Jabari Parker to Cavaliers at Number 1?

andrew-wiggins-jabari-parkerUp 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.

andrew-wiggins-not-number-one-1Cleveland 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 jabari-parker-draftforward, 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.

Sources say Cleveland Cavaliers will take Joel Embiid with No. 1 Pick

joel-embiid-number-one-pickThe improbable happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the 2014 NBA Draft’s top pick. Boasting just the ninth best odds (1.7% chance) of getting the number-one pick, the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland’s way and gave them the top selection. This is now the second straight year that they’ll be picking first on June 26th.

Last year, Cleveland didn’t do so well in the draft as they took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one. This was an unconventional pick, to say the least, as Bennett was already injured at the time and considered a project. He’s still widely considered a project, having averaged 4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 35.6% shooting, and 24.5% three-point shooting. Given these numbers, Bennett could be years away from being a true NBA contributor.

Now, it’s up to new GM David Griffin to succeed where Chris Grant failed so miserably with the number-one pick. Griffin already has a huge advantage because the 2014 NBA Draft talent pool is much, much stronger than 2013’s crop. Some of the names that have been thrown around for this year’s first selection could’ve easily topped the 2013 Draft. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Jabari Parker are all potential top choices.

So who does Cleveland have their eye on with a month left before the draft? Initially, it looked like they could be leaning towards Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8″ Canadian has been on the radar of NBA scouts for the past several years and did nothing to hurt his stock with 17.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG at Kansas. Here’s a look at what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote a few days ago:

Sources in Cleveland say that Wiggins is the likely choice. The team feels he has the most long-term potential, helps them defensively right out of the gate, can replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup while adding character to the team.

Interestingly enough, though, Wiggins figures to get some heavy competition from his Jayhawks teammate, Joel Embiid (11.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG). The 7-footer really impressed scouts during a workout hosted by the L.A. Clippers. Embiid was so impressive, in fact, that he quickly made Ford change his tune regarding who’s going number one. Here’s a look at what three different writers had to say on the matter:

 joel-embiid-number-one-pick-1Ford – Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues. Just spoke with Embiid. Told me his back is 100 percent. Been working out hard for last 3 weeks. Embiid said he’s gained 15 pounds. Up to 265. Still getting back into shape. Got a bit winded in workout but still looked quick & explosive.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports – Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.

Adam Zagoria, SNY.tv – “I did not see any issues with his back,” one veteran NBA scout on hand at the workout told SNY.tv. “He looked very agile and athletic.”

“He looks great,” a second scout said. “Running, jumping, dunking, bent up like a pretzel in warmups and stretching exercises. Had two ex-NBA bigs [Brian Scalabrine and Will Perdue] banging on him underneath. He passed the eyeball test big time. Move him up. “He helped himself today.”

Cleveland already has some good pieces in place to make themselves a playoff-caliber basketball team. And adding a super-talented big man like Embiid could give them the missing piece to become a postseason lock in the East. But then again, so could adding a shooting guard like Wiggins, who already seems NBA-ready. Likewise, many scouts believe that Parker (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG) will also make an immediate impact at the next level.

Another option for Cleveland would be trading their top pick. Since the Cavaliers already have enough young talent in Kyrie Irving, Waiters and Tristan Thompson, they would do well to add a veteran All-Star to the mix. But like the three writers above mentioned, Embiid’s talent and potential may be too much to pass up on.

Andrew Wiggins not No. 1 Pick? Julius Randle, Others factor in

andrew-wiggins-not-number-oneThe 2013-14 NBA Season is one that’s expected to see several teams tank just to have a chance at Andrew Wiggins. For the past two years, NBA clubs have been salivating at the prospect of landing the number one pick and grabbing the 6’8″, do-it-all forward. But is Wiggins really the first true slam-dunk number one pick since LeBron James?

Most teams are convinced so, but others have their doubts when it comes to his on-court efforts. “Until Wiggins learns how to play hard,” said an anonymous NBA scout, “he’s Kansas’ third-best freshman.” Another long-time scout said, “Wiggins has been advertised pretty high. Is he that good? The jury is still out.”

Okay, so this isn’t the general consensus by all NBA GM’s and scouts, but it is enough to consider opening up the discussion that Wiggins may not go first overall. The 2014 NBA Draft class is loaded with talent and several other players who, in a different year, might easily be the top pick. 6’9″ Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is one player who immediately comes to mind. According to DraftExpress, he’s the predicted number two pick behind Wiggins. So it’s not unfathomable to think that, with an excellent college season, Randle could leap up to the top pick.

Other players who could sway GMs’ minds include Australian combo guard Dante Exum, Duke freshman Jabari Parker, Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon and Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. Even Wiggins’ fellow Kansas frosh teammates, 7-footer Joel Embiid and guard Wayne Selden, could factor into the number-one pick debate.

andrew-wiggins-not-number-one-1An NBA scout discussed several of these players by saying, “Julius Randle is the real deal. Jabari Parker is really good. Dante Exum, he was super impressive at the Hoop Summit at practice and is smooth and can shoot it. Marcus Smart, if a team needs a point guard, he can be a high pick, too. This upcoming draft class is outstanding.”

Despite these glowing reviews of other players, some teams are still fixated on Wiggins. His talent first shined through back at the 2012 Hoop Summit, when the Toronto native dominated an exhibition between the World Team and United States. Wiggins scored 20 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked two shots against the US team, which included Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel.

As alluded to before, many people around the league have compared Wiggins’ potential impact to LeBron. Other scouts believe that, in the “worst-case scenario,” he’d be similar to Tracy McGrady or Vince Carter. In any of these scenarios, the Canadian still would be an outstanding, All-Star-caliber player who has a great career.

Beyond simple comparisons, the league loves Wiggins’ athleticism and upside. His dad, Michael Wiggins, played in the NBA while his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, was a track star for Canada. He’s also considered to be a solid citizen who doesn’t get into trouble off of the court.

Still, Andrew Wiggins isn’t the once-thought guaranteed number one selection that many thought previously. The biggest scare is his ability to continually stay motivated and play hard. This could be the main thing that keeps him from ascending to a LeBron James, or flaming out amidst the hype, like Omar Cook and Sebastian Telfair did.