Zak Kolesar – Jabari Parker
The NBA blogosphere, especially those on the Cleveland side of things, are raving about how the Cavs have a second chance to redeem themselves after last year’s selection of Anthony Bennett at No. 1 (Having the No. 1 pick this offseason will take a lot of pressure off of Bennett’s shoulders). But, out of the three top prospects in this year’s draft class, Cleveland could still drop the ball after they bounced in its favor the night of the lottery. For me, the obvious choice is to go with a hole that has reached supernova levels ever since LeBron skipped town. Still unsolved, the gap will only widen if the Cavs don’t decide to go with a small forward project. Drafting Joel Embiid would be just another mistake in Cavs draft history.
Although not known as physical defenders, a growing Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes proved last season that a knowledgeable and not always physical center can open up multiple opportunities for Cleveland’s maturing backcourt. The outside game from the aforementioned bigs improved the flow of the offense by tenfold as the season reached its end. Buy players like Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark and the aging Luol Deng have proven that the Cavs will never get over the hump as a run of the mill team without a dominant outside shooter starting at the three. Although it’s as close as a coin flip for me right now, Chicago and Duke product Jabari Parker best fits that mold despite Parker’s struggles from outside near the end of this past collegiate season. (Entering conference play, Parker went 13 games without making a three over the final 21 games).
But, being the most polished and NBA-ready player out of the 2014 draft crop, Cleveland would be passing up the most perfect opportunity by not adding Parker to the Irving/Waiters-led arsenal. Shooters like Parker, especially at small forward, are few and far between in the NBA. (Either teams already have a tight grasp on protégé threes, have a superstar like LeBron or Kevin Durant or are still searching for theirs). The Cavs will have nothing close to its options at small forward come their second pick (33rd) in the second round. But guys like Mitch McGary and a crop of international bigs could/would be available when the Cavs appear on the board for the second time on June 26. The Cavs won’t have another opportunity to snag a small forward prospect like Parker in the unforeseeable future, so the time to act is now. Please, no more free agency signings like Clark to fill a starting three role. The buck stops here, and letting Parker fall into the hands of the Bucks will be a mistake the Cavs will regret for some time
Mike Schreiner – Andrew Wiggins
Deciding who the Cavaliers should take with the first overall pick has not been an easy decision for me. Each of the three players being strongly considered has strong pros and cons that you have to look at when considering them for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jabari Parker is an NBA-ready scorer who will probably average over twenty points per game in the league for a long time, but can he guard anyone? Andrew Wiggins is an amazing athlete who should quickly become a lockdown defender and solid offensive player, but his skills need a lot of sharpening and he seems to lack the killer instinct that great players have. Joel Embiid is a true center who is gifted on both offense and defense and has had an amazing learning curve in his short time playing the game, but he is still very raw and the concerns about his back are well documented. Any of these players would be a tremendous addition to the Cavaliers, but at the end of the day I think they will take Joel Embiid as long as his back checks out. Wiggins and Parker seem to have the potential to be multiple time All-Stars, but Embiid looks like a potential franchise-changer. If Embiid’s back doesn’t check out, I think the Cavaliers go with Wiggins. As much as people talk about Parker being more ready than Wiggins, that’s only true on offense. I would rather have a great defender who should be a very good offensive player (ala Paul George) than a great offensive player who plays absolutely no defense (think Carmelo Anthony).
Marlowe Alter – Andrew Wiggins
I’m not gambling on a 20-year old big man who’s already sustained two serious stress fractures. However, I am willing to gamble on Andrew Wiggins. He’s already a quality versatile defender with a chance to be one of the top wing defenders in the league due to his lethal combination of size, lateral speed, athleticism and a stunningly quick second jump. Offensively, he has plenty of work to do. His jump shot isn’t far off (he had a higher True Shooting Percentage than Jabari Parker last season) and improved in conference play. I think he will progress into an above average shooter.
Wiggins’ biggest flaw is his poor ball-handling skills, which led to him disappearing too many times at Kansas because he could not consistently create in the half court. His perceived ‘lack of a killer instinct’ was due to his struggles with putting the ball on the floor in traffic. Thus, he has a rep for being too passive. Remember, he’s only 19. . The Cavaliers need to take the guy who will be best player in five years, not in two years. It won’t be easy but if Wiggins can improve his handles, he has the raw talent to be great on both ends of the floor, something I can’t say about Parker.
Hiroki Witt – Joel Embiid
The Cavs’ biggest needs are either a big man or a small forward, so they really hit paydirt getting the first overall pick. With the pick, I, like many Cavs’ fans, would be happy if they drafted any of the top three prospects (Embiid, Wiggins, Parker). Of the three, I would like Parker the least; I think he will be an extremely successful scorer and have a great career, however his defensive issues and occasional shot selection problems make him the least attractive of the three (of course, I’m being very picky considering the level these guys are on). Between Wiggins and Embiid, I love them both, but getting a game-changing talent at center is very rare; a big guy with a ceiling as high as Embiid is too good to pass up. Alonzo Gee doesn’t cut it at small forward, but guys like Trevor Ariza are available in free agency, and can be fetched at a much lower price than center like Pau Gasol. You can win the NBA championship without a big man, but not every team has LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. Getting Embiid would set the foundation of this team and net them a valuable piece that they may never have the chance to get again.
*Made pick pre Embiid’s foot injury.
Kevin Stankiewcz – Jabari Parker
The Cleveland Cavaliers cannot afford to take another risk with the no. 1 pick this year. They took a risk last year when they selected UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and he ended up having one of the worst seasons from a top pick in recent history. The player in this year’s draft that most consider a sure-thing success is the forward from Duke, Jabari Parker. His name should be the first one read by Adam Silver on June 26th.
Parker stands 6’8’’ and 241 pounds. His primary position is small forward, which is a glaring hole in the Cavaliers’ roster. Parker will immediately plug that hole and contribute right away. He averaged 19.1 PPG for Duke during his lone season and he will still be able to score at the next level. Due to his frame, Parker can even play with his back to the basket, although his face up game is his strong suit. The only real knock scouts have against Parker is they don’t feel he has elite athleticism and they feel like he does not have as high of a ceiling as Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. But of those other two players, Parker probably has the highest floor. He might never be the best player in the league at his position but I expect him to be very good. The Cavs don’t need the five best players on the floor, but they do need five players who play the best together. Parker would fill a hole that the Cavaliers have and because of his ability to play team basketball, he would complement the pieces already in place and make the Cavs a better basketball team immediately.