With the 2014 NBA draft just over a week away, teams have essentially solidified their evaluations of the available prospects. While draft-night trades could still shake things up, at this point we have a fairly concrete idea of which teams are leaning toward specific players.
That means that the potential destinations of the "Big Four"—Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum—are becoming clearer. While the draft often provides more hope than concrete results, those four represent prospects who could develop into franchise building blocks and change the complexion of the NBA over the next decade.
Using the latest reports, let's determine which teams are most likely to select these potentially foundational prospects.
Joel Embiid: Cleveland Cavaliers
Embiid has been arguably the draft's most tantalizing prospect. He's unlike any other player available: a 7-footer who potentially has enough athleticism, coordination and polish to turn into a dominant two-way player. Cleveland is leaning toward selecting Embiid with the first pick, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times:
Several NBA officials told me the Cavs have no desire to unload the top pick and have honed in on Joel Embiid.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) June 11, 2014
Embiid's back injury has added a variable to an otherwise spotless equation. Though skeptics may have flashbacks to Greg Oden and Sam Bowie, Embiid's ceiling tops either of those prospects, something that could force Cleveland to ultimately take the plunge on the ex-Jayhawk based on whispers about his recent workouts:
4 what it's worth,just talked 2 a reliable source about Joel Embiid&was told he's free to & has been going 100% full contact in his workouts— Kenny Roda (@TheKennyRoda) June 3, 2014
Embiid's combination of movement, ability, length and aggression makes him a terror at both ends of the court. Anthony Davis is really the only player in the league with a comparable skill set, but even Davis does not have Embiid's offensive ceiling.
The back injury may always haunt Embiid's career, both on draft night and beyond. However, based on all other empirical evidence, there are very few stars in the league, let alone fellow draft prospects, who possess his multifaceted skill set.
Jabari Parker: Philadeplphia 76ers
Parker has garnered top-three consideration ever since his arrival at Duke and has held it throughout the draft process. One of the most polished players in this class, some have compared him to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce, two of the best scorers of the past decade.
Parker's shooting and high basketball IQ would be an immediate boon to the 76ers. Parker's All-Star upside warrants his selection at No. 3 overall.
Former Iowa guard Devyn Marble has trained the Duke forward throughout this draft process. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Charles Gardner, Marble believes that Parker would be a mid-double-digit scorer during his rookie season: "Parker is going to come in and average at the minimum 15 (points), in my opinion. He'll go get you a bucket. Whoever he gets drafted to is definitely going to be able to increase their scoring prowess."
Parker should add a much-needed scoring jolt to the 76ers' lineup. With the potential to develop into a perennial All-Star who challenges for scoring titles, Parker would be an important building block alongside Michael Carter-Williams.
Andrew Wiggins: Milwaukee Bucks
Wiggins has simultaneously tantalized and disappointed throughout his time in the limelight. Despite being the centerpiece of an uber-talented Kansas squad, it still seemed as though observers were disappointed with Wiggins' lone college season.
Nevertheless, Wiggins is one of the most athletically gifted prospects to pass through the draft in years. Consequently, the Bucks should be willing to gamble on his upside with the No. 2 overall pick. ESPN's Chad Ford recently reported that Wiggins would work out for the Bucks:
Correction: Andrew Wiggins will work out for Bucks in Santa Barbara THIS week followed by Sixers next weekend— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 9, 2014
Wiggins does have plenty of work to do before cracking into the regular rotation. While his athleticism should turn him into an ace defender, he has plenty of holes in his offensive game, namely his ball-handling and assertiveness. Indeed, Basketball Insider's Nate Duncan has questioned Wiggins' ability to develop into a team's primary scorer:
My biggest pause with Andrew Wiggins right now is that it is getting hard to imagine him as a dominant scorer.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 4, 2014
Considering the hype that surrounded him before his freshman season at Lawrence, it would be a massive disappointment if Wiggins became anything less than a premier NBA superstar. He certainly has the tools to score from anywhere on the court, and his explosiveness should immediately make him a dynamo in transition.
Of course, Milwaukee would be looking for more than just a situational scorer in selecting Wiggins. Largely bereft of talent, the Bucks desperately need Wiggins to fulfill his potential. He might take a few years, but if Wiggins does reach those lofty expectations, he will certainly be worth the wait.
Dante Exum: Orlando Magic
The Australian man of mystery has gained momentum as the draft has neared. Once considered an enigma with a wide range of possibilities, his draft stock continues to soar.
Exum impressed during the draft combine, illustrating the athleticism and quickness that made him so coveted in the first place. As Sporting News' Sean Deveney relays, international draft scout Fran Fraschilla praised Exum for his breakthrough performance at last July's U19 World Cup tournament:
In that tournament, he was breathtaking at times. At times, he looked like a college freshman, doing dumb things, making turnovers. But when you watch him, it is easy to get enamored with him. He does have an, ‘it,’ factor that can take your breath away. He is capable of making some moves that make you do a double-take.
Exum needs to add strength to his wiry 6'6" frame, but he should become a significant asset for the Magic soon enough. Victor Oladipo and Jameer Nelson are capable of holding the fort in the interim while Exum refines his perimeter shooting.
If he hits his ceiling, Exum could be a terrifying big point guard in the mold of Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. He is already a terrific finisher who wreaks havoc in transition. Early on, the majority of Exum's offensive production will likely come from slashes into the lane.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, though, as Exum could blossom into one of the league's premier point guards. Orlando needs a foundational star to pair with Oladipo, making the Australian teenager a worthy long-term gamble.