One of the best events on the NBA calendar has arrived. It's a time for speculation, it's a time for dreaming, a time for terms like "tremendous upside potential" and "The Jay Bilas Drinking Game," and, most importantly, a time for hope.
That's what the NBA draft is all about. The hope that your team will select the player you like best, the hope said player becomes a star, and the hope of a brighter future. We should be lucky enough to dream like this 365 days a year. As it were, we have one day - Thursday's NBA draft, which gets underway at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Here are three things you need to know.
Kansas center Joel Embiid was supposed to go first overall. Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin had reportedly settled on Embiid with the top pick, with the team obviously feeling confident following a workout and medical evaluation of Embiid's back, which had sidelined him late in the college season.
And then the medical evaluation turned up a broken navicular bone in his right foot, an injury that has plagued a handful of marquee big men in the past. Embiid needed surgery, is out four-to-six months, and is no longer in the mix for the Cavs at No. 1.
This, obviously, raises a number of questions, but two stick out.
How far will Embiid slide?
He's out at No. 1 and the Milwaukee Bucks aren't going to risk it at No. 2, but the Philadelphia 76ers have his medical records and could consider him at No. 3. At worst, he's not expected to get past both the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively. But that's a wide range of outcomes for a player thought to be the top pick a few weeks ago, and where he lands will shake up just about everyone's draft board.
Who goes No. 1?
So, if not Embiid, the Cavs are left to choose between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. But the front office is said to be split, with owner Dan Gilbert wanting Wiggins and Griffin wanting Parker. Parker, meanwhile, thinks he'll go second and reportedly prefers to land in Milwaukee, while Dante Exum is a dark horse and the Cavs are fielding trade offers.
What happened to Embiid was disappointing and we feel terrible for him, but for entertainment purposes on Thursday, turmoil is a positive.
If Embiid throwing things into disarray wasn't enough, the loaded nature of the draft has created another interesting wrinkle - nearly everyone is open to trading their picks. While a great draft class means that great players are available, it also means that draft picks are an enormous trade asset, and a handful of teams are looking for ways to either deal multiple picks to move up or deal a pick for an established veteran.
Think we're exaggerating? Have a look at the lottery picks:
Embrace. The. Chaos.
Here's the big question that's on everyone's mind: as hyped as the 2014 draft has been, will this be the best draft class ever? That's obviously impossible to answer now, but there is certainly a case to be made.
It begins at the top, where ESPN draft guru Chad Ford estimated that nine players in this draft could have gone No. 1 in the weak 2013 draft. From there, however, he expands that three players - Embiid, Parker and Wiggins - are on par with past top picks like Blake Griffin, John Wall and Anthony Davis, while six others would be on par with, say, a Kyrie Irving. He projects there are 20 eventual starters and a ridiculous 40 players who should be in NBA rotations.
(Of course, that's based on projection and upside.)
In reality, the 2014 class is up against five historic drafts:
If you're like us, the NBA Draft marks one of your highlights on the sports calendar. Here's a collection of other draft-related posts to get you fully up to speed:
Mock draft - Joseph Casciaro mocks up the first round
Know your prospects - Scouting reports on the top-30 names in the draft
What to wear - The five best NBA draft suits
"I'm a winner, that's what I do" - One-on-one with prospect Adreian Payne
Too hot to handle - 5 burning questions about the NBA Draft
Team needs by division - Central | Pacific | Northwest | Atlantic | Southeast | Southwest
Be sure to follow along on Thursday with our NBA Draft Tracker, featuring all the picks, trades and rumors relevant to draft night.