LeBron looms over NBA news, but the draft goes on

The Sixers reportedly are high
The Sixers reportedly are high (on 6-foot-6 Australian guard Dante Exum, who is only 18.    Associated Press)
Posted: June 27, 2014

NEW YORK - Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were supposed to be the headliners of the NBA draft, but when it begins Thursday night at the Barclays Center, the league's biggest name will be at the forefront: LeBron James.

James has opted out of his contract in Miami to become a free agent, and several teams reportedly are attempting to clear salary-cap space to entice a player who has led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals.

As the top draft prospects met the media Wednesday, James' immense presence was felt.

"I think everybody is interested to see where LeBron chooses," said Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, a projected top-10 pick who worked out for the 76ers.

Cleveland has the first pick, and former Kansas star Wiggins is the favorite to be selected at No. 1. But will it be by the Cavaliers?

"Anything can happen on draft night," Wiggins said.

The Sixers have not hidden their affection for Wiggins, but with the third overall pick, they most likely would have to move up to choose him.

Parker said he expects to be taken second overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.

"They said they most likely are going to pick me, and I didn't hear anything about the Cavs," said Parker, a former Duke star who said he did not work out for the Sixers.

The Sixers remain a team of mystery.

If Wiggins and Parker go first and second, Kansas center Joel Embiid and Australian guard Dante Exum are possibilities at No. 3.

Embiid is the biggest high-risk, high-reward prospectin the draft. He won't attend after undergoing surgery Friday to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Embiid also had a lower-back injury that sidelined him at the end of the college season.

The Sixers reportedly are high on the 6-foot-6 Exum, who will turn 19 next month. He did not play college basketball, although Exum revealed that Kentucky talked to him about joining the team in January.

He has worked out for the Bucks, Sixers, and Orlando Magic, who hold the fourth overall pick.

There have been rumors that if the Sixers select Exum, rookie-of-the-year point guard Michael Carter-Williams could be on the trading block. Exum said Wednesday that he and Carter-Williams can prosper playing together.

"I thought about the idea, and I wouldn't have worked out if I didn't think it was a good idea," Exum said.

The Sixers also have the 10th pick. Three shooting guards who could be available - Kentucky's James Young, Duke's Rodney Hood, and Michigan State's Gary Harris - had predraft workouts with the team.

Other players who are potential No. 10 picks, such as Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan's Nik Stauskas, UCLA's Zach LaVine, and Arizona's Aaron Gordon, did not work out for the Sixers.

Then again, last year, the injured Nerlens Noel never made a predraft visit to Philadelphia, and the Sixers ended up trading for him after he was selected with the sixth pick by New Orleans.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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