Basketball fans should be excited: The 2014 NBA Draft has the deepest class in years, and an injured blue-chipper could end up being the best of the bunch. Plenty of NBA teams (especially in the Eastern Conference) are desperate for a franchise-changing player who could revitalize their chances to make it to the playoffs.
But others are less interested in grabbing top rookies than they are in making the trades necessary to to court all-stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love over the summer. There’s a chance some big-name trades could take place during the draft.
The action starts Thursday at 7 p.m. E.T. Here are all your draft questions answered:
Who will go first?
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 overall pick. Due to the recent injury troubles of Joel Embiid (more on that in a bit), they’ll likely either take Jabari Parker (a power forward/small forward from Duke) or Andrew Wiggins (a small forward from Kansas). But they could also trade their pick away to a team like Utah that wants to grab Parker.
The Cavs have had tremendous luck in the lottery: They’ve gotten the No. 1 pick three times in the last four years. But they’ve had mixed results when it comes to actually picking the player: Kyrie Irving (a point guard from Duke) has proved a valuable asset—he was named MVP at this year’s all-star game—but Anthony Bennett (a forward from the University of Nevada Las Vegas) had one of the worst rookie campaigns for a number one pick in recent memory.
Ultimately, they’ll probably keep the pick and take Wiggins, at which point Parker will fall to the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the second pick. Parker said Wednesday he believes he’s headed to Wisconsin.
Is Jabari Parker out of shape?
A number of teams that have seen Parker work out leading up to the draft, including the Cavs, have questioned his conditioning. Parker had this response on Wednesday: “I felt real good through the workout. If you put a treadmill right here, we can have a contest. I feel confident right now. It surprises me. I’m in the gym 24/7. I don’t have to self promote myself. I don’t need to put anything on Instagram or on Twitter. It’s my job to practice every day and play. I’m no couch potato. I love to play basketball. You can find me doing that almost every day.”
How far will Joel Embiid fall?
The man who many have called the best prospect in this draft will be watching it from Los Angeles because he’s recovering from surgery after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. His long history of injuries (back issues and now foot issues) has sent teams fleeing from Joel Embiid, a 20-year-old, seven-foot center from Kansas. So while Philadelphia could take him third, there’s a possibility he could drop down to the Sacramento Kings at No. 8. (Though CBS Sports reports the Kings have been trying to broker a trade with teams ahead of them in order to move up and grab Embiid before he’s gone.)
Who is this dude from Australia?
Dante Exum, a 18-year-old point guard, will likely leap into the top three, thanks to Embiid’s injury (though the deep talent pool for this year’s draft makes sure bets hard to come by). American college basketball fans don’t know him as well because he hails from Australia, but he’s the top international prospect and has been compared to a young Kobe Bryant. He’s huge for an NBA point guard (6’5″ with a 6’9.75″ wingspan) and could overpower most guards in the league.
What trades have already happened leading up to the draft?
On Wednesday, the New York Knicks sent center Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for point guard Jose Calderon, center Samuel Dalembert, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, point guard Shane Larkin, as well as the 34th and 51st pick in the draft. The Rockets, meanwhile, traded Center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a first-round pick.
What trades will happen?
The Los Angeles Lakers might trade their No. 7 pick for a veteran. Future Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant has struggled to recover from achilles tear surgery and likely does not have many games left in his legs even if he doesn’t make anything close to a full recovery. Lakers fans aren’t accustomed to losing season (their 27-55 record this season was their worst since the 1957-1958 season), so if they want to make a speedy return to the playoffs, an experienced player will get them there a whole lot faster than a rookie.
If any big-name player is moved in the immediate future, there’s no better bet than Kevin Love, a three-time all-star center for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But teams will have more salary cap room by July 1, and at that point will be able to make multi-team trades, so Love seems safe in Minnesota, at least for the next few days.