The 2014 NBA draft class is absolutely loaded with high-potential players, drastically increasing the chances of seeing more than a few future All-Stars entering the league this offseason. Down the road, we could very well be looking at a group of players like the one that entered the league in 1984 and produced seven All-Stars in the first round alone.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid lead the charge, but the talent doesn't just drop off after the top three prospects. Plenty of prospects are imbued with potential.
But who will realize it first? Which young standout will earn 2014's first All-Star bid?
Jonathan Wasserman, NBA Draft Lead Writer
It's just too tough to pick against Jabari Parker as the first All-Star of the 2014 class. For starters, he's as prepared for the NBA as anyone.
Physically, he's got the 241-pound athletic frame built for contact. Fundamentally, he's arguably the most refined prospect in the field when you take into account his post game, jumper and ability to create his own shot, whether it's at the rim or 23 feet away from it. Mentally, Parker has that blend of high character, basketball IQ and competitiveness that coaches drool over.
And regardless of where he ends up—Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia—he's going to get an immediate opportunity to make plays as a starter.
Parker's best shot at reaching All-Star status early on would be with the Cavaliers. Not only does he fit perfectly into the lineup as a 3 or 4, but there'd be more talent in Cleveland to play off than anywhere else. Plus, the Cavaliers are closer to competing for a playoff spot than the Bucks or 76ers, and there's no doubt playing for a winning team increases a player's All-Star chances.
I think Parker puts up numbers right away, regardless of where he lands. Assuming the minutes are there, I'm pegging him as a 17-point, eight-rebound-per-game rookie. I'd imagine he'll get toasted on defense from time to time, but there's no reason why his offensive skills can't translate right away. Parker is my pick for 2015 Rookie of the Year and the first All-Star from the 2014 draft class.
Daniel O'Brien, NBA Draft Featured Columnist
Can't really argue with the Parker choice. He's best-equipped to do damage as soon as he enters the league, as he's already polished and confident enough to score in a variety of ways.
Even though his lottery peers are exciting and may flourish in the future, he's clearly capable of putting up better stats than them early in his career. And let's face it, gaudy offensive numbers give you a great chance to land on an All-Star team.
Parker can attack opponents in almost any matchup. He will burn 4s on the perimeter and mid-range, and he can create and shoot over wings from any spot on the floor.
The only way Andrew Wiggins would achieve the feat at the same time as or sooner than Parker would be if Parker were unspectacular for about two or three years. That would give Wiggins a chance to cultivate his game and explode onto the All-Star scene alongside him.
Joel Embiid is an interesting case, because he's been widely labeled as the next Hakeem Olajuwon. The NBA would embrace another dominant big man, and fans and coaches alike are yearning for All-Star centers who are better than Roy Hibbert. His development and durability will determine how soon he'll notch double-doubles.
And as much as we'd all love to see Dante Exum shine immediately and earn a spot within his first couple years, both conferences' backcourts are already loaded. He'll be exciting, but he won't beat Parker to the party.
Adam Fromal, National NBA Featured Columnist
As Daniel mentioned, Embiid is most certainly an interesting case. So interesting, in fact, that he's my choice to gain entry to the midseason classic sooner than any of the other expected top picks in this loaded lottery.
It's quite likely that no one makes it as a rookie, even in a class this good, which only aids Embiid, given the astronomical rate of development he showed back in Lawrence.
Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are both more ready to make the leap from the collegiate game to the much tougher ranks of the Association. For that matter, Dante Exum might be as well, though there's no one else I'm even willing to allow entry into this conversation.
However, positions matter in the All-Star Game.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic set to take these top four prospects in some order, they're all going to be competing in the Eastern Conference, which means they'll be competing with a defined set of established players. Technically, there's no longer a distinction between centers and forwards, but fans and coaches alike both want at least one or two true bigs in the game.
Who do you think makes the All-Star Game first?
Embiid won't win Rookie of the Year or be better than either Wiggins or Parker during either of his first two seasons, but by the 2015-16 campaign, he'll have a distinct leg up against the competition simply because of the position he plays. I'd rather take my chances against the relative dearth of quality centers in the East than the loaded forward positions.
The 7-footer from Kansas has the ability to thrive with any of the top teams, simply because he plays a style that can mesh with virtually anyone. He has the talent to thrive as a rim-protecting defender, a versatile stopper or an offensive hub, depending on which skill his coach's system decides to emphasize.
Embiid won't be the best player from this draft class early in his career—he'll earn that status down the road if he stays healthy—but he has the greatest chance of earning the first berth in the All-Star Game.