NEW YORK — It was a day of rumors of a major trade, and draft prospects getting hints about their future destinations.
For the first time, prospects such as Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, either likely to go No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft, were in the same room, discussing their journeys to this point at a midtown Manhattan hotel on Wednesday.
Here’s what we know: Parker doesn’t believe he’ll be picked by the Cavaliers first overall and said he prefers to go second to the Milwaukee Bucks. If that is true, the Bucks need to grab Parker as quickly as possible, given their poor luck of late with draft picks and retaining franchise-caliber players.
As for Kentucky’s Julius Randle, he admitted he skipped a second Celtics workout that included former Oklahoma State standout Marcus Smart. Randle said he did not skip it for a video shoot with GQ magazine, as has been reported.
It appears Randle knows exactly where he is going. He spoke Wednesday with confidence, a swagger that wasn’t prevalent in some of the other prospects.
“The [first] workout with Boston went really well,” Randle said. “I shot the ball there good, too, kind of showed my versatility. As far as turning [the second workout] down for GQ, that’s inaccurate. That’s completely false. The GQ thing was 15-20 minutes. I could have did that today. As far as turning down the second workout, I don’t know if you would say I turned it down but it was my option to go or not. I feel like I worked out for them once. I had the longest college season of anybody. What was the point of me going back? They’ve seen me play all year.’’
Depending on who you talk to, the Celtics are high on Randle, or are deciding between Arizona’s Aaron Gordon or Smart. An NBA source said the Celtics looked at the medical reports of Kansas center Joel Embiid, who would have been the No. 1 overall pick if not for recent foot surgery.
The source said Embiid’s back, which caused him to miss the NCAA Tournament, was sound, but the foot issues could be a long-term concern. The biggest mystery in the draft is where Embiid will fall. His representatives have not disclosed his medical reports to all lottery teams.
Gordon was bright eyed and pleased Wednesday, having impressed during his workout with the Celtics. It’s apparent he would love to be in Green this fall and he is likely to be on the draft board when Celtics president Danny Ainge makes the choice.
But the consensus Wednesday was the Embiid injury has turned this draft into an unpredictable situation. Teams such as the Cavaliers, Bucks, Sixers, and Jazz need to win now, given pressure from ownership and fans.
Utah has the fifth pick overall, one ahead of the Celtics, and there is no clue which direction the Jazz will go, leaving the Celtics to ponder the possibility of Embiid, Gordon, Randle, Smart, or even Noah Vonleh of Haverhill.
This is what makes the draft so intriguing. It’s obvious some players walked into the media availability with promises from certain clubs. Others, such as Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton, smiling brightly and sporting a bow tie, used his workouts to perhaps thrust himself into the top 10.
He could go seven to the Lakers, eight to the Kings, or nine to the Hornets. He was thrilled after the draft evaluation process. That wasn’t the case with Randle, who appears ready for the process to end.
It will be a memorable day for all of the prospects but by far the most popular player in New York City is UConn’s Shabazz Napier, who passed on entering the draft last year, won a national championship, and now is likely to be a mid-first round pick.
NBA sources said the Heat, in their quest to retain LeBron James, have made a beeline for Napier and are looking to trade up from the 26th pick to get him. On a tour of the 9/11 Memorial, the Roxbury native handled himself like he did on the court, smiling in selfies with fans and signing autographs.
Finally, on the 45-minute bus ride from the memorial to the hotel, in the middle of a sweltering day, Napier took a brief nap, shielding himself from the rumors, chaos, and demands, just for a few minutes.
He fully realizes that his life will change Thursday, which is the beauty of the NBA Draft.