When considering every Big Three member from the 2014 draft class, the Cleveland Cavaliers should use a variety of evaluation methods before making their selection.
One of these methods should be determining how each player would complement their All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving.
While Irving certainly isn't the end-all, be-all factor when deciding on which player to draft—especially before he's signed to an extension—the way he would mesh with the incoming No. 1 pick should be taken into account.
With Cleveland still mulling over Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid for the first selection in the June 26 draft, here's how each would impact Irving on both ends of the floor.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Cleveland, despite having a roster filled with young, athletic players, finished just 19th in the league in pace of play this past season. If the Cavaliers wish to run a faster offense, then Wiggins would be the best of the bunch to pair with Irving.
An incredible athlete who excels in the open floor, Wiggins has 20 mph speed and jaw-dropping 8'0" strides, according to ESPN's Sports Science, which make him an ideal fast-break partner. Irving's quickness and ball-handling skills would pair beautifully with Wiggins' athletic ability in any free-roaming or fast-break offense.
The Cavaliers could also use a floor-spacer and need their next small forward to be a strong shooter from the outside due to Irving's drive-and-kick ability. Cleveland ranked just 18th in the league in three-point percentage (35.6 percent) in 2013-14, per ESPN.com.
Right now, Wiggins is an OK three-point shooter with the ability to get better, notes DraftExpress:
As a shooter, Wiggins is somewhat of a mixed bag. His mechanics are very good and he's a capable shooter with both his feet set or off the dribble, even if the results are inconsistent at this point—as he converted just 34% of his 3-point attempts on the year. His shot-selection leave something to be desired at times, he has a tendency for settling for long contested jumpers, but should be able to develop into a very solid outside shooter in time as long as he puts the work in.
While giving Irving an athlete on the wing would be great, Wiggins' outside shooting would need to continue to improve to maximize their newly fused talents.
Wiggins is very well-thought-of as an individual and team defender. His 6'8" height and 7'0" wingspan give him a prototypical small forward's body in the NBA, while his quickness and athleticism could conceivably allow him to cover shooting guards and even some power forwards as well.
Since the NBA has more players who play multiple positions, Wiggins' defensive versatility could greatly benefit Irving. It's pretty common knowledge at this point that Irving leaves something to be desired on the defensive end, and he'd welcome passing along tough individual matchups to Wiggins.
Wiggins would see the majority of his time at small forward with the Cavaliers but could also move over to the 2-guard spot, depending on the given opponent. Situations like this would help relieve the defensive pressure on Irving and allow him to continue to focus his energy on the offensive end.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker isn't nearly the athlete that Wiggins is, but he carries a much more diverse offensive game.
While Parker is also quite efficient in the fast-break game—sometimes against three opponents—his primary strength lies in his post and mid-range game.
Parker, like Wiggins, would immediately fill the void at small forward for the Cavaliers alongside Irving while giving the point guard another scoring threat to play next to. Given Parker's 6'9", 240-pound frame, the Cavs could run more pick-and-roll sets with the pair, something Irving already excels at.
As previously mentioned, Cleveland needs an outside shooter at the 3 to help space the floor. Parker is a solid catch-and-shoot player, an area the Cavs desperately need help at. The Cavaliers finished 29th in the NBA in catch-and-shoot points per game (23.4, via NBA.com/stats) a season ago.
Parker has shown a nice touch from deep, connecting on 35.8 percent of his three-pointers during his freshman year.
Parker's defense is continually criticized, even though Duke would often assign him to the opposing team's power forward or center.
That being said, Parker isn't and will probably never be the wing defender that Wiggins can develop into. His lateral quickness and foot speed must be improved in order to guard smaller, quicker forwards in the NBA.
As good as they would be on offense, the Cavaliers would struggle mightily with Irving and Parker on the defensive end.
Pick-and-roll defense would especially be a nightmare and is something opponents would try to take advantage of every single night.
Cleveland needs someone to help take defensive pressure off Irving, not add more to him.
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid is the only player to have met with the Cavaliers thus far, as their first priority was to check out the 7'1" center's back. According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, everything went well:
Former Kansas center Joel Embiid was put through a rigorous individual workout during his visit earlier this week. Word is Embiid looked every bit as talented as expected and his physical checked out just fine. That means there were no major 'red flags' about his troublesome back.
With a healthy back, Embiid could help Irving on offense like none of the other wing players can.
Of all the big men that Irving has played with in his three years (Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller etc.), none has proven capable of creating his own offense. Spencer Hawes, brought over from the Philadelphia 76ers on a trade-deadline deal, is a good pick-and-pop partner but possesses little post game.
With Embiid, Irving would finally have a post player he could dump the ball down to and let go to work. Such a force in the paint would certainly attract double-teams and provide Irving with more uncontested looks.
Embiid also has a nice stroke for a center and could develop a reliable jumper in a year or two. Irving would then have the luxury of playing pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll with his athletic big man.
Wiggins would help on the wing. Parker could make Irving's defense look better by comparison.
Embiid, however, could help to clean up a lot of the mistakes Irving makes in one-on-one situations.
Given his 7'1", 265-pound frame with 7'5" wingspan (per DraftExpress), Embiid is a natural-born rim protector. In his lone college season, Embiid blocked 2.6 shots in his 23.1 minutes a game. His defensive rating of 90.9 led the Big 12 conference.
Right now, Embiid has all the physical tools to become a great defender. That being said, he still gets lost in switches and fouls far too often. Given enough time in the league, he could easily become an NBA All-Defensive Team player, however.
Given Irving's struggles on defense, there are normally quite a few guards blazing past him toward the basket. Cleveland did a poor job of adjusting to this, allowing teams to shoot 53.2 percent at the rim (18th in NBA, per NBA.com/stats).
With Embiid, teams wouldn't convert nearly as many easy baskets, and the center would allow Irving to save face on blown assignments.
Given all of this information, I believe Embiid would be the best fit next to Irving and on the Cavaliers. His presence would help Irving collect some easy assists while also creating open looks on the perimeter.
Defensively, Embiid could serve as the team's anchor while helping to clean up some of Irving's defensive miscues.
Hopefully, the Cavaliers liked what they saw in their meeting with Embiid and will make him the first overall pick this June.
All stats provided by sports-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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