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Stacked draft still presents questions

<p>For almost a year, the 2014 NBA Draft has been on the minds of not only NBA decision-makers, but fans of the association.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - For almost a year, the 2014 NBA Draft has been on the minds of not only NBA decision-makers, but fans of the association.

It was at last year's draft when teams, media and educated spectators began speaking of the depth and quality of this year's version, which takes place Thursday night from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Part of that was because of how poor last year's draft class was, but also because of the names that loomed on the horizon.

Andrew Wiggins of Kansas was the prize 12 months ago and his status hasn't changed much as days passed. The Canadian could go No. 1 overall, if not Duke's Jabari Parker, another name that was touted this time one year prior.

The one name that emerged as the college season progressed was Wiggins' teammate at Kansas, center Joel Embiid. Despite playing just a few years of organized basketball, Embiid's blend of athleticism and shot-blocking rocketed him to the top spot in most mock drafts.

Embiid missed the NCAA Tournament with a back injury. Front-office types seemed fine with his progress, until a broken bone in his foot required surgery. It's now expected Embiid will slide, although not out of the top 10.

The Cleveland Cavaliers own the first pick for the second straight year and the third time in the last four. Teams trying to rebuild need luck like that and Cleveland especially could use some positive vibes after last year's debacle, Anthony Bennett.

He failed to make any kind of an impact in his rookie season, so the Cavs brass needs to make this pick count. Cleveland, which made David Blatt the first primarily overseas head coach, a skipper in the NBA, liked Embiid, but had to chart a different path once news of his foot injury broke.

Wiggins and Parker are their options and both, small forwards, fill a need for a team that feels some sense of urgency.

First, the Cavs have received this gift-wrapped mulligan following Bennett. Ownership wants to make the playoffs sooner than a total rebuild would allow, and Cleveland has been in some sort of talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves about superstar forward Kevin Love.

Everything Cleveland does at this point begs the question - how would these moves impact any courtship of LeBron James on the free-agent market? Talent- wise, the Cavs, even with Wiggins or Parker, don't have what James is looking for and those and running mates toward a title. If Love is in the mix, things get interesting.

And the Cavs are getting offers for the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ers have dangled the third and 10th picks to move up and pluck Wiggins, while the Utah Jazz have made it clear they'd be amenable to sending the fifth pick and Derrick Favors for No. 1.

The Orlando Magic have called and perhaps provide the best trade bait. Orlando has reportedly offered the fourth and 12th picks and guard Arron Afflalo to get that top spot.

And, according to reports from both ESPN and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, if the Cavs keep the first pick, owner Dan Gilbert wants Wiggins and the front office wants Parker.

Laying in wait is the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 2. They are in a position to take whichever player doesn't go No. 1. It's an enviable spot and Milwaukee may listen to trade offers.

The 76ers in third were the team that got hit hardest because of Embiid's injury. They covet Wiggins and essentially tanked the whole season to have the worst record and enhance their number of ping-pong balls.

At No. 3, the Sixers can take a chance on Embiid. Their rebuilding process is slower than both Cleveland's or Milwaukee's, so there's that, plus, the Sixers had last year's No. 6 pick, Nerlens Noel, sit the entire regular season to rehab.

If Philly opts against Embiid, the next highest-rated prospect is Dante Exum of Australia. He's a point guard with size and ridiculous athleticism. Pairing him with reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, would make for a dynamic and long backcourt.

It could also make Carter-Williams expendable. There have been rumors of MCW heading to the Los Angeles Lakers in some form for the seventh pick. This much is clear - with two first-rounders and five second-rounders, the 76ers will be among the most active teams on draft night.

Following the lucky three from the lottery are the Magic, Jazz, Boston Celtics, Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets and 76ers.

Among those expected to go during that time are: Indiana's Noah Vonleh; Aaron Gordon of Arizona; Kentucky's Julius Randle; Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart; Creighton's Doug McDermott and Michigan's Nik Stauskas.

The foreign contingent is a little weaker than years past. Exum is the prize, but after that, Dario Saric of Croatia was expected to go next. He signed in Turkey for three years, but is still going to be drafted Thursday night.

All draft nights are crap shoots. The world hasn't seen a mortal lock future star since James, but there is immense talent in the 2014 edition, much more than the 2013 version.

The only other given is that there will plenty of movement. Specifically, there will be plenty of attempts at movement.

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