Once the unquestioned No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Kansas star has seen his stock enter a three-man limbo—in part because he was regularly passive during his time with the Jayhawks but mostly because standouts like Duke's Jabari Parker and Kansas' Joel Embiid took scouts and tankers by storm.
Philly's draft board apparently hasn't changed over the last year. Wiggins is still the Sixers' guy, and they're not shy about admitting it.
"It's no secret that the Sixers want to select Wiggins in the draft on June 26," Philly.com's Keith Pompey wrote of their interest.
Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears indicated it's a mutual interest as well. A source told him that Wiggins would be "excited" to play in Philadelphia, where his father, Mitchell, spent the final season of his six-year NBA career.
Rigid skeptics who aren't swayed by outright, albeit somewhat obligatory, interest will find clarity in another tidbit from Spears' report: The Sixers aren't really looking at anyone else. They've yet to schedule workouts with Parker, Embiid or Australia's Dante Exum, three of the draft's top four prospects.
All signs point to the Sixers—owners of the third and 10th overall picks—having eyes for Wiggins above anyone else. And rightfully so.
Pitting Wiggins alongside Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and the yet-to-play Nerlens Noel gives them a talented trio of potential stars and one of the Association's most promising cores.
They just need to get their hands on Wiggins first.
Landing Wiggins could be as easy as doing nothing at all.
While Wiggins is a lock to go in one of the first three slots, the Sixers own one of those slots. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman actually has him going to Philly at No. 3 in his latest mock draft.
Banking on Wiggins falling to No. 3 essentially means the Sixers are relying on the Cavaliers and Bucks to select Embiid and Parker before them. That's a risky game to play.
Rumors haven't painted a clear picture of what the Cavs are thinking at No. 1. Tom Rizzo of ESPN has them passing on Embiid, which means they would select Parker or Wiggins:
Fellow ESPN-er Chad Ford (subscription required) relayed conflicting information in his most recent mock draft, maintaining that Embiid will go to the Cavs at No. 1 because they were "blown away" by his workout. Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer basically confirmed Ford's findings.
What does this all mean?
Not anything new, anyway.
It's possible that Embiid goes No. 1, and it's possible that Wiggins will be available when the Sixers are on the clock. That's all we know. It's all we've ever known.
New information will undoubtedly surface between now and the June 26 draft, but the rumor mill isn't gospel. Like Ford wrote, "getting accurate information this time of year is especially challenging," which prevents us, along with the Sixers, from having an ironclad idea of who will be on the board when they're up.
Even if we are to assume that the Cavs will take Embiid, it doesn't keep the Bucks from taking Wiggins. Parker may be the safer pick, but Wiggins garnered LeBron James comparisons for months. Passing on him, even if he is a bit of a project, might not be possible for a Bucks club forever stuck in the throes of cyclic losing.
There are other wrenches that can be thrown into waiting too. Ford himself revealed in early June (subscription required) that the Cavs were open to dealing their No. 1 pick for an established superstar like, say, Kevin Love.
Previous reports have Love turned off by the idea of playing in Cleveland. But then Love went rogue—er, I mean public.
"I don’t think the Cleveland [trade rumors] are outlandish at all," he told The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre. "They have a great young foundation."
Sounds like Love is fluent in diplomatic playacting, a useful skill that entails him expressing fondness for 29 other teams while he tries to orchestrate his escape from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Yet we digress.
If the Cavs trade their pick, any accurate intel becomes worthless. The Timberwolves might not take Embiid. Actually, they wouldn't take Embiid. They have Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng already. That frees them up to select Wiggins or Parker.
Convincing the Cavs to trade their pick remains an unlikely endeavor. Love is going to become a free agent no matter what. Depriving a Cavs team stuck in a lottery rut of a rut-buster like their No. 1 pick for a one-year rental doesn't make the slightest sense.
Dealing it is still a possibility, though. Just like the Sixers cannot be sure of whom the Cavs and Bucks are taking with their selections, they cannot be sure of Cleveland's intent to trade out of No. 1. And they cannot be sure of where it's going and who its new owner may or may not choose.
Ensuring Wiggins' arrival dictates the Sixers take drastic action.
By striking a trade of their own.
Sources have confirmed a report that the Sixers have inquired about trading for the Cavs' first pick. The Sixers reportedly aren't willing to give up their third and 10th picks in exchange for the No. 1 selection. They will, however, possibly give up a combination of the No. 3 pick and power forward Thaddeus Young, according to ESPN.com.
Capitalizing on Cleveland's willingness to deal its pick is the only way general manager Sam Hinkie and the Sixers assure themselves of Wiggins' arrival. Actually negotiating that deal is the issue.
Combining the No. 3 pick with Thaddeus Young might not be enough to get this done. The Cavaliers are trying to enter win-now mode, but Young is owed more than $19 million over the next two seasons and doesn't shift the needle with superstar ferocity.
On the off chance the Cavs are high on Young, they'll be forced to acknowledge he, too, is a flight risk. He holds an early termination option on the last year of his deal, allowing him to hit unrestricted free agency in 2015 at his own behest.
Dropping two spots for a potential rental is too big a risk for the Cavs to take, no matter how highly each of the top three prospects is regarded—unless they believe their target at No. 1 will be available at No. 3.
Offering the No. 3 and No. 10 picks would hold more appeal. If the Sixers are unwilling to budge on their refusal to do that, they do have five second-rounders this year, two of which fall in the top 40 and can be seen as late-late first-rounders in a draft this deep.
Including, say, the No. 32 or No. 39 pick with one of their latter three selections in addition to No. 3 and Young could get the ball rolling and dialogue started.
Seizing Even More Control
There is more control to be had here. Philly can increase its chances of adding Wiggins by going big, rolling the dice and ignoring its purported desires by doing whatever it takes.
This includes bending to Cleveland's asking price.
Forking over the No. 10 pick shouldn't be out of the question. This is Wiggins we're talking about, the athletic fiend with a superstar ceiling. Restrictions cannot be placed on their pursuit.
"Wiggins is indeed a great fit with the team," Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal wrote. "He's an athletic, two-way stud with ridiculous upside and the ability to settle in at the Sixers' biggest position of need."
Two-way studs don't come around often. And though we hear about Parker's NBA-ready offense and Embiid's striking resemblance to Hakeem Olajuwon, Wiggins is the premier long-term prospect of this draft.
Embiid's back will always come with question marks. It doesn't matter how his physicals actually turn out or how good his workouts go, or whether there are current red flags. Any past back injury to a bruising big man that's largely successful because of his athleticism and craftiness is a red flag.
Parker doesn't have the defensive chops to be anything more than a work in progress on that end. There's a strong chance he winds up being a liability early on, possibly longer. Comparisons to Carmelo Anthony are great, but he's yet to show he can do what Wiggins does: everything.
That's how Wiggins is looked at—as someone who can eventually do everything. Every team wants that, and it's why Wiggins' draft-night decline will wind up being overblown and misconceived entirely.
One Eastern Conference scout told The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes: "He doesn’t run. He gallops. He glides. He flies." One added: "Wiggins has the greatest upside of anybody in the draft."
A Western Conference scout told Holmes: "As a basketball athlete, he is on a LeBron James/Russell Westbrook level."
And this kid is supposed to fall into Philly's lap at No. 3?
Come June 26, when commissioner Adam Silver steps to the podium and announces the No. 1 pick, it could be Wiggins. And if it's not, he could go No. 2. Seeing him go in one of those first two spots is more likely than watching the once-heralded second coming of King James slip to the pining Sixers at No. 3.
"I think (the Sixers’ style) does fit my style, but I think Milwaukee and Cleveland do, too," Wiggins told CSN Philly’s John Clark (via The Reporter's Christopher A. Vito). "So wherever I go (I’ll be comfortable)."
Comfort levels stand to skyrocket in Philly if he goes to the Sixers, who can only do one thing to ensure an extraordinary franchise-changer and ideal fit doesn't pass them by: Whatever it takes.
*Contract information via ShamSports.
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