(Writers note: I will be updating the article periodically if/when big news happens, so check back periodically, or follow me @the_picketfence)

[Edit: 6:50 PM]

Things are heating as it’s just a few minutes before the draft. This from Michael Grange:

That seems to be a HELL of a lot just for one pick. The Sixers must absolutely Love Wiggins and see him as a franchise changing talent. If that’s the case, then it’s hard to argue. Would you rather have one LeBron or three Chris Boshes?

[Edit: 3:31 PM]

So it looks like the Orlando offer for the first pick is officially off the table with Adrian Wojnarowski announcing on Twitter that Arron Afflalo now heading to Denver for Evan Fournier. I surprised Orlando didn’t wait and see if there were better offers, but it looks like this is just the first shoe to drop for Orlando, who is clearing cap space for something…

Also on Twitter, Mark Stein reported that the Raptors are interested in acquiring the 22nd pick from Memphis. That would give the Raptors both the 20th and 22nd pick. They either have their eye on two players in the low 20s, or plan on making more trades. Things are getting interesting…

[End edit]

In terms of off the court action, nothing beats the NBA Draft. In fact, apart from the playoffs, the draft is my favourite time of year. There’s the excitement of not knowing who is going to get picked, but there’s also the trades and rumours that go by so quickly it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all. And in the end, the draft can make or break a team’s future.

It’s got drama (waiting for the picks to be called), action (trades) and comedy (the unintentional comedy from the draftees is the best). What more could you want. Well, except for actual basketball.

ESPN recently aired a documentary on the 1984 draft, which is still considered to be one of the strongest drafts ever, and featured Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton. I started following the NBA not long after that draft, and I got to watch all the careers of those players unfold and then end, so I have a special place in my heart for that draft.

In truth, the 1984 draft was not even remotely the deepest draft, the draft with the most All Stars or the draft with the most Hall of Fame players1. Both the 1970 and 1974 drafts had 12 All Stars (although that had more to do with the number of players going to the ABA than how good the draft was. In more recent history, the 1996 draft had 10 All Stars. And all but one of those players were multiple All Stars. More amazing is that the draft contained three future MVPs (Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant). That’s the same number as the 1984 draft and more than the vaunted 2003 draft. Speaking of the 2003 draft, while there were “only” eight All Stars selected (one more than the 1984 draft), it featured twenty eight players who went on to play at least 500 games, including an amazing ten in the second round2.

1. What the 1984 draft did feature was the most top twenty five players of all time (according to Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball)- Jordan, Hakeem, Barkley and Stockton).

2. There were also a record eight players that went on to win Championships – LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Matt Bonner and James Jones (two of which are former Raptors, by the way)

And there are already some similarities between the 1984 draft and the 2014 one.

Joel Embiid can be compared to both Hakeem Olajuwon AND Sam Bowie.

Andrew Wiggins certainly isn’t the next Michael Jordan, but both were/are unearthly athletes who played in college systems that stifled their individual game but showcased their defensive abilities and team game.

And Jabari Parker’s ability to excel while carrying extra pounds reminds one a little bit of Charles Barkley (and they’re both undersized fours whose NBA position had been questioned before the draft).

But no two drafts are alike and the 2014 one is going to have it’s own stories.

At this point, we have no idea whether this is going to be another draft for the ages or one quickly forgotten.

PREMATURE EXCITATION

Offseason action has already started with two big trades (so far) going down before the draft.

WHO LOVES NEW YORK?

Former Raptor, Jose Calderon, is on the move again, this time to New York to play (presumably) with his old teammate, Andrea Bargnani. Calderon, along with Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two second rounders who were sent to Dallas in exchange for Tyson Chandler and non-felon Raymond Felton. Quite frankly, this is perplexing for both teams.

Apparently Dallas wasn’t happy being the second oldest team in the league and wanted to take the crown from Miami. Did they really miss Chandler that much? Are they really comfortable having Devin Harris and Raymond Felton as their only point guards on the roster (Monta Ellis is not a point guard)? Is this a sign they are going to try and be active in the free agent market? Six of their top eight scorers are either gone or free agents this summer (including both Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion). I really have no idea what their plans are.

As for the New York side of the deal, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Calderon. He finally gets on a decent playoff team, who gave the Spurs their biggest scare of the playoffs, and is shipped off to possibly one of the worst situations in the NBA. If Carmelo Anthony leaves (and let’s face it, more people would probably be surprised if he DID re-sign with the Knicks), that means their top returning scorer is J.R. Smith. Does anything else really need to be said? Okay, well right behind Smith is Andrea Bargnani.

I get the feeling that Calderon must have sacrificed a baby unicorn in a former life, because after a month playing with these Knicks he’s going to long for the days of playing on the bad Raptor teams.

HOUSTON PREPARING FOR LAUNCH

The other big deal that appears to have gone down is Omer Asik has FINALLY been traded and to New Orleans, the team everyone figured he’d go to before the trade deadline. But instead of getting back Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans sent back a future first round pick.

Both Asik and New Orleans finally get what they want/need, but Houston is the interesting one here, because they are clearing space for a run at either LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. There was even a rumour that the Rockets would have offered James Harden to the Knicks in a sign and trade, something that won’t have to happen if they are able to rid themselves of Jeremy Lin, too (or Lin could go back to New York, ironically). If Carmelo or LeBron do end up in Houston, expect the talk about stopping these superteams to start up again.

RUMOURS, RUMOURS, RUMOURS

While those two trades had nothing to do with the draft itself, there are lots of rumours about teams moving up, down and out of the draft.

What has caused more noise about teams trading out of the lottery than normal (especially for what is expected to be a strong draft class) is, apparently, the fact that GMs hate drafting in strong drafts more than weak ones because of the potential for major failure. Grantland’s Bill Simmons wrote:

You know how you make an NBA general manager miserable? Stick him in a loaded lottery. It’s one thing to play the guessing game with Otto Porter, Alex Len, Ben McLemore and a one-legged Nerlens Noel; none of those guys will haunt you. But if you’re picking between Wiggins, Parker, Embiid and Exum, or you have your choice of Vonleh, Smart, Gordon and Randle? Now that’s a nightmare.

He goes on to explain that Flip Saunders wants to trade Minnesota’s pick for that very reason. My feeling is that any GM who is too scared to make a decision shouldn’t be running a team in the first place. Look at two of the greatest GMs of all time. Jerry West traded away a top ten center in the prime of his career, in Vlade Divac, for a high school shooting guard who had just been picked 14th in the draft. Kobe Bryant went on to win 5 championships with the Lakers. Charlotte was in and out of the playoffs, over the next few years and then moved to New Orleans.

And R.C. Buford traded away a promising 24 years old point guard and a Popovich favourite, in George Hill, for the 15th pick in what was not considered a very strong draft. Kawhi Leonard went on to win the Finals MVP, while Indiana is now looking to upgrade it’s point guard position.

That’s why I’m always against trading away first round picks and why any talk of the Raptors trading away their 20th pick is disheartening. If anything, they should move up and get a better chance at a good player.

But I digress.

So, while the number one pick has only been traded once since the dissolution of the ABA, there is real talk that Cleveland might end up trading their pick. One reason there may be actual fire behind the smoke is that it’s their third number one pick in four years (and fourth one in eleven years). They might feel that getting the top pick is a common occurrence.

JDG_6844

There’s also the fact that they are in more of a hurry to make the playoffs than possibly any other team in the lottery. Last year, after getting the top pick, the guaranteed they wouldn’t be in the lottery again. There’s a LOT of pressure to win now in Cleveland and the choice is between three freshmen and a 19 year old Australian who has even less basketball experience.

They’ve had numerous offers, but the one that looks the most enticing is Orlando’s offer of Aaron Afflalo, their 8th pick and 12th pick. For a team that is trying to stock up on complimentary talent in order to lure LeBron James back home, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the top pick puts on a different team’s hat tonight.

Either way, I can’t imagine the Cavs would be content with taking Wiggins or Parker at number one and then standing pat.

Philadelphia, Utah and Orlando are all trying to move up in the draft, obviously believing that there’s a drop off after Wiggins and Parker (now that Embiid’s stock has fallen), while Sacramento and Minnesota will probably only keep their pick if someone unexpected falls to them.

Miami apparently wants to move up in the draft in order to draft Shabazz Napier, who LeBron is enamoured with3. While I’m not a big fan of Napier as an NBA prospect, I actually think he would do well playing with a player like LeBron.

3. Drafting or trading based on the desires of your star player is never a good idea. One just needs to look back over all the failures in that regard over the years. Hell, one just has to look at what happened to Cleveland once they started listening to his advice. That said, Pat Riley is too smart to make bad decisions to appease his star player.

I would say the over/under for trades involving draft picks tonight is about fifteen.

DON’T MOCK ME

Personally, I’ve never tried to make any predictions about who is going to pick whom, mostly because it’s too easy for one pick to screw everything up. But for interests sake, I took a look at ten mock drafts from ten influential NBA writers, and who they saw the Raptors picking and where the Canadian players (Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis) are predicted to go).

Draft Express (Jonathan Givony)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
20. Clint Capela (Toronto)
21. Ennis (Oklahoma)

NBA.com (Scott Howard-Cooper )
2. Wiggins (Milwaukee)
10. Stauskas (Philadelphia)
16. Ennis (Bulls)
20. Zach LaVine (Toronto)

Yahoo.com (Marc J. Spears)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

ESPN (Chad Ford)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
13. Stauskas (Minnesota)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

NBA.com (David Aldridge)
3. Wiggins (Philadelphia)
5. Stauskas (Utah)
20. Elfrid Payton (Toronto)
22. Ennis (Memphis)

CBS Sports (Zach Harper)
2. Wiggins (Milwaukee)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Toronto Star (Doug Smith)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
9. Stauskas (Charlotte)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Sports Illustrated (Chris Mannix)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

Basketball Insiders (Alex Kennedy)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
11. Stauskas (Denver)
12. Ennis (Orlando)
20. Shabaaz Napier (Toronto)

NBADraft.net (Aran Smith)
1. Wiggins (Cleveland)
13. Stauskas (Minnesota)
20. Ennis (Toronto)

So while you should take these mock drafts with a grain of salt, the consensus seems to be that the Raptors will be calling Tyler Ennis’ name tonight, after Wiggins becomes the second Canadian number one pick. If that is the case, it’s definitely a big night for Canada.

MY TAKE AT THE TOP

While I already stated who I think the Raptors should and could take on Tuesday, I’ve been asked what I would do if I were Cleveland, so here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

I know it may be tempting for the Cavs to trade the pick and shore up their depth as well as minimize their risk, that’s not the best way to success. As I previously said, if you’re too afraid of making a mistake, you’re in the wrong business. Jabari Parker is probably the most NBA ready player, and should be the odds on favourite to win Rookie of the Year, I see him being a poor fit for the team, and who has the most immediate impact shouldn’t be the most important thing.

Yes, luring LeBron would be nice, but you can’t assume he’s coming, especially when there are so many other suitors with better rosters, including the Heat.

Parker is a scorer who needs the ball in his hands and is a poor defender. Cleveland already has two ball dominant players and were near the bottom of the league in defense. Paker’s neither a good fit, nor the player who is likely to be the best player five years from now.

I can certainly understand them not wanting to risk the top pick on Embiid, despite his colossal potential, but his teammate, Wiggins, is a much better fit than Parker is. He’s got as much potential as anyone in the draft, is already a very good defender and will only get better, and would have no problem playing with a guy like Kyrie Irving. Cleveland needs more good teammates, and that’s exactly what Wiggins is.

RATING THE PROSPECTS

Every year, on my old column, I would separate the prospects into six categories, and I’m going to do the same for this draft:

SURE-FIRE ALL STARS

Andrew Wiggins

Jabari Parker

Wiggins didn’t light the NCAA on fire at his only season at Kansas, but I see him being a perennial All Star in the NBA. If Parker loses weight and gets in better shape, he could be a better player than Carmelo Anthony.

POTENTIAL ALL STARS

Dante Exum

Aaron Gordon

Elfrid Payton

Marcus Smart

Noah Vonleh

Dario Saric

Tyler Ennis

I haven’t seen this many potential All Stars in a draft in a long, long time. That’s not to say all of them WILL be All Stars, but I think they all have the potential. There are a lot of questions about Exum, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I think Gordon could end up being one of the top five players from this draft, especially if he gets an outside shot. Payton is now being talked about as part of the second tier of players in this draft.

COULD GO EITHER WAY

Joel Embid

Julius Randle

Zach LaVine

Clint Capela

T.J Warren

If Embiid’s healthy, he could become the best player from this draft. If he’s not, he could become the next Sam Bowie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Randle, and think his most likely future is as a third or fourth banana. Both LaVine and Capela could be big-time players if they fulfill their potential. Or they could end up being out of the league in five years.

SAFE PICKS

Nik Stauskas

Jusuf Nurkic

Shabazz Napier

While I don’t see any of these guys becoming stars, you could certainly do worse than to pick one of these guys. I see long careers for each of them.

AVOID AT ALL COSTS

P.J. Hairston

Jerami Grant

I pretty much said all I needed to say about these two in the prospecting series.

SLEEPERS

Tyler Ennis

Jarnell Stokes

Adreian Payne

Bogdan Bogdanovic

While I already included Ennis in my potential All Stars list, I include him here because I think so many teams are going to regret passing on him. In a Grantland article that three different scouts discussing Dante Exum, one scout said this:

Where our league is going now, no one is a true PG anymore. You are either really good with the ball, as a shooter — Curry, Lillard, or Kyrie — or no one can stay in front of you — Westbrook, Wall, and Rose. There aren’t any Chris Pauls anymore.

I can’t disagree more. First of all, Not one of the above point guards got out of the second round, and Kyrie didn’t even get to the playoffs. Just because there are a lot of point guards like that doesn’t mean you start copying. As I said on Tuesday, if you take a look at most of the point guards who have won Championships over the last fifteen years, most were cerebral floor leaders who knew how to make their teammates better.

Ennis is no Chris Paul, but he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to know how to make his teammates better. That’s why I also like Elfrid Payton. His two best attributes are his passing and his defense, probably the two most important things for a point guard to be able to do.

ARMCHAIR GM TIME

Lastly, it’s always fun to figure out what YOU would do if you were in charge. There are two guys who I would try and trade up to grab. Wiggins and Gordon. Wiggins, for obvious reasons, but while I wouldn’t sell the farm for Gordon, and I don’t think he’s ever going to be a big-time scorer, I think his combination of athleticism, enthusiasm and desire to do all the little things are too rare in today’s NBA. He’s the type of guy that ends up winning a Championship, and it would be nice if that was in Toronto.

I’m not sure there is a realistic trade that would net either of those two, though.

There is something else, though.

Right now, there are currently eight teams in the league that have MORE Canadians on their roster than the Raptors do. While that might change tonight, I’ve got two trade proposals that would change that. Keep in mind, these are not serious proposals, and neither would be likely to happen.

TORONTO-CLEVELAND-MINNESOTA

It’s not secret that Cleveland wants to win now, and adding Kevin Love to the team would definitely do that. While he’s already told them he wouldn’t re-sign with them, which killed any trade talks, you have to think that if the Cavs get Love, then’d be in a much better position to sign LeBron. A team of LeBron, Love and Kyrie would be favourite to win the East.

In this proposal, Love and DeMar DeRozan would go to Cleveland, Dion Waiters, Amir Johnson and Alonzo Gee would go to Minnesota and Jarret Jack, Tristen Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Cleveland’s number one pick would go to the Raptors.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nc38l3c

Too lopsided in favour of Toronto? You’re probably right.

TORONTO-CLEVELAND-HOUSTON

So then we look at Houston, who is trying to lure either LeBron or Carmelo to town, and even thought about trading away James Harden to do it.

Houston would send Harden to Cleveland, Toronto would send DeRozan and Amir to Houston (DeMar is a better complimentary player than Harden is and Amir would be a great fit beside Howard), and Toronto would get Jeremy Lin and his horrible contract (freeing cap space for Houston), Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett and Alonzo Gee (with the Raptors trade exception from the Rudy Gay trade), as well as Cleveland’s number one pick.

This trade actually makes much more sense for all parties involved. Houston gets deeper, cheaper and more complimentary, making them much more enticing for LeBron or Carmelo.

Cleveland adds a star player who will help them immediately.

Toronto adds two Canadian players and the potential at a superstar.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=nrt46l4

AND THEN…

Toronto can go one step farther and trade Terrence Ross and John Salmons for Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and their 9th 7th pick. Then select Nik Stauskas.

This actually makes SOME sense. Salmons contract is a team option, so by trading Nash for Salmons and then cutting Salmons loose, they free up more cap room to go after one of the big free agents. Plus, Terrence Ross is a good young player on a cheap contract.

And the Raptors not only get two more Canadians, but Stauskas would actually be a good fit for the Raptors, giving them outside shooting and scoring, as well as a high IQ player.

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=lsvwxbn

Then, if they can then draft Ennis at 20, this would be their lineup (if the more “realistic” Houston deal went through :

Steve Nash, Tyler Ennis, Jeremy Lin
Nik Stauskas, Jarrett Jack, Alonzo Gee
Andrew Wiggins, Landry Fields
Tyler Hansbrough, Anthony Bennett
Jonas Valanciunas, Robert Sacre

Now THAT is Canada’s team.

ABOUT BENNETT

I do think the Raptors should try and grab Bennett from Cleveland. I think he was put in a horrible position by Cleveland last year, throwing him in while he was overweight due to injury and other health issues. I don’t think he deserved to be the number on pick, but I think he’s got talent and looked much better by the end of the season. I think his stock is low right now, and Cleveland might be ripe for a trade.

LAST WORD

So while I’d love to see Tyler Ennis become a Raptor tonight, I wouldn’t mind seeing Toronto active in trade discussions. Becoming complacent after a franchise-best season is dangerous, especially when that success happened in the East. They’re still a ways off from being a real contender, and if they lose Lowry, they’ll be in a very difficult position.

So what are your thoughts, hopes etc for tonight’s draft?