The 2013-2014 NBA preseason is just under a month from tipping off, but the first mock draft for the coveted 2014 NBA Draft class has already been released by ESPN. Chad Ford's opening projection? With the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers will select Andrew Wiggins out of Kansas.
Ford's first set of projections has the Sixers with a 20-62 record, giving them a 25 percent chance to win the lottery and select one of the most hyped draftees in recent memory. Adding the 6'8 wing with the first selection of the draft along with Nerlens Noel -- a defensive anchor in the frontcourt who was heavily projected as the first-overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft before he tumbled out of the top five and into the Sixers' reach via trade -- and fellow 2013 rookie Michael Carter-Williams would give Philadelphia a young, immediately rebuilt core constructed by general manager Sam Hinkie.
The Phoenix Suns are projected to be on the clock next after a 22-60 record lands them the second overall pick. Ford projects the Suns will take versatile power forward and one-and-done prospect Julius Randle out of Kentucky to partner with 2013 lottery selection Alex Len.
The Orlando Magic round out the top three, who are projected to select Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart -- the same player the team was reportedly "heartbroken" over his decision to stay in college for a second year. The Magic drafted Victor Oladipo out of Indiana instead in the 2013 NBA Draft, and Ford projects the team will still have the opportunity to land the 2013 Big 12 Player of the Year.
The Charlotte Bobcats are projected to lock up the fourth pick in the 2014 NBA draft. With it, Ford has Australian international player Dante Exum landing with the franchise, giving it a player that SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks labeled as the best NBA prospect we probably haven't heard of. Tjarks had high praise for the combo guard's natural feel for the game:
At 6'6 and 190 pounds with a 6'9 wingspan, Exum has elite size and athleticism for a combo guard. He's a smooth player with a lightning-quick first step who gets wherever he wants to go on the floor fairly easily. It's essentially impossible to stay in front of him in the open court. In the championship rounds, neither the Spanish nor the Serbians had any answer for him athletically. Team defense was their only chance to contain him.
The ability to play within a team concept, though, is what makes Exum special. Most players with his physical tools don't have his feel for the game. He often brought the ball up himself, initiating the Australian offense. Exum isn't a pure point guard, but he understands how to draw double teams and find the open man. He played within himself at the U19s, rarely forcing the action despite being far more talented than his teammates.
It's also worth noting that Exum decided against coming to America for college ball this year, as he wouldn't be eligible until December, but could still elect to go to college next year.
The Boston Celtics round out the top five, and Ford projects they will select forward Jabari Parker. Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley are already in place, making Parker a natural fit as the next potential franchise small forward for the Celtics after they partedways with Paul Pierce.
Other notable names and selections include Aaron Gordon going to the Sacramento Kings with the sixth overall pick, Andrew Harrison seventh overall to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Los Angeles Lakers selecting 10th and drafting center Joel Embiid, and Mitch McGary -- who had a breakout performance in last year's NCAA Tournament -- going 16th to the Washington Wizards.
The Miami Heat decided to roll the dice on former second-overall draft pick Michael Beasley, giving him a second stint in Miami after the team traded him away for salary cap saving purposes. Things haven't gone well for Beasley since his departure from South Beach -- whether it's his statistical impact (his PER and win shares have dropped each year) -- or his latest arrest stemming from suspicion of possession of marijuana that led to him to being released by the Suns.
Round two of the Beasley experience comes as a low-risk move for the defending champions. Mark Deeks discussed the myth of Beasley's talent and how there are so many areas Beasley must improve upon before he becomes a "good" starter in the NBA that it's an unlikely prospect, but the Heat aren't looking for him to be anything more than a 15 minutes per game role player.
Finding minutes for Beasley in a rotation that was mostly unchanged, aside from amnestying Mike Miller's 15.3 minutes per game, could be tricky for the Heat. The two likely candidates to see a reduction in on-court time are Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem, and Matt Pineda of Hot Hot Hoops predicts he will be a Miller fill-in so long as things go well for Super Cool Beas:
Chances are likely that Beasley becomes a piece like Mike Miller. He will be used sometimes, sometimes not. He will have really encouraging games, and games where you scratch your head. That is the most likely scenario at this point in the game. And we haven't even begun to find minutes for the Heat to try playing Greg Oden.
Victor Oladipo is happy he wasn't drafted by the Cavaliers
Guard Victor Oladipo was drafted with the second overall pick by the Orlando Magic after the Cleveland Cavaliers made the shocking selection of Anthony Bennett with the first-overall selection. Oladipo can't lay claim to being a first-overall pick, but that's fine by him. According to the Magic's official Twitter account, he didn't want to go to Cleveland anyway:
The Magic's @VicOladipo: "To be honest, I really didn't want to go to Cleveland."— Orlando Magic (@Orlando_Magic) September 12, 2013
To be honest, this makes sense. The Cavaliers already have Dion Waiters at shooting guard and Kyrie Irving at point guard to fill out their backcourt, making Oladipo a bench reserve behind two young, developing players. Instead, the Cavaliers drafted Bennett and filled out a positional need with the hybrid forward.
The Memphis Grizzlies are transitioning away from the Lionel Hollins era and have new head coach Dave Joerger to lead the team. Joerger is expected to instill a faster paced offense this season with the Grizzlies, a departure from the plodding team that ranked 30th in the league in pace (88.4 offensive possessions per game).
A frontcourt of Randolph and Marc Gasol doesn't lend itself to a fast paced style, however, which leaves Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues wondering how the franchise will work Z-Bo into their schemes.
His physicality and positioning on the boards, especially offensively, can allow for more effective shots near the basket while creating more opportunities for Gasol, Conley, Miller Pondexter and company to space the floor more efficiently.
The deeper bench should also allow for Zach to rest more and prepare for an extended playoff push in which his brand of basketball could wear down lesser front courts. This chapter of his career with this team may or may not be coming to an end, but if he is willing to carve out a niche for himself and allow for others to take on more offensive responsibility while resting more during the season, he could well end his time as a Grizzly with a ring and a Championship celebration down Beale Street.
How Randolph fits with the Grizzlies is an angle to keep an eye on as they try to recapture the momentum they had after a trip to the Western Conference Finals just two seasons ago. Randolph has a player option for the 2014-2015 season, making his future with the team a question mark.
Morris -- a third-year player at just 22 -- started 17 games through the regular season for the Lakers, along with two playoff starts. Now, he will play "meaningful backcourt minutes" behind Michael Carter-Williams, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
Chalk this one up as another Sam Hinkie signing in a search for low-cost, young, potential talent as the Sixers continue their post-Andrew Bynum face lift.