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Kane's 2014 NBA mock draft 1.0

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Kane's 2014 NBA mock draft 1.0

When the dust settled at Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery, the Sixers came away with the No. 3 and No. 10 picks in a deep draft. Here is an early look at how the first round could shape up:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins, SF, 6-8, 200, Kansas
The unbelievably fortunate Cavs will likely decide between former Kansas teammates Wiggins and Joel Embiid. After gambling on Anthony Bennett with the top pick last year, the Cavs will opt for the surer thing this time around. Wiggins is a freak athlete and lockdown defender who will develop into a perennial All-Star.

2. Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid, C, 7-0, 250, Kansas
The Bucks won't be able to resist Embiid's potential. Health concerns are a legitimate issue, but Embiid has all the tools to become a dominant force on both ends of the floor, and he hasn't even scratched the surface of his abilities.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jabari Parker, SF, 6-8, 235, Duke
Nabbing Parker with the third pick would represent tremendous value for the 76ers. He is the most polished offensive player among the elite prospects in this draft and should have little difficulty transitioning into a 20-point scorer on the pro level. His defensive instincts were below average during his one collegiate season, but Parker's offensive game is too good to pass up.

4. Orlando Magic - Dante Exum, PG, 6-6, 195, Australia
The Magic happily take Exum here and pair him in the backcourt with Victor Oladipo for years to come. Exum is a long, lanky point guard in the mold of Michael Carter-Williams. His shooting stroke is suspect but his playmaking skills and disruptive defensive tendencies are NBA-ready.

5. Utah Jazz - Julius Randle, PF, 6-9, 250, Kentucky
Randle is a Zach Randolph clone who will be a force immediately on Utah's frontline. He was a double-double machine at Kentucky. Randle is tenacious attacking the glass on both ends of the floor and will develop into a consistent shooter from 15 to 18 feet.

6. Boston Celtics - Aaron Gordon, SF, 6-9, 225, Arizona
Gordon is as athletic as any prospect in the draft. His offensive game needs a great deal of polish, but he will be an impact defender the moment he steps onto the floor as a rookie.

7. Los Angeles Lakers - Marcus Smart, PG, 6-4, 220, Oklahoma St.
The Lakers need an infusion of youth in the backcourt, and Smart fits that role nicely. His athleticism and floor game are outstanding, but his jump shot is a work in progress. Character issues won't negatively affect his draft stock.

8. Sacramento Kings - Noah Vonleh, PF, 6-10, 240, Indiana
Vonleh's numbers were solid if not spectacular as a freshman at Indiana, but his measurables and athleticism stood out at the combine. The Kings will take him here based on his potential rather than his production at the college level.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Doug McDermott, SF, 6-8, 225, Creighton
McDermott has the most well-rounded offensive skill set of any prospect in the draft. He is an elite shooter, can score on either low block and is terrific without the ball. He's also a willing defender with underrated athleticism and an unmatched understanding of the game.

10. Philadelphia 76ers - Nik Stauskas, SG, 6-6, 205, Michigan
Brett Brown stresses the importance of surrounding Carter-Williams with shooters. Nobody in this draft shoots the ball better than Stauskas, who was a 44 percent three-point shooter in two seasons at Michigan. He improved his all-around game significantly as a sophomore, attacking the rim more frequently and displaying tremendous passing skills.

11. Denver Nuggets - Gary Harris, SG, 6-4, 210, Michigan St.
Harris' production increased during his sophomore season at Michigan State, but his shooting numbers dipped. He should find his niche as a combo guard in the NBA, but I'm not sold on his ability to succeed as a long-term starter.

12. Orlando Magic - Dario Saric, SF, 6-10, 215, Croatia
After taking Exum with the fourth pick, the Magic continue the international theme by grabbing Saric here. Saric is billed as a young Toni Kukoc, a creative player in transition who can play the point forward role in halfcourt sets.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves - James Young, SG, 6-6, 215, Kentucky
Consistency was a problem for Young at Kentucky but athleticism and fearlessness were not. Young is a good outside shooter capable of attacking the rim. He could end up being a steal with the 13th pick.

14. Phoenix Suns - Rodney Hood, SF, 6-8, 215, Duke
Hood has a lot of Thaddeus Young in his game -- from his size to his left-handed jump shot. Hood is a better shooter than Young was coming out of college, but he has work to do before he can match the other aspects of Young's game.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Zach LaVine, SG, 6-5, 180, UCLA
LaVine didn't always stand out at UCLA, but his potential makes him an enticing mid-first-round pick. In a draft loaded with shooting guards, LaVine is viewed more as a project.

16. Chicago Bulls - Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, 6-9, 230, UCLA
The Bulls grab LaVine's college backcourt mate with the very next pick. Anderson is a diverse offensive player with offensive skills that call to mind Jalen Rose. He is a big point guard who controls the game without the benefit of explosive athleticism.

17. Boston Celtics - Adreian Payne, PF, 6-10, 245, Michigan St.
The Celtics take another stab at improving their frontcourt with the selection of Payne, who can also step out and knock down the perimeter jumper. Payne is an experienced player who should crack Boston's rotation immediately.

18. Phoenix Suns - T.J. Warren, SF, 6-8, 215, N.C. State
Warren is a great fit for how the Suns like to play under Jeff Hornacek. The ACC Player of the Year last season at N.C. State, Warren has little trouble getting to the basket.

19. Chicago Bulls - Shabazz Napier, PG, 6-0, 180, Connecticut
No player helped his stock in the NCAA tournament more than Napier, who led Connecticut to a surprising national championship. He has the makings of an explosive backcourt scorer and might be better suited in the sixth man role in the NBA.

20. Toronto Raptors - Cleanthony Early, SF, 6-7, 210, Wichita St.
The Raptors made significant progress in the Eastern Conference this season, and Early is the type of polished player who should help them immediately. He's a versatile forward capable of scoring in the paint and on the perimeter.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jerami Grant, SF, 6-8, 215, Syracuse
Grant is a risky pick but one the Thunder can afford. His upside is tremendous -- he's a great athlete with NBA bloodlines (son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace). Time will tell whether he can become a consistent performer at the pro level.

22. Memphis Grizzlies - P.J. Hairston, SG, 6-5, 230, NBDL 
Hairston is a forgotten man in this draft. He was dismissed from North Carolina at the beginning of last season and eventually landed in the NBDL. Talent isn't the question, but whether Hairston is able to avoid trouble off the court is.

23. Utah Jazz - Glenn Robinson III, SF, 6-7, 210, Michigan
Another prospect with pro bloodlines, Robinson often took a backseat to Stauskas, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. during his time at Michigan. But Robinson has the size and athleticism to contribute on the NBA level.

24. Charlotte Hornets - Tyler Ennis, PG, 6-2, 180, Syracuse
The Hornets don't necessarily need a point guard, but Ennis would be a great value pick this low in the first round. He was terrific as a freshman at Syracuse, an old school point guard who controls the flow of the game and always makes the right decisions.

25. Houston Rockets - DeAndre Daniels, SF, 6-9, 210, Connecticut
Daniels went from a non-factor in the 2014 draft to potential late first-round pick thanks to a strong showing in Connecticut's national championship run in the NCAA tournament. The raw tools are there, but he'll need to harness them to be an impact player in the NBA.

26. Miami Heat - Mitch McGary, PF, 6-10, 260, Michigan
McGary's sophomore season at Michigan was derailed by a back injury, but he showed enough promise as a freshman to warrant consideration here. He is a gifted post player with a reliable 15-foot jump shot. McGary's back is a significant red flag, but if he's healthy he could be a steal for Miami.

27. Phoenix Suns - C.J. Wilcox, SG, 6-5, 205, Washington
Wilcox is one of the top outside shooters in the draft and a proven scorer at the collegiate level. He could be a nice rotation piece to help the Suns make the leap to the Western Conference playoffs next season.

28. Los Angeles Clippers - Semaj Christon, PG, 6-3, 190, Xavier
Christon is a dynamic scoring guard capable of getting his own shot in the NBA. Whether he can be a consistent performer is the question. At the very least he gives the Clippers backcourt depth and learns under Chris Paul.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jarnell Stokes, PF, 6-9, 260, Tennessee
With Kendrick Perkins on the decline and Serge Ibaka coming off an injury, the Thunder could use some size inside. Stokes is that and then some. But he's more than a bruising presence in the paint; he has underrated ball skills on the offensive end.

30. San Antonio Spurs - Nick Johnson, SG, 6-3, 200, Arizona
Johnson was a first team All-American last season at Arizona, and he provides the Spurs with a much-needed shot of youth in the backcourt. He's a savvy scorer who will benefit from being around San Antonio's veteran cast.

Sixers 128, Cavs 105: Jimmy Butler returns, Ben Simmons posts triple-double

Sixers 128, Cavs 105: Jimmy Butler returns, Ben Simmons posts triple-double

BOX SCORE 

The Sixers’ home loss to the Cavaliers on Nov. 23 was, at the time, likely their worst of the season. For a while Sunday, it appeared they might have a new, strong contender, as Cleveland took a 44-34 second-quarter lead.

But the Sixers avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season, pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat the Cavs, 128-105, behind Ben Simmons’ third triple-double of the season (22 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds). Joel Embiid had 24 points and nine rebounds, while Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a strained groin and had 19 points. 

The Sixers are now 20-11 on the season, 6-8 on the road.

• Simmons had another sharp, attacking start, scoring nine of the Sixers’ first 14 points.

In several other games this season, Simmons hasn’t sustained his early aggression. Against Cleveland, his drive never diminished.

When Embiid and Butler sat early in the second quarter, Simmons’ ability to establish deep post position, score and distribute effectively in a point forward role was crucial in Cleveland not running away with the game.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Simmons’ performance? He didn’t turn the ball over. 

• In a familiar, unsurprising turn of events, the Sixers’ first-quarter lead disappeared soon after the second unit entered. As we’ve noted before, the Sixers’ bench is thin, and their perimeter defense is subpar. The Cavs have a few players who can create shots off the dribble, but they’re not the type of opponent that should pose serious problems to a team with NBA Finals aspirations. 

• Mike Muscala had perhaps his worst game as a Sixer in Friday’s night loss vs. the Pacers, shooting 1 for 8 and looking out of sync with his teammates on both ends of the floor. Brett Brown attributed Muscala’s poor performance, in part, to his return from an upper respiratory infection. 

Muscala looked more like himself Sunday, with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks. 

• Butler didn’t attempt a shot and was scoreless in the first quarter. He’s averaged just 4.0 points in the first quarter with the Sixers. While the Sixers could get Butler more involved on offense early, you sense his slow starts are in part because of his efforts to blend into the Sixers’ offense and defer to Simmons and Embiid. 

• The Sixers allowed a total of 114 second-half points during their two-game losing streak. Their defense after halftime was improved in Cleveland, as the Cavs had much less success in transition than in the first half and there were far fewer issues with the Sixers’ communication and rotations.

• On Friday, the Sixers got just 21 points outside of Embiid, Simmons, and JJ Redick. Those three were, as usual, the Sixers’ go-to players offensively, but they received more help against the Cavs.

Landry Shamet caught fire in the fourth quarter, shooting 6 for 7 on the afternoon and tying his career high with 16 points.

Wilson Chandler, who was scoreless vs. the Pacers, chipped in 11 points, including an important three-pointer at the end of the third quarter to stop a 12-0 Cavs run.

• It was nice for the Sixers not to have to deal with Tristan Thompson on the offensive glass. Cleveland had six offensive rebounds Sunday. Thompson had eight by himself on Nov. 23. 

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Sixers weekly observations: Lack of depth, lack of point guard shooting, and Joel Embiid’s resurgence

Sixers weekly observations: Lack of depth, lack of point guard shooting, and Joel Embiid’s resurgence

For the first time since October, the Sixers had a losing week, with a win over the Pistons on Monday followed by defeats vs. the Nets on Wednesday and Pacers on Friday with Jimmy Butler sidelined by a strained groin.

At 19-11, the Sixers sit at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, though the standings are constantly shifting. The Sixers are a game behind the Bucks, a half game behind Indiana and a half game ahead of the Celtics.

In this week’s observations, we look at Joel Embiid’s resurgence, the Sixers’ weakness on the bench, a telling stat and more.

• Joel Embiid’s “slump” is officially over. Embiid averaged 32.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting, 15.3 rebounds, and four assists over the past week. He’s drawing fouls at a high rate again too, with 38 free throw attempts in his last three contests. 

It wasn’t too difficult to sense the exasperation of Domantas Sabonis and Kyle O’Quinn on Friday night when, on back-to-back possessions, Embiid drew fouls on them with his sweep-through move during his dominant, 28-point first half. 

• As we’ve harped on several times, the Sixers have a paucity of strong defenders outside of their stars. That weakness is most apparent against a team like the Nets, whose guards target players like Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet and post career highs.

When they’re not hitting shots, players like Korkmaz, Shamet and Mike Muscala go from having a neutral or slightly positive value to being major negatives. 

If you exclude Embiid, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick, the Sixers shot 8 for 32 vs. the Pacers. You can label such a performance an outlier. But subpar defense has been the norm, and as a result, poor shooting from the Sixers’ role players just about guarantees a loss. 

The Pacers, Bucks and Celtics are each within the top-six in the NBA in bench plus-minus, while the Sixers are No. 16, at minus-0.6. 

• Here’s an interesting stat: The Sixers have three of the top five guards in the NBA in terms of field goal percentage. Two-way player Demetrius Jackson is technically No. 1 — he made his only shot this season in garbage time of the Sixers’ win over the Knicks on Sep. 28. While Jackson's place isn’t worth any deep analysis, Simmons coming in at No. 4 (57.3 percent) and T.J. McConnell at No. 5 (57.1 percent) is telling.

The positive spin is that Simmons and McConnell know their spots on the floor, and they’re good at converting in their comfort zones.

The less positive spin is that neither player has strayed from their comfort zones very often. To be fair to McConnell, his shot distribution is very similar to what it was less season. He had 49.2 percent of his attempts from 10 feet or fewer last season and is at 49.1 percent through the Sixers’ first 30 games.

Simmons’ range has actually shrunk, which, along with his improved post-up play, helps explain why his shooting is up a couple percentage points. Only 11.2 percent of his field goal attempts have been from 10 feet and out, down from last season’s 20.4 percent. 

The Sixers’ point guards shoot a higher percentage than any other team’s. They also space the floor worse than any other team’s point guards. Embiid is forced to float out to the perimeter when Simmons occupies the post. And it's much easier to effectively double-team the Sixers' big man when opponents can aggressively send help off Simmons or McConnell, who usually station themselves in the short corner on Embiid post-ups.

• After the loss to the Pacers, Embiid didn’t pretend the Sixers have nothing to worry about. He acknowledged the team’s fundamental defensive issues and said the Sixers are “still learning how to play with each other.”

But he also said this: 

We’ll be fine. We’re not on red alert. It’s two games; the season is long. We’re going to go to Cleveland. Last time they beat us, so we’re going to go there for revenge. We’re going to want to punch them in the mouth because we lost against them, which shouldn’t have happened. That’s going to be a good game. But the season is long. Hopefully we get Jimmy back against Cleveland and it’ll be a better game.

That perspective from Embiid is fair enough. The Sixers’ defense is a serious concern, and you have to strain your imagination to picture their current bench playing in the NBA Finals. But, even after two straight losses, the Sixers have five more wins than at this point last season.

A loss in Cleveland, though, would edge the Sixers a little closer to red alert.

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