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.

Will Andrew Wiggins be an NBA Star Right Away?

will-andrew-wiggins-be-starThis week marked what many considered the inevitable when Kansas Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins declared himself eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft. A little over a year ago, Wiggins was the man, the myth, the Canadian legend whom most scouts thought was a lock to be taken number one overall in the 2014 Draft. A 6’8″, do-it-all forward with a 44-inch vertical leap, a 7-foot wingspan and tremendous all-around athleticism, it wasn’t hard to see why scouts were sky-high on him. Now, things are a little different…

We emphasize “little” here because Wiggins is still a lock to be a top-three pick this summer. He also didn’t do anything to hurt his stock at Kansas after leading the talented Jayhawks team with 17.1 PPG. He also chipped in 5.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG and 1.0 BPG for a school that finished 25-10 and grabbed the Big 12 title.

His main competition for the top overall choice is Kansas teammate Joel Embiid and Duke freshman Jabari Parker. Some analysts see Embiid as a potential franchise center since he’s got the size (7’0″, 250 pounds) and college numbers (11.2PPG, 8.1RPG, 2.6BPG) that NBA teams like to see. Given his upside, Embiid will be hard to pass up for whoever wins the ping pong ball lottery.

Parker might be even harder to pass on because, much like Wiggins, he’s already the complete package. The 6’8″ combo forward was truly all over the court for Duke this year, as he averaged 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG and shot 35.8% from the three-point line. Going beyond the numbers, what many scouts love about Parker is his killer instinct, much like Kobe or MJ.

will-andrew-wiggins-be-star-1So it looks like Wiggins will definitely have some competition with regard to being picked number one overall. But no matter whether he’s picked first, second or third, he is going to be a very good player. And our question is this: will he be an All-Star right out of the gate?

We already discussed how freakishly athletic Wiggins is. Based on pure athleticism (i.e. run, jump, quickness), he’s quite possibly be the most talented basketball player on the planet. He has the ability to defend multiple positions, runs like a gazelle and is excellent at finishing in transition.

On the downside, Wiggins’ killer instinct and basketball passion have often been called into question. This is what essentially took him from a guaranteed top pick to somebody who could go 1-3. It’s also what saw him end his college career with a nightmare 1-for-6, four-point performance against Stanford in Kansas’ second-round exit from the tourney. Those analyzing Wiggins saw a guy floating around the perimeter against the Stanford zone defense, rather than attacking it and making something happen in the paint.

But are we to take one terrible college game and use it to foreshadow Wiggins’ future. Not according to Kansas coach Bill Self, who had the following to say about his star:

I think the improvement he made this year with his approach and mindset was a great, great improvement. If you look at his statistics and everything, and you look at the games in which we labored for the most part or games which were narrow victories, he always seemed to produce more. He is one of those guys that if the team didn’t have to have him do it, he, a lot of times, deferred to let others do it. But at game point, usually, he was right there.

Self isn’t just full of empty words here because the stats back up what he says. During the Jayhawks’ 25 wins, Wiggins took 11.8 shots and 5.7 free throws while scoring 16.8 PPG. In the team’s 10 losses, he attempted 13.3 shots and 9.4 free throws while scoring 17.7 PPG. Case in point, he is a selfless player who tries to take over when his team is struggling. And this was on a Kansas team that was loaded with plenty of other great players.

As for those who still question Wiggins’ work ethic and drive to improve, perhaps they should listen to the future star himself. “No one’s game is perfect, I have a lot of things to work on,” he said. “There’s strength, ballhandling and shooting, just trying to perfect everything for next season.”

andrew-wiggins-not-number-one-1Wiggins added, “I think I improved a lot. There was never really a non-competitive practice we had, every practice every player would go at each other a lot, making each other better.”

Judging from his underrated competitiveness, freaky talent and versatility, we think that Wiggins definitely has the potential to be an All-Star in his first season. Of course, it will greatly help his cause if he’s paired with another talented player or two to start off with. This would take some of the pressure off of Wiggins and allow him to avoid forcing bad shots and trying to carry a team.

The cupboard is pretty bare in Milwaukee (14-60), which currently owns the NBA’s worst record. But if Wiggins were to land in Philadelphia (16-58), he could play with Michael Carter-Williams. Being picked by the Orlando Magic (21-53) would allow him to play with Victor Oladipo.

In any case, it’ll be fun to see where Wiggins ends up and if he can make the lucky lottery team that picks him into a playoff contender. Our bet is yes.