Should Cavaliers Build Their Offseason Around Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins?

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 9, 2014

Feb 22, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid (21) and guard Andrew Wiggins (22) speak with media after the game against the Texas Longhorns at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 85-54. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It appears the Cleveland Cavaliers are still debating who to select first overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

While Jabari Parker is still very much in the running, the pick will likely come down to either Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins.

Both certainly can make their case to go No. 1, and each would fill a major area of need for the Cavs. Embiid is a shot-blocking center who is also a gifted rebounder and scorer. Wiggins is the athletic small forward Cleveland has craved for years who can score and defend at a high level.

Whoever they take, the Cavaliers will still have to fill the other position (center or small forward) either through free agency or trade.

Here's how the chips would fall should Cleveland go down either path and who it should ultimately draft first overall.

Option 1: Draft Embiid

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Let's say Cleveland decides it wants Embiid, who arguably has the most upside of anyone in the draft.

General manager David Griffin would really like a rim-protecting big since the Cavs were next to last in blocked shots a season ago (3.7 per game, via

Drafting Embiid would give them their franchise center, a role Anderson Varejao never quite lived up to and one Tyler Zeller isn't ready for. Varejao could comfortably play out the remaining year of his contract, saving Embiid and his questionable back from playing big minutes right away.

Embiid's biggest weakness right now isn't his offense, defense or conditioning, but rather his lack of experience.

Having turned 20 in March, Embiid didn't start playing organized basketball until he was 16 years old. The strides he's made in just three and a half years are nothing short of amazing. While his high school footage shows a lanky, flailing dunker and shot-blocker, Embiid's post game and defensive footwork really began to shine through while at Kansas.

Should Cleveland take Embiid and fulfill the center spot, that still leaves a giant hole on the wing.

Small forward options with Embiid

The Cavs first have to make a decision on Luol Deng, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Would he be welcome back? Absolutely, but at the right price, of course.

Deng is a great teammate, veteran and locker room presence. That being said, he's also nearing 30, was dinged up most of the year and never truly fit in with the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers have to decide how much Deng is worth to re-sign.
The Cavaliers have to decide how much Deng is worth to re-sign.USA TODAY Sports

Now, part of that could be because Mike Brown did an awful job of utilizing Deng and also because he had to abruptly switch teams and cities in the middle of the season.

Taking a summer to rest up and get in good playing shape, and working with a head coach who knows how to maximize his talents, would be key. The Cavs need to have a year and dollar amount in mind to offer Deng. They shouldn't overpay to keep him, not with some other attractive options out there.

One knock on Deng is his poor outside shooting (32.9 percent lifetime from three). With drive-and-kick guards like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cavs need a small forward capable of knocking down the three ball.

Looking at the free-agent market, a few names pop up.

Trevor Ariza of the Washington Wizards would be nice. He just helped take one lottery team with a young backcourt to the playoffs; why not do it again? Ariza is 28 and coming off a 14.4 point, 6.2 rebound-a-game season while shooting 40.7 percent from deep.

Gordon Hayward is a restricted free agent with the Utah Jazz who can play either wing position. A career 36.5 percent shooter from three, Hayward proved last season that he can handle the ball and create plays for others as well.

If Cleveland drafts Embiid, we could see a signing of Deng, Ariza or Hayward to follow.

Option 2: Draft Wiggins

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 13:  Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives upcourt as Marcus Smart #33 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys defends during the Big 12 Basketball Tournament quarterfinal game at Sprint Center on March 13, 2014 in Kansas City, Mi
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If the Cavaliers have hesitations about Embiid's back or simply prefer to fill their small forward spot through the draft, Wiggins could be the pick.

Although he didn't live up to the insane hype that surrounded him coming out of high school, Wiggins still had an outstanding freshman year.

Athleticism is the first thing that jumps out. Whether it's the insane 44-inch vertical or the 20 mph cruising speed, Wiggins can cover all areas of the court very quickly.

The Cavs' current depth chart at small forward is pretty much nonexistent. Deng will be a free agent, Alonzo Gee has a team option and Carrick Felix played a total of 38 minutes all last season.

Wiggins could step in and take the starting job immediately without Cleveland having to worry about overpaying Deng to come back.

Plus, Wiggins can do stuff like this:

Center options with Wiggins

As previously mentioned, the Cavs do have Varejao and Zeller under contract for next season.

While that's a nice start, Varejao's injury history definitely calls for some insurance at the position.

The first choice would be to bring back Spencer Hawes. Unlike Deng, Hawes fit in well with the team after his trade to Cleveland, helping jump-start a stagnant offensive attack.

He's a great pick-and-pop option for Irving and Waiters to use, and Hawes' 44.8 percent shooting from three led the Cavaliers.

Another free-agent option would be Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe. While he played both post positions for Detroit this past season, Monroe's been much better at center. The 24-year-old had a net PER of -2.9 per 48 minutes while at power forward compared to +3.4 while at center, via

Apr 16, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA;  Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sport

The main problem with Monroe is, like Hayward with the Jazz, he's a restricted free agent.

If the Cavs want to pursue a center without worrying about a team matching the deal, then Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards and Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Lakers would be the best available.

After that, names like Jermaine O'Neal, Emeka Okafor, Greg Oden and Chris Andersen float to the top of the list.

Scary, huh?

So, Embiid or Wiggins?

Although both would look great in wine and gold, the Cavaliers' best choice would have to be Embiid.

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Back issues aside, he's just too good not to take. In three years we could see Embiid knocking down long jumpers, dream-shaking opponents and averaging three to four blocks while regularly controlling the paint on both ends.

For players like Irving and Waiters, having a big man capable of creating his own offense and drawing double-teams would be incredibly beneficial for their games. Embiid would garner plenty of attention on the low block and could kick out to either guard as they spot up for three or sneak down the lane.

Cleveland desperately needs a shot-blocker, something it hasn't had since Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 2009-10. With his 7'1" height and 7'5" wingspan, Embiid would finally put some fear into opponents as they drive the lane.

Not only do I believe Embiid to be the better pro prospect, but there is a much deeper group of small forwards on the free-agent market than there are centers. Cleveland's best plan would be to draft Embiid and then try to sign Ariza, Hayward or possibly even Deng to fill the wing spot.

Embiid, if healthy, is going to be a monster in the NBA one day.

The Cavs need to make sure he becomes one in Cleveland.


All stats provided by unless otherwise noted.


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