ESPN | Ford: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum
The Bucks have yet to formalize private workout plans with any of the draft's top four prospects, but the good news is that it appears to be mostly just a matter of time--and posturing. In a Thursday chat at ESPN.com, Chad Ford confirmed earlier reports that the draft's top prospects were not trying to avoid Milwaukee:
Michael (Milwaukee): Why are the Bucks so unappealing to agents? New ownership, good young talent. Is it just Milwaukee?
Chad Ford (1:15 PM): They aren't. They aren't having a problem getting any of the top guys in. I know there's been a lot of talk out there that no one wants to play for Milwaukee, but the truth is Parker, Wiggins and Exum will all workout there and are willing to play in Milwaukee. There's a bigger question mark around Embiid, but that's true for all 30 teams right now. The Cavs and Embiid's agent are working on coming to terms on a visit and physical for Embiid. His agent may wait to see how that goes before scheduling other teams.
They like us! They really like us!
OK fine, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away. But at a minimum they don't seem to dislike us, which at this point is far more important.
The story may of course have been different if the Lakers had been able to secure a top-three spot, but thankfully L.A. is well out of reach of the top prospects at #7, and none of the top-five destinations (Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philly, Orlando and Utah) have a big advantage in terms of desirability.
ESPN | Katz: Potential No. 1 overall pick Joel Embiid to visit with Cleveland Cavaliers
The one guy the Bucks might not get a closer look at is Embiid, though as Ford noted that doesn't make the Bucks unique. While Embiid might be unlike any big man prospect we've seen in the last decade on the court, off the court he wants what every other top prospect wants: the #1 spot. And ESPN's Andy Katz reports that playing hard to get is all part of the plan to try to make that happen:
The 7-foot Cameroon native has been projected as a likely top choice throughout the season. That's why Embiid won't visit with Milwaukee or Philadelphia, which have the next two picks, until Cleveland has a chance to review his case for No. 1.
Embiid's representatives and the Cavs are working toward finding an appropriate date, time and even perhaps place to conduct the interview and physical. The possibility remains it could be in Cleveland but that has not been determined.
I suppose the good news is that Embiid's camp hasn't completely ruled out a visit with the Bucks. But the bad news--for those of us that rate him as the draft's best player--is that a healthy Embiid looks increasingly likely to go number one and make it all irrelevant. In fact, a long-time RealGM poster reported that Marc Lasry admitted as much during conversation last night at the Bucks' fan event at McGillycuddy's, while Wes Edens apparently had a positive phone call with Embiid in which he encouraged him to visit Milwaukee. Also of note: Lasry supposedly didn't hide his previously reported affinity for Parker as well as Embiid, which jives with what Ford and others are now suggesting about the Bucks' preferences.
Either way, it's not exactly clear what kind of assurances Embiid will need from Cleveland to not work out for the Bucks or Sixers, and it's also not clear why the Cavs would provide any of those assurances in the first place. Once they get a look at Embiid's back they'll effectively hold all of the cards, at which point they might as well keep everyone else guessing. That's precisely what they did last year, when even Anthony Bennett was stunned to hear his name called with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.
The better news for the Bucks is that Embiid's wooing by the Cavs should pave the way for Parker to work out for the Bucks. Again here's Katz:
Meanwhile, Embiid and Duke freshman Jabari Parker are represented by the same agency (Wasserman Group) and the source said the agency is planning visits based on Embiid and Parker going 1-2 in some order over Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. Cleveland is still considering all three for the No. 1 pick. That means Parker would visit with No. 2 Milwaukee at some point, and if Cleveland wanted to pass on Embiid then it would open up a Parker interview with the Cavs for the No. 1 spot.
Seemingly lost in all of this is Andrew Wiggins, who was last seen over the weekend in a made-for-TV workout and interview with Chad Ford. Whether it's by design or otherwise, agent Billy Duffy has essentially let Wasserman and super agent Arn Tellem dictate the terms of the process thus far. When Tellem pulled Embiid and Parker from the Chicago draft combine, Duffy responded by pulling Wiggins a few hours later. When Wasserman scheduled a private workout featuring Embiid, Parker, Marcus Smart and others last Friday, Wiggins' previously rumored workout that same was pushed off in favor of the ESPN-only workout on Sunday. And now that the gameplans for Embiid and Parker may be materializing, we're left to sit and wait to see what move Duffy will make next.
Thankfully there's been no indication yet that Wiggins will try to steer clear of the Bucks, though a number of reports suggest Wiggins has become an increasingly unlikely pick for the Bucks at #2. Specifically, Ford pegged the Bucks draft board as Embiid (1a), Parker (1b), Exum (3) and Wiggins (4), suggesting that concerns over Wiggins' shot-creating ability and underwhelming analytical projections haven't been lost on the Bucks' brass.
JSOnline | Bucks' McKinney: Nothing lined up with top picks yet
So what do the Bucks have to say about all this? Well, Bucks Director of Scouting Billy McKinney wasn't making any promises (or any real comments at all) about the top prospects on Thursday, instead focusing on the six second round prospects who worked out at the Cousins Center earlier in the day. Via Charles Gardner:
"It's a process and that's all I can really say about it," McKinney said. "As soon as something like that occurs, everbody will know. But right now our focus has been on evaluating these guys with the picks we have in the second round, and if there's any possibility that we would package those picks and move up in the first round, we have to look at players of that nature as well."
Thursday's workout featured five players in DX's top 100, including Nevada point guard Deonte Burton (projected #47 in DX's latest mock), San Diego State combo guard Xavier Thames and Syracuse wing C.J. Fair. I'm admittedly not quite interested enough to do more research than that, but Bucks.com has all the goods from the workout, while Jeremy at Bucksketball was also less lazy than me.
ESPN | Goodman: NBA Mock Draft 3.0
The whole "Embiid to Cleveland/Parker to Milwaukee" thing also makes sense to ESPN college hoops writer Jeff Goodman, who joined the growing chorus that expects the Wasserman duo to go 1/2 with his latest mock draft:
The Bucks will have a choice between the ultra-athletic Wiggins and the skilled Parker if Embiid is off the board. That will be an agonizing decision for GM John Hammond, who will balance taking the more-NBA ready Parker and Wiggins, who appears to have the higher upside. Hammond can ill afford to miss here, and that will be why he ultimately goes with Parker.
Note that not everyone is jumping to that conclusion: DraftExpress still has Wiggins going first with Parker second and Embiid slipping to the Sixers at #3.