1. Regardless of where they are ranked, who is your favorite prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft?
Chris Manning, RDE Editor: I love Rodney Hood. He comes into the NBA as a work in progress on defense and kind of one dimensional on offense, but he is a shooter and he should be able to contribute with that skill right way. I think he can get better at defense as well and I think he’s athletic enough to at least become a serviceable NBA defender. He would have fit perfect on the Cavs if they were picking later in the draft, but he’s a really good fit on a team like Minnesota or the Bulls in the mid-teens range.
Trevor Magnotti, RDE Senior Writer: I will give my top answer in the next question, but I’m very fond of K.J. McDaniels. He’s a solid defensive wing who should be able to step in and contribute immediately as a perimeter defender and transition weapon. He was completely miscast as a star player at Clemson, but on a good team as a role player, he could be a major weapon. He should be going in the 18-25 range, where a team like the Grizzlies, Rockets, or Raptors could grab him.
Ian Flickinger, RDE Staff Writer: The easy choice would be Embiid. No player has a higher ceiling than the Cameroonian big man. But my personal favorite? Zack Lavine. I’m a sucker for big point guards, and the UCLA product has incredible size (6’6”, 181-pounds), great ball handling, and can shoot the lights out. Oh, and he has that whole 46-inch vertical that he displayed at the Lakers tryout. He’s a guy who could give you points, rebounds, and assists. Someone in the 12-25 range will take a chance and hope he can put it all together for them.
Marlowe Alter, RDE Staff Writer: I’m a big fan of former Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Rated as a mid-to-late first round pick at midseason, he tore his ACL after 17 games in the midst of a stellar junior season. He’s now slated to go early in round two. At 6’ 6”, Dinwiddie offers valuable size and versatility as he can play either guard spot. He won’t wow you with his athleticism but he’s crafty and understands positioning. Dinwiddie brings a multitude of skills to the floor. He can score (14.7 PPG), pass (3.8 AST), shoot from long range (41.3 percent) and is adept at drawing contact. His 8.9 free throw attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted (the same exact number he posted as a sophomore)ranked fifth, among prospects in Draft Express’ top-100. His smooth, intuitive game reminds me of Andre Miller, except he’s bigger and can shoot.
Zak Kolesar, RDE Staff Writer: My writing has reflected before the Cavaliers even had grasp of the No. 1 pick that Jabari Parker has been one of my favorite high school/collegiate players over the past two years. Since Sports Illustrated started profiling him as an up-and-coming prospect out of Chicago, he has been one of the most talked about and polished prospects to make the one-and-done leap in the past decade. Although most assume that the Cavs will go with the player who has the most room to grow (Andrew Wiggins), I believe that Jabari will fare better or just as well as Wiggins as a 10-year veteran in the League. If I were to put money down, I would bet that Parker sustains a better career than Wiggins in the long term.
2. Which international prospect is your favorite?
CM: Clint Capela. He’s raw and needs to land into the right situation, but he oozes potential as a shot blocker. He’s really lanky as well and the comp (like all comps) is flawed, but I could see him turning into a Larry Sanders-type defensive presence for whomever takes him in the first round. Again, Capela would have been a good fit on the Cavs if they didn’t take the No. 1 pick.
TM: I unabashedly love Clint Capela, who I think is the best rim protecting prospect in the draft. He’s a long, lanky power forward who could blossom into a new-wave center in the NBA, with a lethal combination of finishing at the rim offensively and preventing that from happening defensively. If he can add some bulk, he’ll be a strong run-n-gun center on both ends. He’s an interesting option for the Suns if he’s available at pick 17.
IF: Are we considering Embiid an international guy? I take it his year at Kansas makes him ineligible for this. So I’ll go with Dante Exum, a player that’s now made it OK for the 76ers to start gauging trade interest on ROY winner Michael Carter-Williams (if reports are to be believed, that is). Either way, the guard from down under posses such incredible physical talent (6’6”, 6’10” wingspan!) and reportedly runs faster than the likes of Chris Paul. It’s till relatively unknown and so young, Exum has an aura of mystery surrounding him, which makes for an even more intriguing situation come draft day. I think the Magic gladly select him with the 4th pick.
MA: Dante Exum is fascinating. With all the scouting and media coverage in today’s NBA, Exum live in game action has only been seen by a handful of top-level NBA decision makers. He’s an unknown to most, evident by many folks calling him a shooting guard. At 6’ 6” he’s a point guard oozing talent who consistently gets to the rim with the ability to see the floor and kick to open teammates. He has elite size, length and a lightning quick first step, making him lethal in the open court. It also gives him potential to be a plus-defender. On top of it all, he hasn’t turned 19 yet. If he can improve his shooting, he has as good a chance as any (outside of Embiid) to be a franchise player.
ZK: Dario Saric. He’s a versatile, well-rounded power forward who has the ability to contribute in all facets of the game. He deserves the top-10 status that he has been receiving since mock drafts started to surface for this year’s draft. Although I doubt Saric goes in the top 10 on Thursday, he has the capability to be a producer for any team he gets drafted to right away. Even at 20-years old he doesn’t need the international pampering that NBA prospects like him have had to go through in the past. His game is tailored and NBA ready, so I’m excited to see if and when he sees court time this upcoming season.
3. Which prospect has the greatest likelihood of being the best player in the class ten years from now?
CM: Andrew Wiggins. I would have said Embiid before his injury, but it made Wiggins the clear choice. I think Jabari could be special too, but Wiggins has more room to grow and it’s hard to see him not reaching it. He’s useful in any offensive scheme and projects as an elite-level defender. When he bulks up a little bit, I don’t think it’s impossible that you see Wiggins being able to defend the two, three and some smaller fours. I can’t say that about Parker. He may be offensively advance beyond his years, but he’s got some work to do on the defensive end to even become a average defender. And overall, I think Wiggins has a better chance to catch up to Parker on offense than vice verse.
TM: I think it’s Andrew Wiggins. Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid could both eclipse the impact Wiggins may have, but based on their worst case scenarios, Wiggins is probably the safest bet to be the best. Even if none of these three live up to the hype, Wiggins is basically a lock to be a defensive wizard who can score in transition and off the ball, a very useful player in any system. Jabari Parker could be Carmelo Anthony, or he could be Brian Cook, a scoring stretch four who can’t do much else. Joel Embiid could be the second coming of Hakeem, or he could be sidelined by back issues for his career. Wiggins is probably the safest bet to be the best player in this class.
IF: Greatest likelihood of success has to be Jabari Parker. While his potential to be a transformational star a la LeBron may be in doubt, nobody doubts his ability to perform right now. His ceiling may be the lowest of the “Big 3”, but his floor is also the highest. Betting safely here, I say Parker is a 16-20 point scorer for the rest of his career, which is nothing to scoff at. With Wiggins and Embiid being more potential than performance at this point, Parker is the safest bet for success.
MA: Everyone in this draft has enormous question marks. Can Wiggins improve his ball-handling and finishing skills? Can Exum shoot? Can Parker become an efficient scorer and playmaker and can he play any defense? Joel Embiid is no different with his troubling back and foot injuries. But if he can recover and stay healthy, he’s the best basketball player in this heralded draft and may be the only franchise player to come out of this class. He’s a special player. You just don’t see seven-footers move with the grace and fluidity that Embiid showcases. The Cameroon native improved astronomically during his lone season at Kansas, showing adept footwork and awareness as he became more comfortable in the post. He has an impressive repertoire of moves with his back to the basket, can finish with either hand and showed a soft touch around the rim when he wasn’t emphatically dunking. Embiid also provided glimpses of a mid-range game and is a solid free throw shooter with good form, an added bonus for a player his size. Not to mention his immense potential as a rim-protector. If he can stay healthy, he could develop into the best center in the league, giving his team an advantage inside.
ZK: Like I pointed out earlier, I believe that Parker will be the best player coming out of this draft when we’re looking at the NBA in 10 years. I’m not saying that Embiid or Wiggins won’t be impactful players when we look at the 2014 prospects in a decade or so. Embiid is the most concerning out of this group of three because of his injury concerns. Even though Parker has injured his foot twice in high school, it’s not as concerning of an injury as Embiid’s is going to be because of the positions they play. Remember, Michael Jordan had foot issues early on in his career with the Chicago Bulls, much like Parker has had to deal with over his young basketball career. Although right now Wiggins has the brightest future in terms of injury concerns, Parker’s problems aren’t as big of a concern for the long-term future. Since we’ve seen more of what Parker can offer at the NBA level than Wiggins, that’s why I’m going Jabari.
4. Who’s the biggest gamble of the top prospects?
CM: Embiid. His stress fractures mean he may never have a solid foundation to center himself on and that means he could be a Yao Ming redux. Of course, he could recover and have a productive career like Zydrunas Ilgauskas did after his many foot injuries, but I don’t know if you can predict how he’ll respond to treatment and ultimately recover. His rare skill set still makes him a likely top six pick, but it comes with a major risk
TM: I think Aaron Gordon is a gigantic gamble in terms of the ways he could develop. Gordon is thought of as a power forward, but he has small forward size, and is rail thin. He’s a horrific three point and free throw shooter, and while he’s an outstanding athlete, is still very raw defensively. Even with Embiid’s health risks, we know what he is when he plays; Gordon, on the other hand, could go in any number of directions. Guys like him have a significant risk of not panning out; just ask Derrick Williams, Eddie Griffin, and Tyrus Thomas. Gordon has a lot to prove beyond being a probable lock for a future in the dunk contest to make a top 5, or even top 10, pick a worthy investment.
IF: I think it has to be Exum. Very few scouts have seen him play a legitimate game in person, and he’s still got his flaws: a very shaky jump shot, turnover prone, needs to add weight, etc. Still, he almost literally oozes potential, and is so physically gifted that it’s worth the risk he might not pan out. He’s a major gamble for a team looking for immediate help (like the Bucks). I think he lands no farther than 5, and that’s being cautious. He could go as high as No. 3.
MA: With a talented crop of players at the top of the draft, the team that takes Embiid is swinging for the fences. They are taking the biggest risk in the draft knowing that his injuries could cripple the franchise. If one of the guys chosen after Embiid becomes a star and the big man flames out early, this could become Oden/Durant 2.0. However, with the advances in medicine over the years, Embiid’s prognosis may not look all that bleak. Factor in that he isn’t a lumbering giant like Ming or Ilgauskas and the chances of him making a full recovery may increase.
ZK: Embiid. It’s crazy how the fortunes have turned since Embiid was being talked about as the “can’t miss” player in this year’s draft. Now, after a stress fracture in his foot, which may keep him out four to six months, he may drop out of the top three on Thursday. Since rim-protecting bigs are few and far between in the NBA nowadays, Embiid had a higher value over Parker, Wiggins or Exum before the recent injury concerns, but having back issues during his freshmen campaign at Kansas and the recent concerns with his foot upon working out for teams has to be concerning, and a gamble, if you’re taking him to be the staple center of your franchise for the next decade-plus. There have just been too many examples of failed big men projects because of injuries for a team like the Cavaliers to gamble on him with the No. 1 pick.
5. When it comes down to it, who will the Cavs take No. 1 overall?
CM: Wiggins is the better fit, but I can’t help but think Jabari Parker is going to be the pick. The Cavs, for whatever reason, wanted to win yesterday and Parker probably comes in and has the best impact overall during his first year due to his offensive ability. But it means the Cavs have to juggle the roster to make everyone work. So, again, Wiggins should be the pick logically, but I think it will end up being Parker.
TM: I was fully on board with Embiid before the stress fracture news broke, but that has me very nervous about his long-term health in the NBA. I’d still be okay with Embiid at one, but Wiggins is my top preference now. He fills just as many needs as Embiid does, and is a guarantee to have a bigger impact on the Cavs than Embiid, and should have more positive impact than Parker. Wiggins would be ideal.
IF: Well, before news broke (maybe a bad choice of words) that Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his foot somewhere along the way, I had the Cavs locked in on the big fella. But with the aforementioned news coming to light, mixed with the need to have a successful pick after the Anthony Bennett fiasco of 2013, all signs point to…? I still don’t know. Word is Exum is in for a visit, which may be a smokescreen to help keep the trade calls pouring in. If I have to choose, I’ll say they select Andrew Wiggins now, ruining the entire draft for the 76ers organization.
MA: With the mandate from owner Dan Gilbert to make the playoffs next year, I don’t think Cleveland can take Embiid, who will likely miss at least half of the season. If they keep the pick, I think it comes down to Wiggins or Parker. With reports of Parker tanking his workout with the Cavs last week, that may leave a distaste in the mouths of Gilbert and GM David Griffin. Ultimately, I think they stick to their guns and select Parker who they’ve been reported to have liked all season long. The Cavs defense would be one of the worst in the league but Parker is probably the favorite to win Rookie of the Year and gives them an immediate wing scorer to complement Irving.
ZK: The Cavs need to win now, and I think either Parker or Wiggins are the only two players in this draft that will be able to help the Cavaliers achieve that goal. As unpredictable as Cleveland has been in recent drafts, I think they go with the obvious choice here and pick Wiggins. Wiggins is a better defender — and has more room to improve on his defensive skills — and that makes him a more obvious choice than Parker for Cleveland. I think it’s about a 70/30 shot that the Cavs go with Wiggins.