With the Philadelphia 76ers making a late run at the Milwaukee Bucks for the NBA's worst record and college basketball heading toward March Madness, it is time to start cranking up thoughts of the 2014 draft.
Sure, the draft may not be until late June, but we've seen enough of the college season to have a good feel for which prospects teams will be drooling over the most.
This year's draft figures to be interesting. The draft is loaded with talent, and there are three players at the top of the board who all command consideration for being the No. 1 overall selection. This is assuming they declare for the draft.
They are Duke's Jabari Parker and Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Here is how I rank these three in terms of their chances of going No. 1.
Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
At 6'8" and 235 pounds, Parker has an NBA-ready body. He also has an NBA-ready game.
Sporting News' Sean Deveney caught up with NBA star Grant Hill to get Hill's take on Parker. Hill:
But he is as close to being an NBA prospect right now as you’re going to find in college. He is the real deal. He is talented, he is a good person. The thing that impressed me is the way he uses his size and strength—he is NBA-ready, physically. He is a special player and I think he will be a great NBA player.
Parker is averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 assists for Duke in his freshman season. He is shooting 47.9 percent from the floor and 37 percent on three-pointers. He will need to continue to work on his outside shooting, but he has the range to be an outside threat in the NBA.
Parker will draw comparisons to NBA star Carmelo Anthony. He doesn't rely on amazing athleticism as much as a smooth offensive game and a reliable shooting stroke.
Also, like Anthony coming out of college, Parker could stand to increase his conditioning.
When Duke and Kansas played head-to-head, Parker had 19 points in the first half and eight in the second. Meanwhile, Wiggins had six points in the first half and 16 in the second, as he led Kansas to the win.
Better conditioning for Wiggins is undoubtedly a big factor in those numbers.
In the end, I don't believe Parker's ceiling is as high as those of the next two players, and that will keep him from going No. 1.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
With an unpolished offensive game, Wiggins has had an inconsistent freshman year at Kansas. He's had four games this season where he's failed to tally double digits in points despite playing at least 23 minutes in each of those contests. He's also had 10 games this season where he's shot less than 35 percent from the field.
His numbers don't compare to Parker's. He's averaging 16.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Still, Andrew Wiggins was the talk of college basketball this past offseason because of his insane athleticism, and he's shown that on the college courts night in and night out.
Wiggins is 6'8" and 200 pounds, and he has room to add more bulk to his frame. He can jump out of the gym and torch defenders with his first step.
His body and athleticism make him comparable to Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. Wiggins also has the tenacious defense to warrant that comparison.
Although, he needs refinement in that area as well, which his college coach Bill Self acknowledge in the following quote captured by Kansas Gameday:
As long as Wiggins can continue to develop, he will be a two-way monster in the NBA.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Let me just clear something up: I don't think Joel Embiid should be the No. 1 overall pick, but I think he will be the No. 1 pick.
That is because he is 7'0" and can run without falling over. Well, he can do much more than that. It just seems that that is all it takes for a player to get drafted over can't-miss talents.
It helped Greg Oden get selected ahead of Kevin Durant, Darko Milicic get selected ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Sam Bowie get selected ahead of Michael Jordan.
As you may recall, Oden and Bowie both had injury concerns coming out of college, which is why I don't expect the news passed along by Eye on College BBall to hurt his draft stock:
Now, only one of those three was actually the first player taken (Oden), but Embiid has the kind of college production that will boost him to that No. 1 spot.
Also, Milicic was selected behind LeBron James, and as good as Parker and Wiggins are, they do not have the kind of complete game that James flashed. Also, the year Jordan went third, big man Hakeem Olajuwon went first.
Embiid is averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game this season. Those are not monstrous numbers, but considering this Cameroon native just started playing basketball three years ago, it is an impressive accomplishment against tough competition.
Embiid has long arms and quick feet. He will be a serious threat on the defensive end. He also has nice touch for his size, and with a few post moves, he can be dominant on the offensive end.
This is going to make it very hard for any team to pass on him, and I don't think any team will.