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Stock Watch: Two months before draft, Embiid and Wiggins look like top-three picks
The next couple of months figure to be a whirlwind of basketball workouts and anticipation for Kansas University freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins — both of whom opted to leave Bill Self's men's basketball program after one year to enter the NBA Draft.
Between now and June 26, the night of the draft, rumors will fly about each player's stock, which teams like one of them, which teams don't and why one or the other is moving up or down the draft board in a particular front office. That's the life of a top NBA Draft pick, and both Embiid and Wiggins could be off the board by the time the first three selections are made.
As it stands right now, we don't know the order of the first 14 picks. All we know are the franchises who missed the playoffs, and now find themselves in the running for the No. 1 overall pick.
Here are the lottery teams (or the teams that previously traded for a given lottery team's first-round pick) and their odds of obtaining a top-three pick via the lottery, courtesy of Tankathon.com:
Los Angeles Lakers (21.5%)
Philadelphia [from New Orleans] (4.0%)
Orlando [from New York] (2.5%)
The order will be unveiled live on television (probably before a playoff game) at the NBA Draft Lottery on May 20. So we'll have to wait until then to really start pondering which teams will snag Embiid and Wiggins.
In the meantime, we can examine some of the mock drafts floating around online to get early projections. These are more big boards or power rankings when it comes to the lottery at this point, but they still provide some insight.
Fr., C, 7-foot, 250 pounds; from Yaounde, Cameroon
Stock assessment: Self said he thought Embiid would be a potential No. 1 pick when he left Kansas — he just didn't know it would be this year. It only took 28 games, and averages of 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks for NBA scouts to fall in love with KU's freshman 7-footer. Embiid, still relatively new to the game of basketball, developed so quickly in Lawrence, it seems crazy to think his growth won't continue at the next level. Who knows? He could be a once-in-a-generation franchise center.
Average mock draft position: 2nd
Current high: 1st — NBADraft.net
Current low: 4th — MyNBADraft.com
Potential for movement: You can't do any better than No. 1 in the NBA Draft, and Embiid already is projected as the top pick in one mock. If he slips, it certainly won't be far. With his height, footwork, touch and ability to protect the rim, count on Embiid remaining a hot commodity in the weeks leading up to the draft.
In a column for Forbes.com, Mark Heisler wrote that one "dream" scenario for the Lakers would be "hitting the lottery for a healthy Joel Embiid." If one of the league's most dominant franchises is interested in rebuilding with Embiid, it's safe to assume most teams would hold a similar opinion.
The only wild card that could make some front office types less bullish on Embiid is the stress fracture he suffered in his back this past season, which cost him games. But every NBA team has doctors who can assess for themselves what, if anything, that injury has to do with his future.
Fr., G/F, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds; from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada
Stock assessment: Wiggins arrived at Kansas as a known one-and-done commodity who many pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft before he ever played a college game. Though he had his ups and downs in a KU uniform, Wiggins did little to hurt his reputation. Playing in all 35 games, the freshman showed off his length, hops and potential as a legit perimeter defender, all while averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds and hitting 44.8% of his field goals. NBA execs love potential, and Wiggins, who hit 43 three-pointers, too, certainly has that.
Average mock draft position: 2nd
Current low: 3rd — HoopsHype.com
Potential for movement: Like Embiid, Wiggins could very well go No. 1 overall. In that sense, in theory, there is nowhere to go but down. However, it would take something catastrophic, such as an injury, for the explosive young swingman to drop out of the top three or four picks.
If a GM or front office decision-maker falls in love with Embiid or Duke's Jabari Parker, instead of Wiggins, it could come from Wiggins never turning himself into KU's alpha dog during his one season in Lawrence.
In an NESN.com post highlighting some of the questions around this year's draft, the question is posed: Does Andrew Wiggins have the will to win?
Now, those who saw Wiggins try to rally the Jayhawks from huge deficits at Florida and West Virginia probably wouldn't ask that question — he scored 26 in Gainesville and 41 in Morgantown. But that and similar inquiries come up, in part, because Wiggins scored just four points in KU's NCAA Tournament loss to Stanford.
Mock it up
More than three weeks remain until a myriad of ping pong balls determine the order of the NBA Draft. Until that happens, you can go play out different possibilities with ESPN.com's mock draft tool and the help of ESPN Insider Chad Ford.
To give you a sense of the broad range of conceivable selections, I played it three times and got a different outcome for the lottery-bound Jayhawks each time.
Scenario No. 1: Sacramento (4.3% chance to win lottery) hits the jackpot and takes Embiid with the first pick. Boston snatches up Wiggins with the second pick.
Scenario No. 2: Utah (10.4% chance) wins the first pick, and passes on KU's players, opting instead for Parker. Milwaukee takes Wiggins second, and Philadelphia drafts Embiid third.
Scenario No. 3: Milwaukee (25% chance, best odds in the lottery) is rewarded for its awful season and picks Wiggins first overall. Philadelphia takes Parker second, and Embiid falls into Cleveland's lap with the third pick.
— Draft sites used for the player positioning portion of this blog include: NBADraft.net, MyNBADraft.com, DraftExpress.com, HoopsHype.com and DraftSite.com.