Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? It’s anyone’s guess.
Marcus Smart or Dante Exum? Scouts and experts alike are divided.
Take Joel Embiid or stay away? That’s the million-dollar question.
But if there’s one thing most agree on regarding the 2014 NBA Draft, it’s that it figures to be the craziest in at least a decade.
Matters got even more complicated early this week when news broke that Embiid, who starred in one year at Kansas, was having surgery on his right foot and will need four to six months to recover. As for former Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, the possible landing spots are numerous.
Here’s a look at where Smart could end up in Thursday’s NBA Draft:
Philadelphia at No. 3: Assuming Wiggins and Parker are the top two picks in some order and if the 76ers don’t want to gamble with Embiid, it could be between Smart and Australian point guard Exum to go at No. 3. Most experts are higher on the speedy Exum. And yes, Philadelphia has Michael Carter-Williams at point guard, but Smart’s NBA stock appears higher as a combo guard rather than a pure point.
Orlando at No. 4: There are a couple of ways Smart could end up in Orlando: If Philadelphia takes Exum at No. 3 and the Magic want to steer clear of Embiid, Smart is the clear-cut favorite to fill the Magic’s immediate need at point guard. Or, if the Sixers do take Embiid, the Magic could choose Smart over Exum. Orlando likely would have taken Smart at No. 2 last season had he not returned to school. The marriage could work out, just a year later than expected.
Boston at No. 6: If Exum and Embiid are both taken in the top four, Boston could be the most likely landing spot for Smart, who has not worked out for the Utah Jazz at No. 5. The Celtics have contemplated moving Rajon Rondo, and they’re also confident Smart could play in the same backcourt (possibly off the bench) as Rondo and Avery Bradley if needed. Smart would fall right into Boston’s lap. The catch? Boston might try to trade this pick or opt for a forward such as Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon or even Julius Randle rather than adding another guard.
Los Angeles at No. 7: If the Celtics go big, Hollywood might be Smart’s new home. The Lakers are in the market to replace point guard Steve Nash, and the possibility of Smart alongside Kobe Bryant just sounds like a nasty backcourt combo. Again, the issue becomes that L.A. could also opt to go big (Randle would fit well) and leave Smart falling.
Sacramento at No. 8: If Smart falls to the Kings, it’s likely they’ll pull the trigger and give Smart a chance to supplant Isaiah Thomas at point guard. Interestingly, Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears predicts the Kings will take Louisiana-Lafayette point Elfrid Payton over Smart. Payton’s stock has been on a late rise, and he fits the pure point mold better than Smart, though Smart is widely considered the better prospect.
Philadelphia at No. 10: Now things are getting tricky. If the Sixers take Embiid at No. 3, Orlando takes Exum and everyone else passes on Smart, the 76ers would leap at the chance to take Smart and might walk away the biggest winners of the draft.
Denver at No. 11: If Philly takes Exum at No. 3, the Sixers won’t be needing another point guard at 10. This situation is far-fetched, but if Smart were to fall this far, the Nuggets might take a shot at retooling their backcourt. This position might also open all sorts of trade possibilities and leave Smart with a destination that would be nearly impossible to predict ahead of time.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT MARCUS SMART
Jay Bilas, ESPN: “I think he’s going to be a good NBA player. I think he’s actually going to be better than (Dante Exum) even though he’s a different type of player. If you talk to anyone that coached him whether it’s international basketball or what, they rave about him. You just don’t hear coaches talk about players like they talk about him.”
Jon Rothstein, CBSSports.com: “Being able to make shots out of the pick-and-roll is crucial if you’re going to play the lead guard position in the NBA. If you evaluate Marcus Smart, that’s not his strong suit. He never shot better than 30 percent from three in the two years he was in college.”
Alaa Abdelnaby on CBSSports.com: “I love that fact that he likes to compete. He’s got a little orneriness as well that I think will carry and bode well for him moving forward. There are a lot of things he still needs to work on. I think, though he has the mentality and the hunger as opposed to other guys in this draft to improve and work on his game.”
Eastern Conference scout to the Boston Globe: “Phenomenal, phenomenal competitor. That’s why he can play. He’s had to make himself into a basketball player, because he’s just an incredible competitor.”
MARCUS SMART IN MOCK DRAFTS
No. 4: Orlando Magic, nbadraft.net
No. 6: Boston Celtics, DraftExpress
No. 7: Los Angeles Lakers, Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com
No. 8: Sacramento Kings, Chad Ford, ESPN.com
No. 11: Denver Nuggets, Marc J. Spears, Yahoo