A year ago it was quite clear who would be the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft: Andrew Wiggins. The college basketball season changed that, giving Joel Embiid and even Jabari Parker an edge. But the injury to the former Kansas big man once again shuffled the deck of cards, making the identity of the next number 1 draft pick, a selection the Cleveland Cavaliers hold at the moment, something of an unknown.
The Cavs were said to be quite keen on Embiid. They just might still be, which means they could try and trade down, acquire another draft pick or player and use a lower pick on Embiid. Other teams prefer both Wiggins and Parker to an injured center, which means things might get very interesting on draft day – beyond the speculation of the player, we might be in for plenty of trades.
So why Wiggins?
As one scout put it, Wiggins is the combination of Jabari Parker’s ability to make an immediate impact and Joel Embiid’s upside. Wiggins is an incredible athlete, but he hasn’t done enough during his one year in Kansas to show he’s more than that. His jump shot wasn’t very good, he didn’t show any unique vision as a passer and has trouble getting things done off the dribble. There’s this talk about being a combination of Tracy McGrady and Paul George, but Wiggins has to work to get to that level.
He has been working on his shot and about getting lower with his body once he puts the ball on the ground. The Cavaliers might not be in love with him as a prospect, but it’s hard to ignore his potential, and when playing next to someone like Kyrie Irving, maybe the pressure of doing everything by himself which would have taken over if he would have landed on a team like the Milwaukee Bucks is going to be helpful for him in the future.
Wiggins averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds during his Freshman year with the Jayhawks, and incredible to say actually didn’t live up to the hype he came in with. But that’s what happens when people call you the next ‘LeBron James’ or something along these lines. It might take Wiggins a longer time to dominate in the NBA than initially expected, but right now he seems like the player with the best shot of doing it.
So why Parker?
If a team wants a player that’s going to be a contributor and might actually lead them in scoring right now, Jabari Parker is it. He averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds last season for Duke and is the most skilled offensively of the trio, showing off his offensive skill set in every work out or rookie camp scouts have been to. So why not take him as the number one pick and forget about it?
Like many players who thrived in the paint during college, things are different in the pros. Parker might be able to handle offense as a ‘4’, but his defense is an issue against both forward types. He can struggle against long-armed players, which negates his vision, basketball IQ and ability to put the ball on the floor and score from anywhere on the court.
Tweeners are always a problem. Anthony Bennett was a tweener. It didn’t stop him from becoming a surprising number one overall pick, but it definitely hurt him, along with his weight and conditioning issues, a he got to the NBA. Some of the same questions circle the rumor mill when it comes to Parker, which might mean the most NBA-ready player in the draft won’t be the number one pick.
So why Embiid?
You can’t teach size. NBA GMs love centers. The cliché list is endless, but never gets old or stops affecting decision makers. Without the injury and surgery that will now keep Embiid from playing basketball until at least October, he had the best shot of being number one overall. The Cavs were loving him, and all the comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon were really making it seem like he was a lock for the top spot.
The Philadelphia 76ers took a chance on Nerlens Noel, but from a number one pick he fell to be a sixth overall pick, not playing a single game in the 2013-2014 NBA season. Is the same fate waiting for Embiid? There were worries before the injury that he’ll be somewhat of a risk. Despite his smoothness on offense and ability to block, defend, shoot from mid range and even the three, today’s big men are just not what we’re used to from the 1990’s.
Embiid averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds for Kansas last season. He kind of stole the show from Wiggins until his injury ruined the tournament for the Jayhawks. Like with every center, the potential seems to be blinding some of the scouting teams to other issues, but the most recent surgery makes it quite impossible for a team to take so much of a risk and pick him as number one overall.