The NBA ended the 2013-14 season with a shocking thrashing of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat by the San Antonio Spurs, and just a few days later, the build-up to the 2014-15 season opened with a likely shakeup in the much-heralded NBA Draft.
With less than a week to go before the NBA Draft (Thursday, June 26, 2014), multiple news outlets reported that the projected No. 1 pick Joel Embiid’s agent announced that the former Kansas center has a stress fracture in his right foot and that he would stop pre-draft workouts and not attend the NBA Draft.
Yikes! The Cavs’ doctors wanted to get a look at Embiid before the draft anyway because a back injury can end a big man’s career early, and Embiid missed the NCAA Tournament with a back injury. The only worst thing might be if he has … a foot injury to go along with a back injury.
That combination is enough to set off the conspiracy warning sirens. The NBA Draft and free agency have nearly as much history of misinformation as any CIA plot. Teams, as well as agents, have been known to float rumors to discourage teams from drafting a player in hopes of getting them to some other team.
In the case of Embiid this year, it wouldn’t make much sense for the Cavs to plant the rumor because they have the No. 1 pick. They can draft anyone they want, and they need a young big man, too. Even if they wouldn’t want to draft him, they could trade the pick for another high draft pick and other assets if another team wanted Embiid, whose skills have been compared to a young Hakeem Olajuwon’s. And according to some reports, it was the Cavs’ doctors who discovered Embiid’s foot injury. So that decreases the likelihood that an agent or another team floated the rumor to get Embiid to another team. Stranger things have happened in the NBA, but a lot of people would have to be in on spreading misinformation.
This sounds like terrible news for Embiid. It’s also bad news for the Orlando Magic. They got bad enough news when they fell to the No. 4 spot after the draft lottery, despite finishing with fewer than 25 wins for the second season in a row. It appeared to put them out of reach of obtaining one of the three most highly touted picks – Embiid, former Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, and former Duke forward Jabari Parker.
As the draft got closer, the picture brightened when draft aficionados started promoting young Australian guard Dante Exum as a player who deserved to be mentioned with the other elite prospects. Embiid’s injury could scare off suitors and send him falling in the draft. Now the Cavs reportedly want to work out Exum so it’s possible that he, Wiggins, and Parker all could be off the board before the Magic can make a selection.
It wouldn’t seem to make much sense for the Cavs to draft Exum. They already have Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters on their roster. Conspiracy alert: But if they already know that Irving won’t re-sign, Exum could be an attractive selection for the Cavs, and they could deal Irving for additional assets (to try to lure LeBron back home?). Or they might be more likely to trade the pick to someone who has targeted one of the top prospects so they could get additional picks or picks and a player.
Besides, it’s possible that Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan has targeted someone other than one of those four. He and his team use analytics and intensive scouting to identify their draft targets, and they place a big emphasis on player interviews. Hennigan has been known to identify future star players for higher spots in the draft than they had been projected. Even before the injury to Embiid was revealed or Exum had visited Orlando, the Magic had former Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart in for two visits as part of their draft preparations.
If you want to learn more about the NBA draft prospects, there is no shortage of TV analysis about them leading up to the draft. The following are some examples. (Broadcast times are subject to change, except for the draft Thursday.)
Saturday, June 21 – CBS Sports Network
- 3 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, The Backcourt. This program features coverage of the top guards available in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
- 4 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball, Lottery Preview. This show offers a preview of possible early picks in the NBA Draft.
- 5 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, In the Paint. This program features coverage of the forwards and centers who could be drafted.
Sunday, June 22 – CBS Sports Network
- 4 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, In the Paint. (See description on June 21.)
- 5 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball, The Backcourt. (See description above.)
Monday, June 23
- 3 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, The Backcourt. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 11 a.m. EDT and 8 p.m. EDT)
- 4 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball, Lottery Preview on CBS Sports Network.
- 5 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, In the Paint. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 10 a.m. EDT, 5 p.m. EDT, and 10 p.m. EDT)
- 4 p.m. EDT: NBA Draft Combine, Day 1. Rebroadcast of early workouts, interviews, and measurements at the NBA’s annual draft camp, which was held in May. On NBA TV.
- 9 p.m. EDT: 2014 NBA Draft HQ. Discussion on how teams prepare for the draft. On NBA TV.
- 9 p.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Boom, Bust, Blah. This is a look at players who might not live up to expectations. On CBS Sports Network.
Tuesday, June 24
- Midnight EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Boom, Bust, Blah. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 5 a.m. EDT, 11 a.m. EDT, and 5 p.m. EDT)
- 1 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, The Backcourt. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 4 a.m. EDT and 10 a.m. EDT)
- 2 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball, Lottery Preview. On CBS Sports Network.
- 3 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, In the Paint. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 4 p.m. EDT)
- 9 p.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, What’s Your Role? This show takes a look at players who are expected to be selected to fill specific roles on teams. On CBS Sports Network.
- 10 p.m. EDT: 2014 NBA Draft. News and previews looking ahead to the NBA Draft. On NBA TV.
Wednesday, June 25
- Midnight EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, What’s Your Role? On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 4 a.m. EDT, 11 a.m. EDT, 5 p.m. EDT, and 11 p.m. EDT)
- 1 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Boom, Bust, Blah. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 5 a.m. EDT, 10 a.m. EDT, and 5 p.m. EDT)
- 7 p.m. EDT: NBA Draft Preview. News and projections by ESPN’s analysts. On ESPN2.
- 9 p.m. EDT: NBA TV’s Mock Draft. The network’s experts project which players will be drafted at which position. On NBA TV.
- 10 p.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Beyond the Lottery. The program looks at who could be selected and by whom after the top 14 picks. On CBS Sports Network.
Thursday, June 26
- Midnight EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Boom, Bust, Blah. On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 11 a.m. EDT)
- 1 a.m. EDT: Inside College Basketball Draft Special, Beyond the Lottery. On CBS Sports Network. (Also on 4 a.m. EDT and 10 a.m. EDT)
- 5 a.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball Draft Special, What’s Your Role? On CBS Sports Network. (Also at 4 p.m. EDT)
- 5 p.m. EDT: Rebroadcast of Inside College Basketball, Lottery Preview. On CBS Sports Network.
- 5:30 p.m. EDT: 2014 NBA Draft Preview. On NBA TV.
- 7 p.m. EDT: Live coverage of the 2014 NBA Draft from Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. On ESPN.
Friday, June 27 – NBA TV
- Midnight EDT (if draft is complete): 2014 NBA Draft Review.
If you prefer to read your draft previews, most major sports websites are covering the latest news and analysis leading up to the draft. They can keep you updated on the latest news and speculation because they have multiple people devoted to the subject full time. Reader beware, though. As I pointed out, a lot of sources have ulterior motives, and some of the rumors are designed to either create a smokescreen or to try to push a particular outcome.
If the draft rumors aren’t enough for you, the start of free agency begins less than a week after the NBA Draft. Players can’t sign until mid-July, but teams can begin talking to free agents to try to recruit them as of July 1. Can we ever get through a year when some big-name player isn’t trying to force his way to another team? Or maybe I should say “city” because it’s not very team-oriented to put an organization in that situation.
The rumors started before the NBA Finals even ended.
The outcome of the NBA Finals has brought a little more intrigue than expected to free agency this year because the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all can opt of their contracts and either re-sign with Miami or sign with another team. The way the Spurs demolished the Heat and the fact that the team is limited by the NBA salary cap in who it can sign if all three return at their current salaries has sparked a lot of talk about the possibility of one or more of the Big Three players leaving Miami.
Heat President Pat Riley went on the offensive on Thursday, reminding his players in his end-of-season media session of why they came together a few years ago. Riley said, “This stuff is hard. You have to stay together and find the guts. You don’t find the [exit] door and run out of it.” (Cavs fans probably wonder whether Riley was thinking about that as he courted James to come to Miami a few years ago.)
The Heat and those Big Three players seem to love the drama so I’m skeptical that any of them plan to leave – at least for now. We will see.
In New York, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony also can be a free agent if he chooses to opt out of his current contract. There has been a lot of talk that he could leave for the Houston Rockets or Chicago Bulls to team up with other stars. Anthony forced his way out of Denver to the Knicks a few years ago because he really wanted to play in New York, and the Knicks can pay him more than any other team. If he wants to try to win a title right away, he might choose to leave because the Knicks also are limited in what they can do because of the salary cap, but I don’t know whether he is unhappy enough to leave New York.
As of this writing, there also was a lot of talk about whether the Minnesota Timberwolves will trade Kevin Love around the time of the draft or free agency. Love is not a free agent this summer, but the rumors indicate that he has made it known that he is not happy in Minnesota and will leave as a free agent after next season. So the Wolves might want to trade him while they still can receive some valuable assets back. Rarely does the team trading the star ever get enough back, so it probably depends upon whether they want to deal with the rumors all season and can get adequate compensation now. One rumor that had picked up steam on Thursday had Love going to the Golden State Warriors in a deal involving sharp-shooting guard Klay Thompson, who is Stephen Curry’s backcourt mate and fellow Splash Brother, along with forward David Lee (former Florida Gator) and a first-round draft pick.
It’s tough for me to get into these rumors much because there will be so many between now and the draft, and they will change so often.
So, who are your draft picks for your team(s)? And why? Which big-name stars do you think may be changing teams this summer?
Thanks for visiting the Bright House Networks Blog. We welcome you to participate in the conversation on House2House. Please note, any service-related concerns will not be resolved on the Blog. They will be addressed by our dedicated Customer Care team (select from above Online Care options). Also, to find out if a product or service is available in your area,