Friday, June 27, 2014

The NBA Draft 2014 five biggest surprises

Draft-night surprises don't come from who gets drafted but when, since the eventual makeup of the first round is predicted well in advance of the draft itself.

But trades, slides, early selections, reaches and tumbles are part of the draft's appeal, and in the first round in particular. The 2014 version was no exception: Joel Embiid remained a top pick, Aaron Gordon went a bit ahead of schedule and Gary Harris suffered a major tumble, for example.

Surprises are part of the game. Here are the five biggest shockers from Thursday's first round:

1. Embiid sticks in the top three
Kansas center Joel Embiid began the offseason as one of the top-ranked prospects in the NBA draft, perhaps right alongside former teammate Andrew Wiggins, but saw his stock dinged by concerns over two injuries: one to his back, which kept the freshman out of the NCAA tournament, and a second to his right foot, which demanded surgery June 20.

Yet despite the injury concerns – something Kansas Coach Bill Self dismissed before the start of Thursday's draft – Embiid didn't drop very far, going third overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, two spots after Wiggins was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 76ers are banking on Embiid's potential, willingly rolling the dice on his projected growth even as he spends the next four to six months recovering from his recent procedure. When he does see the court, Embiid will join another player coming off an injury, Nerlens Noel, along the 76ers' frontline.

2. Gordon goes No. 4
Don't question the athleticism: Arizona's Aaron Gordon can leap out of the gym, as proved during his highlight-reel performance during the NCAA tournament. Instead, question the jump shot – a major weakness at this point – and wonder why the Orlando Magic didn't opt to spend the fourth overall pick on upgrading its backcourt.

Several guards remained on the board: Dante Exum, for one, who went one pick later to the Utah Jazz, and Marcus Smart, who went No. 6 to the Boston Celtics. While Gordon has a Blake Griffin-like skill set, either Exum or Smart would have given the Magic an immediate boost in the rush for a playoff berth.
3. Zach LaVine goes ahead of schedule
The former one-and-done UCLA guard is the greatest boom-or-bust pick of the lottery. Minnesota took LaVine 13th overall after he averaged 9.4 points and 1.8 assists per game during a single season with the Bruins. If the Timberwolves are patient, maybe LaVine develops into a tall, lanky, take-charge point guard with great size and the room for growth.

But it'll take patience, and Minnesota shouldn't bank on getting any major production from LaVine during his rookie campaign. He's still too light, needs to develop a far more well-rounded game and has yet to prove an ability to lead an offense. Not that he was given much of an opportunity to do so at UCLA, however.

4. Gary Harris falls
After two productive years at Michigan State, Harris was viewed as one of the draft's top shooting guards, not to mention a legitimate lottery pick. But his tumble was the greatest of any recognizable prospect: Harris fell to 19th overall, when he was taken by the Chicago Bulls – with his rights sent to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Bulls' earlier acquisition of Creighton forward Doug McDermott.
Perhaps teams were scared off by Harris' lack of prototypical two-guard size, as well as his inconsistent streak from deep. But Harris remains an immediate-impact member of the Nuggets' rotation, perhaps giving Denver ample minutes and production as the first guard off the bench. Harris' fall was the Nuggets' gain.

5. Who?
His name is Bruno Caboclo, and per ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, he's the "Brazilian Kevin Durant." Tall praise, I know, though Fraschilla tempered his excitement by saying Caboclo needed "three or four years" before developing his entire NBA game. The Raptors weren't scared off by the learning curve, taking Caboclo 20th overall, ahead of skilled collegians like Shabazz Napier, Rodney Hood, K.J. McDaniels, Kyle Anderson and Mitch McGarry. Perhaps the Raptors saw something other NBA franchises did not.

USA Today

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