Up until a few days ago, the general consensus among NBA Draft watchers was that the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to take Joel Embiid number one. Despite lingering questions about his back, the Kansas 7-footer looks like a dream prospect who can run the floor, play defense, score points and even hit the occasional three-pointer. Unfortunately, Embiid’s recent stress fracture has thrown his draft status into limbo because he’ll be out for the next 4-6 months.
So who are the Cavaliers targeting now just days before the 2014 NBA Draft takes place on June 26th? Many experts have went back and forth between Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins and Duke combo forward Jabari Parker. Wiggins has all of the upside and athleticism in the world, but scouts aren’t sure if he’ll display all of this potential in his first NBA season or two. Parker doesn’t have quite the athleticism of Wiggins, but he’s seen as the safe choice who’s already NBA-ready.
The main thing to remember here is that the Cavs already took a big chance on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett last year. The jury isn’t out on Bennett yet after one season, however, he did play pretty terribly after averaging 4.2 PPG on 34.5 shooting and 24.5% from beyond the arc. Based on his poor play, Bennett even spent significant time in the D League.
Cleveland isn’t looking to misfire on another pick nor are they content to miss the postseason yet again. And according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, we shouldn’t expect the Cavs to trade the top pick as Berger wrote:
With Joel Embiid’s foot surgery, and the reported 4-6 month recovery that comes with it, the Cavs are said to be leaning toward Duke’s Jabari Parker with the No. 1 pick. Parker is more NBA-ready than Andrew Wiggins, who would go to the Bucks at No. 2. Rival executives believe it would be out of character for Cleveland GM David Griffin to trade the top pick, and believe Bucks GM John Hammond would be hard-pressed to deviate from the other consensus top player in the draft after Embiid’s injury shook up the top of the lottery.
Once again, the Cavaliers are a team that wants to win now so taking Parker, who averaged 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG at Duke, would certainly make sense. But if you’re drafting by position, Parker adds to the logjam that Cleveland already has at power forward. Bennett sometimes plays there, as does Tristan Thompson, who averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.2 RPG.
Parker can play both forward spots, although he may not be quite quick enough to keep up with some of the NBA’s more-athletic starting small forwards. Bennett can also play small forward, but as mentioned before, his upside is questionable at this point. Drafting Wiggins would put the 6’8″, 200-pounder at small forward while still keeping Thompson on the floor as much as possible. Furthermore, Bennett could come off of the bench and continue his development, however far that goes.
Let’s visit our original question of who’s going first overall one more time. The rumors that Berger has heard seem to indicate Parker would go first. However, popular mock draft sites such as HoopsHabit and DraftExpress like Cleveland to take the upside pick in Wiggins. If anything is clear at this point, it’s that nobody really knows what the Cavs will do. Who knows…maybe Cleveland will pull another shocker like they did last year with Bennett by taking Australian PG Dante Exum or even Embiid still. But after the way Bennett’s rookie season turned out, don’t count on a complete surprise.