In two out of the past three NBA Drafts, the Cleveland Cavaliers have beat the odds and won the lottery. This year, with just a 1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, odds are the Cavaliers won’t be picking first again. But if they do, whom would they take? Three RDE writers, who picked their player at random, will try to answer that question. In the second of three pieces, RDE’s Mike Schreiner argues why Andrew Wiggins would be the right pick for the Cavaliers at number one. You can read RDE editor Chris Manning argue in favor of Jabari Parker here.
Fit. Remember that word. As I write this, there seems to be three clear choices for the Cleveland Cavaliers if they are lucky enough to win the top spot in the NBA Draft for the third time in four years; Duke Freshman Jabari Parker, and Kansas Freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. While all three young men are talented players with bright futures ahead of them, Andrew Wiggins is not only the best fit for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but they are the best fit for him as well.
Let’s look at position first. Many people consider both Wiggins and Parker to be small forwards, and with the likely departure of Luol Deng, this is once again a position of need for the Cavaliers. While both men can be labeled small forwards, however, that is where the positional comparison ends. Due to Parker’s defensive deficiencies, scouts and analysts are divided on whether he is a small forward or power forward on the next level. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN once said “if you have ask whether he’s a small forward or a power forward, he’s a power forward.” Given the history of similar “tweener” forwards such as Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, Anthony Bennett, and even Carmelo Anthony, it’s hard to envision Parker being even an average defender at the small forward position. Meanwhile the Cavaliers have both depth at power forward and the need for a strong defender at the small forward position.
Meanwhile Wiggins is seen as being able to play both small forward and shooting guard and a likely lock-down defender at either spot. In the current NBA, there is very little difference between these two positions. Therefore Wiggins should be able to play both wing positions, where the Cavaliers have very little proven depth.When viewed from this perspective, Wiggins fills a positional need for the Cavaliers while Parker (although almost definitely an upgrade over Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett) does not. This brings us to Wiggins vs. Embiid, who does fill a position of need as a true rim-protecting center.
There’s no doubt that Embiid is a terrific prospect. He has a chance to be an elite two-way center as his body and game develop with age and experience. Unfortunately, Embiid does have some health concerns after sitting out the last two games of the regular season and the entire postseason with a back issue. It seems that more often than not, big men with any sort of injury history in college tend to continue to be hurt often at the NBA level. Meanwhile Wiggins didn’t’ miss a game at Kansas. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal, talk to Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. A back may not seem like as big of an issue as a knee, but it most definitely is. The last thing the Cavaliers need is another injury prone center, even if he is supremely talented, so keep an eye on Embiid’s medical tests at the draft combine.
Finally, there are the ways Wiggins and the Cavaliers fit each other. The Cavaliers need a small forward? Wiggins can play the position, as outlined above. They need that player to be a strong defender? Defense may be his biggest strength. Wiggins doesn’t seem comfortable being “the man” for a team at this point in his growth? Kyrie Irving, and to a much lesser extent Dion Waiters, can take at least some of that pressure off of him. Wiggins has also shown potential to be a solid shooter, which the Cavaliers also have a great need for. His need to have others run the offense works perfectly in Cleveland.
If the Cavaliers win the lottery and decided to draft Andrew Wiggins, they get arguable the most talented player in the draft and a great defender who also just happens to play a position of need. Some draft experts believe in taking the best player regardless of position, others believe in drafting based on need. By drafting Andrew Wiggins, the Cavaliers may be able to do both. If Andrew Wiggins is drafted by the Cavaliers, he gets to start right away and become a core piece without the expectation that he will carry the offense, giving him time to develop. Sounds like the perfect situation for both the team and player.