For those NBA franchises unable to make their way into this year's playoffs, they can take comfort in knowing the NBA draft is loaded with potential stars ripe for the picking. No playoffs means the lottery-bound coaches, general managers and fans can look forward to the prospects with the potential to turn their fortunes around.
The 2014 draft is notable for its top-heavy class, with players who established their credentials long before they set foot on an NCAA court proving over the course of the season that they are worthy of a top pick.
The draw for the draft order has yet to take place, but the teams in need of the most help can look at the top prospects and find a spot for them on their roster. Positioning doesn't matter so much when you need talent to get out of the basement of the NBA.
Let's take a look at the latest predictions and insight on the top prospects in the NBA draft.
Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
Chad Ford of ESPN.com still has Wiggins at the top of his big board.
In the article (subscription required), Ford writes that the teams most likely to end up with the No. 1 pick are leaning toward Wiggins:
I've been speaking to sources inside each of these teams for months, and it looks like a majority of them -- especially the three teams with the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick (the Bucks, Sixers and Magic) -- are leaning toward Wiggins right now.
Wiggins averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists during his tenure at Kansas. His line is excellent, although he did have a tendency to disappear in big games during the season.
He managed just three points and two rebounds against a then-No. 9 Oklahoma State, and failed to make an impact against Stanford in the NCAA tournament, with just four points and four rebounds in what would be his final college appearance.
Wiggins is still likely to go first in the draft considering his athleticism and potential. That would make him the second consecutive Canadian to go first overall in the NBA draft, thanks to the surprising selection of Anthony Bennett last season.
Wiggins and Giannis Antetokounmpo would make a fearsome pairing for the Milwaukee Bucks should they get the first selection. Both feature wingspans over 7 feet, and could be a nightmare for opposing ball-handlers on trap defenses.
He would also be a force for the Philadelphia 76ers with their high-octane style of play, not to mention providing much needed help on the defensive end.
Prediction: Wiggins goes first overall
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated has Embiid going second to the Philadelphia 76ers in his first mock draft. Embiid has the potential to become a dominant two-way center in the NBA. He played just over 23 minutes a game for Kansas, but was able to make quite the impact in somewhat limited time. He averaged 14.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes (via sports-reference.com).
His back injury that cost him the last six games of his NCAA career highlighted his importance to Kansas' defensive game plan, as they struggled to contain slashers and were bounced from the NCAA tournament in the round of 32 by Stanford. It's the injury itself, not the missed games, that could have the biggest impact on his draft stock.
Embiid's situation becomes tough to predict if Wiggins goes first and the 76ers grab the second pick. They already have their potential centerpiece in Nerlens Noel, who they have yet to see in action due to his ACL tear.
Noel's injury might have contributed to his slide to sixth overall in the 2013 draft, when many considered him the top pick. The 76ers would be unlikely to take a center with injury problems two years in a row. Embiid's lingering back issue will cause him to drop behind Parker and Wiggins, but it would be an absolute shock to see him fall further than third.
Prediction: Embiid goes third overall
Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker did nothing to hurt his draft stock in his singular season at Duke. He averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds as a Blue Devil. His showed a knack for creating shots outside, and was able to knock down the occasional three-pointer, going 35.8 percent from distance during the season.
According to Jeff Goodman on ESPN Insider (subscription required), a poll of 30 NBA executives showed that more would rather take Parker than Wiggins with the top overall pick.
His 27-point, nine-rebound performance against Kansas might have been the game that cemented him as an offensive force and a top draft pick.
Dick Vitale of ESPN shouts, er, writes that Parker would be his top choice in the draft:
Parker has the whole package; he can handle the ball, rebound and defend and is strong physically. He improved defensively, and now the question is can he endure an 82-game season plus the playoffs? If I had the No. 1 pick, I would go with Parker. He is the real deal in every way possible.
The big knock on Parker is his defense, which led to him riding the pine late in close games last season. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal commented on the issue.
Considering Wiggins acquitted himself well on this end of the floor, the team with the top pick takes the two-way player and Parker is left to wait for the next team on the clock.
Prediction: Parker goes second overall