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NBA Draft Rumors: What Should the Cleveland Cavaliers do with the No. 1 Pick?
After the news of Joel Embiid’s foot injury rocked the NBA on Thursday, the impact was likely much bigger on a Cleveland Cavaliers organization many felt had the Kansas big man on the top of their list for the No. 1 overall pick. Now, with less than a week until the 2014 NBA Draft, it appears general manager David Griffin will have quite the decision to make next Thursday.
For those who have been on the “draft a small forward” bandwagon, it seems as if you may get your wish. If Embiid is truly out of the picture, it looks like it will be a race between Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke. Neither player is considered a slam dunk right now, but the upside of both has analysts declaring them the “next coming” at the small forward position in the NBA.
Reports around the league have alluded to the fact that Parker has the edge right now for the Cavs, with one NBA exec going as far as to say, “It’s Parker & not even close. If Embiid’s not the guy at 1, Cavs should grab him.” That information was given to Pro Basketball Draft’s Joe Kotoch, who then tweeted it out.
At first glance, Parker is clearly the more NBA-ready player and would likely have the biggest impact on the team early on. He is a much more polished offensive player than Wiggins, as he averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 47.3 percent shooting. Parker also has the range to step back and hit the three, as he shot 35.8 percent from long distance. At 6’8” and 235 pounds, he has everything you would want on the offensive end from a small forward prospect in the NBA.
However, Parker’s defense is what has many NBA scouts keeping him from the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick right now. Starting with his speed, the major knock is that he is going to have difficulty guarding quicker NBA small forwards. This has some people trying to label him as a tweener forward at times, pointing out that he isn’t a good enough post defender or big enough to guard power forwards.
While it is true his lateral quickness is a concern, when you watch Parker on film it looks as if he can be taught proper defensive positioning to make up for the quickness concerns. Being a high-character kid who is willing to learn, he could be taught to be an above-average defender one day.
On the other side of things is Wiggins, one of the most athletically gifted athletes to come to the NBA in quite some time. Standing 6’8” and 200 pounds, the Kansas freshman is the type of player who makes scouts drool when you watch him on film. He has the explosiveness, the speed and the athleticism that make you think he could develop into the elite class in the NBA one day.
Unfortunately with Wiggins, when he will develop is going to be the question NBA executives need to answer. He is far from the finished product that Parker is on the offensive end, as he struggles to hit jump shots consistently and settles for them too often. Averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds on 44.8 percent shooting, Wiggins’ stat line masks these concerns for those who have not seen him. However, when you go back and watch the film there is just so much left to be desired on the offensive end.
On the defensive end, though, this is where Wiggins stands out. His elite athleticism really shows, as he can guard multiple positions with ease thanks to his speed, tenacity and length. Because of his excellent leaping ability, Wiggins can soar over others for rebounds and causes the redirection of shots—seemingly making the player he is guarding second guess himself at times when settling for a jumper.
Wiggins’ upside reminds me a lot of Paul George when he came into the league. For those who have followed for a while, you know George was a player I always wanted the Cavaliers to acquire if the Pacers were giving up on him because of his slow offensive development. But then in year three, the light switch was flipped and George went from the lanky kid with elite athleticism to the guy who averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Then this past season, George really dominated with 21.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while emerging as one of the best two-way players in the game.
When many of you hear that comparison, you are probably thinking “Paul George, sign me up.” Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple for the Cavaliers front office—which is why the team is also fielding trade offers.
With Kyrie Irving contemplating a contract extension—well not officially yet—the Cavaliers may be considering a different plan of attack with the No. 1 overall pick. Though Parker and Wiggins are both fine pieces now and in the future, the team may be looking for a more immediate impact with the No. 1 pick in the form of acquiring a big-name veteran or a younger veteran who is just scratching the surface of their potential.
These rumors have been thrown around like crazy of late, with Kevin Love being the big-name veteran and the likes of Utah’s Derrick Favors and Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young as the younger veterans just scratching the surface. The difference between the deals is that Love would remove the Cavaliers from the 2014 NBA Draft, while the rumors state the Cavaliers would get the No. 5 pick back from the Jazz or the No. 3 pick back from the 76ers along with one of those young players.
As an organization looking to surround their star point guard with talent, a deal that gets you a budding young veteran and keeps you in the Top 5 of the 2014 NBA Draft may be too difficult to pass up. Favors is believed by many to be on the cusp of being a 20 and 10 (points and rebounds) guy in the NBA, and already plays defense at a high level around the rim—something the Cavaliers desperately need in a power forward/center. Young has the scoring ability and experience to play both the small and power forward positions at the NBA level, and is a solid defender in his own right.
If the Cavaliers have multiple offers like those on the board, they are going to have quite the dilemma come next Thursday. The small forward position has been an absolute need for this team since LeBron James left, so the common sense factor says take Parker or Wiggins and move on. But team building in the NBA is about more than one player, and with a roster that is stocked full of young players who have yet to really prove themselves at the NBA level as of yet, the Cavaliers may not be able to pass on one of those trades.
So what would I do if I were Griffin and the Cavaliers front office? Well, that is a two-part cop-out answer.
If the decision is to not trade the pick, Parker is my guy. He is such a refined scorer already in his young career and that is something the Cavaliers have desperately needed—a wing who can score in a number of ways. Yes, his defense concerns me but you can combat that by having defensive-minded players at the power forward and center position to help protect the rim.
On the other side of things, acquiring a young player and still being able to land a top talent in the Top 3 (Philly deal) or Top 5 (Utah deal) is very enticing. The deal would have been much easier had Embiid not been hurt because the Cavs would have been guaranteed Embiid or Parker at No. 3 after dealing with Philadelphia though.
As of right now, I’m saying draft Parker and let’s go put points on the board. But if the right trade comes around, you cannot be mad at Griffin for maximizing a No. 1 overall selection that nobody in their right mind thought the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to land for the second year in a row.
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