Why Cleveland Cavs Should Draft Andrew Wiggins over Jabari Parker with Top Pick

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 20:  Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks takes a free throw against the Baylor Bears in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on January  20, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers still have no idea what they'd like to do with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

Well, they'd probably like to ship it off to the Miami Heat for LeBron James, even if that would violate everything that the league's collective bargaining agreement stands for, but that's beside the point.

More relevant is the debate between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. ESPN's Chad Ford notes that both have support within the upper echelons of the Cleveland organization:

Fortunately for the Cavs, there's no bad choice.

So long as the recently downtrodden franchise avoids drafting a certain big man with a navicular fracture, isn't tempted to make the gutsy choice by selecting a mysterious Australian guard and doesn't become enthralled with any other prospect who isn't typically at the top of draft boards, it'll be fine.

Both Parker and Wiggins are fantastic options, whether devoid of context or taking the roster composition into consideration.

That doesn't prevent anyone from having strong opinions, though.

In this battle between the front office and the owner, it's the latter who may end up having the stronger voice. After all, Ford reports the Anthony Bennett decision last year was made in spite of Dan Gilbert's wishes, as he wanted the organization to use the No. 1 pick on Victor Oladipo rather than the UNLV forward:

Normally, that wouldn't be a huge deal, but Bennett submitted one of the worst rookie seasons of all time.

Coming off that utter fiasco—though it's worth noting that he could improve rather dramatically after being freed from the suffocating spotlight—giving more of a say to Gilbert might be the right decision.

"After what happened last year, he may choose to make the call himself," an anonymous source told ESPN.com's Chad Ford and Jeff Goodman.

Though organizational splits don't always lead to the best decisions, this would also allow Cleveland to make the right choice.

While Parker would still do great things in a Cleveland uniform, he's the "1B" to Wiggins' "1A."


Desire to Be in Cleveland

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 8:  Majority Owner Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers gives a speech about Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 during halftime of the game against the New York Knicks at The Quicken Loans Arena on March 8, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USE
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Every move Parker has made has seemed professional. He carries himself well, speaks intelligently, says the right things and never manages to irritate people who shouldn't be irritated.

Well, other than fans of the North Carolina Tar Heels, but that's pretty understandable considering he played his one collegiate season under Mike Krzyzewski.

Even if he didn't want to be in Cleveland, Parker would presumably carry himself with dignity and play at 100 percent each and every night of his career. He's too much of a professional to do anything else, although he technically has yet to play a game at the professional level.

But wouldn't the Cavs want a player who actually wants to be in Cleveland?

Especially in the wake of James leaving for Miami, the organization has to consider the long-term ramifications of any draft pick.

There's no incentive for a player to remain with an organization he doesn't particularly care for, and it would be disastrous if Parker became the first deserving player to spurn a max extension while on his rookie contract so that he could seek a new destination as soon as possible.

That's a worst-case scenario, but it's something that should be considered—especially after his workout for the team.

Here's Ford and Goodman on the subject:

However, Parker's workout Friday in Cleveland was a disappointment, according to multiple sources. Parker weighed in at 254 pounds with 11 percent body fat, more than 10 pounds above his playing weight at Duke. One source even went as far as to say that Parker appeared to be "tanking" the workout.

"He was bad," one source told ESPN.com. "He was huffing and puffing early in the workout."

That's not a good sign.

Mar 20, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) speaks during a press conference during practice before the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

On top of that, the reporting duo revealed the following: "Sources told ESPN.com that the former Duke forward prefers to play in Milwaukee Bucks, which is closer to his Chicago home and also a spot in which he can be featured as a go-to player."

Contrast that with Wiggins, who has never given any indication that he'd be the least bit disgruntled in any location.

The Canadian forward has already spent his basketball-playing days traveling all over North America. He was born in Toronto, started his high school career at Vaughan Secondary School in Ontario, continued it in Huntington, West Virginia, and played college ball under Bill Self at Kansas.

That's a lot of movement, and without the Toronto Raptors in the picture at No. 1 or No. 2, he's not going to have any major allegiance to NBA teams other than the one drafting him or any desire to be that close to home either.

In fact, Wiggins told Sirius XM's Off the Dribble show (h/t Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine) that he doesn't really care about where he ends up. He just wants to be the first player off the board:

I'd rather be the No. 1 pick than really worry about where I'm going. I feel like I'll go to any team and I'll play just as hard. I don't really care where I go — I'm going to still try and do my best, play hard for the fans, play hard for the organization. And being a competitor, I would want to go No. 1, just to have that label.

It's an attitude he's maintained throughout the predraft process.

"I think I'll be a star wherever I go," the Canadian forward told Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That's just how confident I am in my ability."

The Cavs should be confident in that ability as well.


2-Way Play

Feb 8, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Eron Harris (10) looks to pass as Kansas Jayhawks guard Andrew Wiggins (22) guards in the second half at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 83 - 69. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters already on the roster, Cleveland doesn't need another ball-stopping offensive player.

Parker might be more readier to contribute immediately, which fits in with the playoffs-or-bust mentality the Cavaliers are operating under, but he's yet another guy who demands the rock and needs it in his hands in order to be most effective.

According to Sports-Reference.com, Parker scored 19.1 points per game as a Duke freshman while maintaining a usage rate of 32.7 percent. Meanwhile, Wiggins contributed 17.1 points per contest with a 26.3 percent usage rate.

That's a big difference, especially when these elite prospects would be playing with two guards who posted usage rates of 28.2 (Irving) and 26.9 (Waiters) during the 2013-14 campaign.

However, this isn't really about offense. After all, both players can thrive on that end of the court, between Parker's NBA-ready jumper and versatile play from all areas of the half-court set and Wiggins' jaw-dropping athleticism, off-ball work and developing perimeter game.

It's about defense.

As Daniel O'Brien wrote for Bleacher Report, the former Blue Devil can't really consider the less glamorous end of the court a strong portion of his game:

Parker's defense has intermittently come under scrutiny this year, as he hasn't excelled on that end compared to Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins or Aaron Gordon.

He frequently got beat by quicker slashers and gave up a few critical layups. On the interior, he was often out of position and caught in no-man's land. That's a bad place to be, especially on pick-and-rolls and weak-side rotations...

...The foot-speed issue is the one that may concern NBA decision-makers the most. Parker will be able to guard some post players, but not all of them, so he'll have to spend time on swingmen.

O'Brien is by no means the only one noticing that weakness.

Parker doesn't have the physical tools necessary to thrive on defense, as his lateral quickness and lack of elite length both work against him.

Given his inevitable status as a bit of a tweener, Parker isn't fleet of foot to the extent that he can hang with perimeter-oriented 3s, nor is he big enough to bang around with big power forwards in the Association.

It doesn't help matters that he was often asked to guard the post at Duke, which delayed the development of the wing defense he'll inevitably play for Cleveland, the Milwaukee Bucks or whomever else he ends up with.

It should say something that against Mercer, the underdog which knocked Coach K's squad out of the NCAA tournament, Parker was viewed as too much of a defensive liability to play down the stretch.

Again, against Mercer.

How much worse will he look against NBA-caliber players?

Granted, Parker's offense is good enough to compensate for his lack of ability to prevent points, but he's never going to be the two-way player Wiggins is capable of becoming.

"I think the NBA is much more my style, but I'm going to be patient. I think right away my defense can be my X factor," Wiggins told Scott Gleeson of USA Today.

It can be more than that. Even if he develops into a quality contributor on offense, his ability to settle into that defensive stance, use his physical tools and terrorize opposing players could be his calling card.

Wiggins has both the athletic gifts and the mentality necessary to be a great defender at the sport's highest level, and any elite offensive contributions could be viewed as gravy.

Of course, they won't be, seeing as offense naturally garners more attention.

But that's fine for Wiggins, who also has a long-term offensive ceiling on par with Parker's. Maybe he won't develop that killer instinct, something that held him back and made him seem far too passive with the team-oriented Jayhawks, but that's ultimately not as necessary while playing alongside offensive talents like Irving and Waiters.

The Cavaliers scored 104.2 points per 100 possessions during the 2013-14 season, which ranked No. 21 among the Association's 30 teams. Meanwhile, they hemorrhaged 107.7 points over the same span, placing them at No. 19.

Can Cleveland really afford to neglect defense by selecting Parker? There aren't players on the roster who are capable of picking up the slack, and head coach David Blatt would be left trying to hide both him and Irving whenever they were both on the floor.

Both ends that need improving, which makes Wiggins the more appealing choice at No. 1, regardless of how you feel about whose ceiling trumps the other's.

After all, that trumping will be due to even better offensive play if it's Parker who comes out on top in that argument, and that offensive addition isn't worth the defensive subtraction.

Again, there's really no wrong choice for the Cavaliers, assuming they don't buck convention and roll with one of the many prospects who hasn't been discussed at length here.

However, Wiggins is still the right one.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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