The 2014 NBA draft is Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). Our experts take a look at three hot topics in the latest NBA Caucus roundtable.
What spot is a good place to pick injured center Joel Embiid?
Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports: Without medical information, I'd be hesitant to draft Embiid in the top three. That's why I think it goes Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum 1-2-3 in Thursday's draft. Orlando really likes Embiid and the combination of him, Nik Vucevic and Tobias Harris would give the Magic a promising frontcourt with the potential to be one of the best frontcourts in the league. The Magic were working on getting Embiid's latest medical information but if they don't get it, it will be tough to take him at No. 4. Plus, general managers will be cautious. If Embiid never plays like a top-five or top-10 pick, jobs will be lost. There are seldom sure things, but some things are more sure than others.
Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports: I think Embiid goes No. 3 to the Philadelphia 76ers. I'm not saying he's the best fit, especially considering Philly would have two injury-prone big men (the other being Nerlens Noel) on its roster. But the top three players, in my opinion, are franchise-changing players. Exum might be, but the others are not. Embiid is a gamble, in many ways, based on his health. But his Hakeem the Dream-esque ceiling is what makes him a we-have-to-pick-this-dude kind of trade.
Joe Mags, Pickinsplinters: Superstition suggests the Cleveland Cavaliers should run away from Embiid altogether, and regardless of the order, Wiggins and Parker are going with the first two picks. That leaves Philadelphia — a team that lost an NBA record 26 games in a row last season — to consider drafting Embiid. While the big man is an elite prospect with the highest ceiling in the draft, he could miss the entire season recovering from his recent foot injury. The 76ers showed patience with recent draftee Noel and his recovery from a torn knee ligament; if Philly is willing to suffer through one more terrible season, teaming Embiid and Noel could be well worth the wait.
Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports: This draft is deep, to be sure, and there are a lot of options for teams that want them. But Embiid has the highest ceiling and could be the draft's best player. So while the 76ers have a lot of options at No. 3, with Parker and Wiggins off the board, I think they should take Embiid. There's no way he should slip past No. 7 and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Who is the most NBA ready player in the draft?
Zillgitt: The scouts and analysts almost all agree: It's Jabari Parker who has the skillset and maturity to step in and contribute immediately especially on the offensive end. Jay Bilas called him the safest pick, and sometimes that has a negative connotation — i.e. his ceiling isn't as high as some other prospects. But with Parker, it's more of a compliment.
Gleeson: Jabari Parker. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are much more picks based on potential. But Parker will be a star the second he steps on the hardwood. I've heard Carmelo Anthony comparisons and I don't think that's too far off based on the inside-out game, but Parker is his own player. He's fundamentally sound and as great as he was in college, his game is much more fit for the pros. His versatility, both offensively and defensively, will make him an instant star.
Mags: In a draft full of talented power forward prospects, Julius Randle is the only sure thing. While Noah Vonleh is largely unproven and Aaron Gordon might struggle to find points at the next level, Randle has strengths and plays to them. He is strong and polished on the block. He can finish with both hands. He dominated his opposition in his season at Kentucky, scoring through a barrage of double and triple teams. While rebuilding teams might prefer Vonleh's measurables or Gordon's athleticism, Randle will not get past the Lakers at No. 7 — an organization focused on surrounding Kobe Bryant with capable talent in his final seasons.
Joseph: Parker will struggle with defense, though he probably will win rookie of the year for his offense alone. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart may be the best rookie, though, as he can defend on an elite level and is a more developed point guard than people give him credit for. I also really like the well-rounded nature of Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris' game. He could start right away and develop into a solid second or third option within a year or two.
Zillgitt: There are different ways to define sleeper, and I'm looking at a player late in the first round who will contribute in his rookie season and be a great value pick — the way Jimmy Butler turned out for the Chicago Bulls. The player didn't have to attend a smaller school to be considered a sleeper though. But pay attention to Cleanthony Early from Wichita State. He made a name (and earned a few dollars) for himself in the NCAA tournament with his offensive ability.
Gleeson:Elfrid Payton. We've seen a fair share of NBA-ready players who weren't on our radars because they went to a smaller school, Damian Lillard being the prime example. And Payton's no different. His upside is huge and despite being away from the spotlight at Louisiana-Lafayette, the 6-4 point guard can transition into an NBA starter as a rookie.
Mags:For 85% of the season, Syracuse University was the top basketball program in the country, and in large part due to the country's best freshman point guard, Tyler Ennis. Doubling as a first-class floor general and late-game savant, Ennis had the ninth-highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation, and put on clinics in the closing seconds against Pittsburgh and North Carolina State. While he is no Stephen Curry from distance, Ennis is an adequate shooter and a mature decision maker, a player who will claim a starting point guard job early in his career and will not relinquish it.
Joseph: Sleeper, as has been pointed out, is such a varied term. Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic made a late climb up draft boards, but he might be selected too high to be called a sleeper. One player who probably won't go too high is UNLV forward Khem Birch. He could be one of the steals of the second round because of his rebounding ability.
VIDEO: Best top-five picks in recent history
USA Today Sports' Scott Gleeson shares his top-five draft picks in recent memory and discusses their success to date.