I can’t help myself – I love everything about the NBA draft. It’s so much easier to project and get a feel for the NBA draft than the NFL’s version, but at the same time its unpredictability is fascinating – see the Cavaliers taking Anthony Bennett with the first pick last year. I think my infatuation began during the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant debate in 2007 and has only swelled since. I’ve been looking forward to this draft since even before the 2013 edition. Why? Hoop heads like me knew the 2013 class was lackluster, while the 2014 draft had the potential to contain the deepest talent pool in years – which is exactly what’s happened. Factor in prospective No. 1 pick Joel Embiid’s foot surgery, and ESPN TV executives have to be drooling over the drama that will be unfolding Thursday night in Brooklyn. Here are five things to keep an eye heading into Thursday:
1. Where will Noah Vonleh and Gary Harris go?
Regarding prospects who played either their high school or college ball in Indiana, Noah Vonleh is the clear top prospect.
No matter the reputable mock draft you glance at – DraftExpress.com, SI.com, etc – the former Hoosier is firmly in the top 10. It’s a pretty safe assumption the six-foot-9, 247-pound power forward won’t make it past the Sacramento Kings at No. 8.
The foot injury that dogged Vonleh late in his one and only season in Bloomington isn’t a concern anymore, and the Massachusetts native is seen as a preeminent talent because of his measurables (7-4.25 wingspan), his inside-out game (he made nearly 50 percent of his 33 3-point attempts for Indiana) and his youth (Vonleh won’t turn 19 until Aug. 24).
Former Hamilton Southeastern and Michigan State standout Gary Harris will join Vonleh in the first round Thursday.
Concerns about Harris’ smallish stature (6-4.5) for a clear two-guard have arisen lately – a silly notion considering all of the cross-matching that goes on during NBA games – but that won’t keep Harris from dropping out of the top 20. As anyone who has seen Harris play knows, he’s a dogged competitor and has no trouble in big moments. Harris has to prove the poor shooting campaign he endured this past winter as a sophomore was an aberration, but he’s NBA-ready defensively from spending his days guarding the opposing team’s best guard/wing for MSU coach Tim Izzo.
As for other Indiana natives, ex-Michigan Wolverines Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary are fringe first round prospects, but will definitely hear their names called at some point Thursday.
Jake Odum (Indiana State) and Will Sheehey (Indiana), a pair of productive college players who recently worked out for the Pacers, are going to have to go overseas or to the D-League to play professionally. It would be a shock to see either drafted.
2. Will the Pacers do anything on draft night?
Probably not. Indiana’s first-round slot at No. 27 belongs to the Phoenix Suns via the regrettable Luis Scola trade from last July. And given the Pacers’ lack of cap flexibility and movable assets, it’s going to be a quiet night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The team does own the No. 57 pick in the second round, which I would wager will be spent on a point guard or an international player to be stashed overseas.
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