Kings, for example, have explored many options with their eighth selection. ESPN reports that Sacramento is looking at offers from three teams for the pick. The players available when the Kings select could set off a draft night deal, with two of the three moves potentially falling for Thursday's 2 p.m. ET deadline. Sources did not specify which teams are interested.

Sacramento has also showed a plentiful amount of interest in getting a deal done with the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. While those talks have gone down, it's still not out of the question. Boston could steal that move before the Kings even get a look at it. Boston has players on the table to trade. With Rajon Rondo seeking a big deal after the upcoming season, the Celtics may not want to go in that direction and could ship him off somewhere. Or, Boston could trade their picks along with the likes of Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, and company to try and get Love. They seem to like Gordon at the sixth spot, who was a big reason for Arizona's run to the Elite Eight this past season.

In the coming days, we'll look at the other headlines within the draft. But for now, here is a fresh mock draft of the top 15:

1.Jabari Parker (Cavaliers)

2.Andrew Wiggins (Bucks)

3.Dante Exum (76ers)

4.Noah Vonleh (Magic)

5.Joel Embiid (Kansas)

6.Aaron Gordon (Timberwolves) – Celtics trade pick in order to bring in Kevin Love

7.Marcus Smart (Lakers)

8.Julius Randle (Kings)

9.Doug McDermott (Hornets)

10.Gary Harris (76ers)

11.Dario Saric (Nuggets)

12.Jusuf Nurkic (Magic)

13.Kyle Anderson (Timberwolves)

14.T.J. Warren (Suns)

15.Rodney Hood (Hawks)

NBA Draft updates will roll on all week. Follow WSOU.net and tweet as us with your questions and comments @WSOUSports and @John_Fanta. John can be reached at john.fanta@student.shu.edu

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