Coming into the lottery, it seemed likely the Cavs would be picking somewhere around ninth overall and would have some serious scouting to do. Now at No. 1, there's really only three names to consider.
Jabari Parker from Duke and Kansas teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are the only players worth drafting first overall. All three carry ridiculous upside and play positions of need for Cleveland. For general manager David Griffin, it's like picking between ice cream with Oreos, Reese's or M&M's. He really can't go wrong.
While they obviously haven't decided on a player to draft yet, a report from ESPN.com said that Cleveland is leaning towards Embiid, the lone center of the group.
While we're still weeks away from the actual draft, here's how the Cavaliers' big board should look:
3. Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
There's a lot to like about Parker. In most other drafts, he'd be a clear-cut No. 1 choice.
One of the best and most versatile scorers in the country, Parker dropped 19.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent from deep in his freshman season.
His game has drawn comparisons to that of Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce since he can shoot the three ball, hit the mid-range shot and post up smaller players.
Parker appeared to be very coachable while at Duke and doesn't carry a superstar ego that's plagued so many star athletes before him.
"Jabari's a treasure," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in an interview with CBS News. "He's a treasure to the game. He's pure."
While Parker would form a tremendous one-two scoring punch with fellow former Blue Devil Kyrie Irving, there's a reason he should rank third on the Cavs' draft board.
First is his defense. Parker struggled on the defensive end in college, and the Cavs ranked just 19th in defensive rating. If they plug Parker into the starting small forward role, they'll need him to make a big jump on D very quickly.
His position could also be an issue, as Parker is a 6'8", 241-pound combo forward. Cleveland is already stocked at power forward with Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Anderson Varejao. What they need is a true small forward that can step in and fill the position for the next 10 years. Parker may be better suited for a power forward role in the pros, just like the one Anthony has been shifting towards with the New York Knicks the past few years.
Would Parker be a welcome addition in Cleveland? Absolutely, but he should still be their third choice right now.
2. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Cavs' biggest need isn't necessarily center, especially if they re-sign Spencer Hawes, but a big man like Embiid might be too good to pass up.
Physically, Embiid has everything you want from a center. He's 7' tall with a 7'5" wingspan. At 240 pounds, he can push post players around while still remaining mobile enough to run the court. His frame looks like it could add muscle, key for the 20-year-old while entering the NBA.
In 28 games at Kansas, Embiid put up 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in just 23.1 minutes. He's already got an array of post moves and has drawn Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons for his footwork despite having only played organized basketball for the past four years. Embiid actually grew up playing soccer in Cameroon instead of basketball. Another player to take a similar soccer-before-basketball career path? Olajuwon himself.
Embiid may take longer to fully develop than Wiggins or Parker, but he may carry the most upside as well. From the first time he steps on an NBA court, Embiid will already be a defensive force with his height and wingspan. He finished his freshman season ranked first in the Big 12 in defensive rating (90.9), first in rebound percentage (20.5) and second in block percentage (11.7), via sports-reference.com. Cleveland ranked next to last in the league in blocked shots last season with just 3.7 per game (via ESPN.com).
Center is a position in need of a long-term solution for the Cavs. Anderson Varejao is still a terrific rebounder and energy provider, but he is entering the last year of his contract. Hawes is an unrestricted free agent, and Tyler Zeller is probably best as a second-string big.
Drafting a center over a talented small forward may stir up bad memories of the 2007 Greg Oden-Kevin Durant draft class. Embiid, like Oden, suffered some injuries during his lone college season that will definitely be taken into consideration during the evaluation process.
Embiid would be another immediate starter in Cleveland but still shouldn't be at the top of the Cavs' draft board.
1. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
If we're talking fit for the current Cavaliers roster, then Wiggins is the perfect match.
He's a natural NBA small forward with a 6'8" frame and 7' wingspan. Wiggins' ridiculous 44" vertical jump certainly isn't going to hurt his chances of going first overall, either.
A wing of Irving, Dion Waiters and Wiggins wouldn't have any problems generating offense, as all can space the floor and knock down the outside shot. Luol Deng filled in OK after his trade from the Chicago Bulls but wasn't the strong outside shooter the Cavs need at small forward.
While he didn't quite live up to LeBron James-like expectations, Wiggins does model a slightly shorter, less talented version of Kevin Durant. He's a phenomenal athlete who can score from multiple areas of the court. Wiggins' 17.1 points per game was good for sixth in the Big 12 this past season.
The newest Cleveland Brown, quarterback Johnny Manziel, also seems to be a fan of the Cavs drafting Wiggins. If that's not reason enough to do so, I don't know what is.
The main reason I list Wiggins over Parker is his defense. Wiggins is approximately 40 pounds lighter than Parker and noticeably quicker on the court. While Parker is viewed more as a combo forward, Wiggins is a true small forward who could also step out and defend shooting guards. Wiggins collected 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game this season.
Don't be surprised if Parker and Embiid have better rookie seasons than Wiggins. Embiid will at least be a quality defender off the bat, and Parker has the more NBA-ready body.
Looking over the next three, five or 10 years however, Wiggins should be the best of the group due to his overall game.
If the Cavaliers want to take the draft's best player and safest choice while filling their biggest position of need, Wiggins should be the choice.
College stats provided by sports-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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