BOSTON — Player workouts are starting to wind down, so the NBA draft landscape is finally starting to take form.
The Big Three when all this began remains unchanged.
But the rest of the draft remains very much a mystery for most teams who will have to decide between taking the best player available or addressing a specific need.
"More often than not, teams go with the best player," said one league executive. "Remember, teams picking near the top of the draft are doing so for a reason. They're not very good, or they weren't very good last season. So those teams have lots of needs which is why you see them take whoever is at the top of their draft board when it's their time to select."
That is indeed the approach being taken by the Boston Celtics, holders of the No. 6 and No. 17 pick in the June 26 NBA draft.
"We will try and get the best player we can," said Austin Ainge, the Celtics' director of player personnel. "If it gets really, really close and we can't decide between guys, sometimes you pick need. Especially when you're drafting with the sixth pick. We'll probably go with the best player there."
And with that, here is CSNNE.com's Mock Draft 9.0.
on the rise ---> (+)
no change ---> (=)
on the decline ---> (-)
1. Cleveland: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (=) The Cavs have been shopping this pick for weeks; so far, no takers.
2. Milwaukee: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke (=) Parker's the one, non-mystery among the top three players.
3. Philadelphia: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas (=) Like the Cavs, the Sixers are also in the market to move this pick for the right deal.
4. Orlando: Dante Exum, PG, Australia (=) They love the upside of Noah Vonleh, but Exum is still their guy.
5. Utah: Julius Randle, F, Kentucky (+) The foot concerns will scare off some teams. The Jazz ain't one of them.
6. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State (-) It's a toss-up between Smart and Aaron Gordon. Celts go with increased depth over potential upside (Gordon).
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, F/C, Indiana (+) Has shown himself to be a much better all-around player (ball-handling, shooting, etc.) than NBA teams saw at Indiana.
8. Sacramento: Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona (-) Gordon's ability to defend 3s (small forward) and 4s (power forwards) is among the many needs for the Kings.
9. Charlotte: Doug McDermott, F, Creighton (=) His defensive skills still leave much to be desired, but the best shooter in this draft won't slip past the Hornets.
10. Philadelphia (via New Orleans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (+) The Sixers were one of the worst teams defensively; Harris would be a definite upgrade.
11. Denver (via New York): Zach LaVine, G, UCLA (+) He continues to daze and amaze teams with his athleticism, but showing a surprisingly decent perimeter game has upped his stock.
12. Orlando: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan (+) Let the J.J Redick 2.0 comparisons begin.
13. Minnesota: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky (+) With Kevin Love's anticipated departure, adding as many shot-makers becomes a necessity.
14. Phoenix: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (=) Adds another versatile big man to a young, on-the-rise Suns roster.
15. Atlanta: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia (=) A legit banger with soft hands around the basket, Nurkic addresses the need for the Hawks to become beefier up front.
16. Chicago (via Charlotte): Elfrid Payton, G, Louisiana-Fayette (+) Has blown away teams in workouts, no player's stock has risen more the past month than Payton.
17. Boston (via Brooklyn): T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State (=) Celtics need a scorer in the worst way. Warren is about as good as you'll find at this point in the draft.
18. Phoenix (via Washington): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke (-) Often overshadowed by Jabari Parker at Duke, Hood has an NBA body, perimeter-shooting skills.
19. Chicago: Adreian Payne, F/C, Michigan State (+) One of the more experienced players in draft, Bulls add one of the best stretch bigs.
20. Toronto: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse (-) Kyle Lowry should be re-signed, but adding this Canadian playmaker who is a strong pass-first player, is a good pick-up for the Raptors.
21. Oklahoma City (from Dallas): Kyle Anderson, G/F, UCLA (-) Thunder go with Boris Diaw clone with this pick.
22. Memphis: Clint Capela, F, France (=) Good finisher, runs the floor well. Should make life easier in some ways for Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley.
23. Utah (from Golden State): Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State (-) Bigger body, better athlete when you see him up close; can play multiple positions.
24. Charlotte (via Portland): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson (=) Athletic wing making the transition to small forward, provides quality depth late in the first round.
25. Houston: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (-) Teams love his shot-making ability; but his ability to defend multiple positions is very under-rated.
26. Miami: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn (=) The Heat have a clear void at the point guard position with Mario Chalmers hitting free agency.
27. Phoenix (via Indiana): C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington (+) Excellent scorer in pick-and-roll sets, but tends to rely too heavily on his jumper.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, F-C, Michigan (+) Solid, high-energy type coming off the bench who should develop into a solid NBA role player.
29. Oklahoma City: Walter Taveres, C, Gran Canaria (+) A definite stash pick here, Thunder get an eventual replacement for former Celtic Kendrick Perkins.
30. San Antonio: Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse (-) The NBA champions add an athletic wing player who will be given enough time to develop.