For months and even years, the 2014 NBA draft class has been built up as the best in recent memory: a collection of unbelievable prospects who will surely change the outlook of the NBA.
It may be several years before we can truly decide whether the hyperbolic statements were warranted, but even now, it's not difficult to see the amount of talent and depth surging through this class.
Finally, all the speculation and rumors can come to an end, and we can see how the most captivating draft in the last decade will play out.
Let's take a final look at everything you need to know.
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2014
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
|2014 NBA Draft Lottery Predictions|
|1||Cleveland Cavaliers||Andrew Wiggins||Kansas|
|2||Milwaukee Bucks||Jabari Parker||Duke|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||Dante Exum||Australia|
|4||Orlando Magic||Joel Embiid||Kansas|
|5||Utah Jazz||Noah Vonleh||Indiana|
|6||Boston Celtics||Julius Randle||Kentucky|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Aaron Gordon||Arizona|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Doug McDermott||Creighton|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers||Nik Stauskas||Michigan|
|11||Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris||Michigan State|
|12||Orlando Magic||Elfrid Payton||Louisiana Lafayette|
|13||Minnesota Timberwolves||Rodney Hood||Duke|
|14||Phoenix Suns||Adreian Payne||Michigan State|
Well, Joel Embiid did a good job of making people forget about his back. For months, scouts and pundits hemmed and hawed about whether or not the 7-footer's back injury would prevent him from being the No. 1 overall pick. Then, news broke of a stress fracture in his right foot, which required surgery.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski noted the lengthy recovery process:
It's not just the time on the sideline, though. It's the potentially scary thought that Embiid, who has played basketball for just four years but already dealt with multiple injuries, will continue to do so throughout his career.
Still, he isn't worried:
While his stock takes a hit, several teams are reportedly using this as an opportunity to get him at a discount, according to CBS Sports' Ken Berger:
It's not difficult to see why, either.
Embiid has a rare blend of size and skill. At 7'0" with a wingspan of 7'5", per DraftExpress.com, he is an obvious candidate to protect the rim and control the glass. But what makes him so special is the defensive intelligence, footwork and offensive refinement in the post that he already possesses, despite having just four years of organized basketball under his belt.
Even in a stacked draft, and even with the newest injury concerns, it's a dangerous proposition to pass on this kind of talent. Don't expect him to slip too far.
As a freshman playing for the best team in the best conference, Andrew Wiggins averaged 17.1 points on 44.8 percent shooting to go with 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 block and 1.2 steals per game. He had a PER of 21.4 and offensive rating of 116.1 (third and second on the team, respectively), per Sports-Reference.
And most saw his campaign as mostly disappointing.
That should tell you just how much potential this kid has, as well as just how unreasonably high expectations on him were coming out of high school.
Still, while the hype has cooled a bit on Wiggins, he is still very much a rare, special talent. Physically, he's already on a level with the NBA's best athletes. He jumps out the gym, glides effortlessly up and down the court like a gazelle and has a 7'0" wingspan.
With Embiid's injury, he has an inside track on the No. 1 pick, although a trade by the Cleveland Cavaliers would certainly change that, as ESPN's Chad Ford reported:
No. 1 or No. 2 doesn't matter, though. Wiggins is a stud. Worst-case scenario, he relies on his physical tools and becomes unstoppable in the open court and a lock-down defender on the perimeter. Best case, he turns into an all-world player on both ends of the court and in every facet of the game.
“Those last few weeks when Embiid went down, Wiggins was [expletive] spectacular,” said an Eastern Conference scout, via the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes.
There are questions about Wiggins' assertiveness and killer instinct, and his production wavered at times, but no one would be surprised if he turned into the best player from this class.
While Embiid and Wiggins are so hypnotizing because of their through-the-roof potential, Jabari Parker seems like he could have been making an impact in the NBA about five years ago.
Yes, when he was 14. I know what I said.
Remarkably polished for a player his age, Parker can score in any way. He can battle on the interior with bigger defenders, he can score out of the post, he can take smaller defenders off the dribble, he can shoot off the catch, he can shoot off the bounce, he can lead the break. He can do it all.
One Eastern Conference scout, via Holmes, put it simply: "In terms of a basketball player and a human being, I think it’s all first class. I think he gets on the court next year and averages between 14-17 points per game, 2-4 assists, 6-8 rebounds. I see this Carmelo Anthony/Grant Hill hybrid."
Speaking of Hill, the former Blue Devil sat down with Parker to discuss how he compares to 'Melo and Paul Pierce, among other topics:
Parker's defense still leaves much to the imagination, but with his demeanor, size, athletic ability, versatility on the offensive end and high basketball IQ, he is arguably the safest player in this draft.