Commentary: The Rich Possibilities of the NBA Draft

Struggling franchises weigh how talent like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker fit into their long-term plans.

Posted: 06/25/2014 11:48 AM EDT
Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker

You won’t see a suspect talent like Anthony Bennett go No. 1 overall Thursday night in the 2014 NBA Draft. The candidates for that historic selection are blue chips all the way.

Three talents stand slightly above the rest of the pack. Actually, two names stand the best chance of going first overall: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

They have stepped to the front of the pack because 7-foot, 250-pound Joel Embiid has been free falling in minds of team officials, although not because Embiid lacks skills. For he is as intriguing a big man to come along since, oh, Hakeem Olajuwon.

But what has been frightening teams about Embiid is he looks a bit like Greg Oden, a No. 1 overall pick whose brittle body has made him one of the biggest busts in draft history.

Let’s not dwell on who won’t be an immediate difference-maker; instead, let’s talk about two or three players in the draft who should.

The have-nots of the NBA have an embarrassment of riches to pick through in this talent pool, and you could see more teams the good and the bad shift around talent to move up the draft board. No one should expect anything but a blockbuster deal to get a team to give up its No. 1 or No. 2 slot.

For in Wiggins and Parker, you have superstars in the making. They are the next wave of athletes who one-and-done their way to the top of the draft chart. They are byproducts of strong traveling teams in high school and of top-shelf coaching in the college ranks.

The NBA Draft isn’t necessarily about what player can leap from college and straight to the All-NBA Team as a rookie. It’s about making a wise choice for the long pull.

At its essence, the draft is like shooting craps in Vegas: A team is betting on what is to come.

What’s to come in drafting Wiggins and Parker are players who can remake a team’s roster overnight. Both players are talents that a mess of a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers (or the Milwaukee Bucks) can build their futures on.

The consensus, now that Embiid isn’t a prospect for No. 1 overall, is Wiggins will go first, and if the Cavaliers used the pick on Wiggins, they will land a talent who will complement an earlier No. 1 overall pick.

No, not LeBron James, but Kyrie Irving.

He and Wiggins could team to give the Cavs a one-two punch that resembles what the Oklahoma City Thunder have assembled in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, two All-Stars who have kept the Thunder among the elite teams in the league.

The NBA draft is about turning the dredges of the league into contenders, and a lousy use of a No. 1 pick can retard a team’s development in serious ways. You don’t build rosters around No. 1's named B.J. Mullens, Josh Selby or Bennett.

The Cavs proved as much last June when they picked Bennett, who looks like a career bench warmer. The Portland Trailblazers did as well when they took Oden at No. 1.

Do you think Portland would like to revisit that 2007 draft and select Durant rather than Oden?

The value of a mistake is measured in the millions. Miss with a No. 1 pick, and you cost a franchise success at the box office and in the NBA standings. That’s too high a price to pay.

Even the chronically inept in the draft can’t really miss this year not if they do their diligence. From Wiggins, Parker and Dante Exum, whom one GM compared to Kobe Bryant, the talent pool is deep.

Who wouldn’t want to add a Kobe to its roster?

It beats having to look up and down the bench and seeing a No. 1 overall pick like Bennett or Oden. Or seeing Embiid sitting on the bench in street clothes.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photos from left: Rich Barnes/Getty Images, Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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