The Cleveland Cavaliers might be paralyzed by the prospects of holding the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
ESPN's Chad Ford relayed the details on the front-office drama regarding choosing Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker:
Sources: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wants Wiggins at No. 1. Cavs front office wants Parker. Link coming ...— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 25, 2014
Gilbert let Cavs front office + Mike Brown select Anthony Bennett. Gilbert was an Oladipo fan. He'll have a stronger voice this year.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 25, 2014
The Cavaliers could still try to ditch the No. 1 pick and alleviate the stress and scrutiny, but if they do keep the pick, Wiggins is the best possible choice for the team.
It's understandable that the Cavaliers' brass is in agony over this pick. They are still feeling the effects of LeBron James' departure in 2010 and whiffed last year by choosing Anthony Bennett. For a tortured franchise in a city with a tortured sports history, there is no margin for error with a No. 1 pick in hand.
Choosing Wiggins over Parker allows the aforementioned Bennett the chance to grow into a solid contributor. Parker can play either forward spot, but if he fits best at small forward, his presence could swallow up any of the minutes Bennett was allotted this season to redeem himself.
Wiggins could fit in alongside Bennett by playing 2-guard and allow him the room to grow at small forward. Bennett averaged just 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season, hardly worthy of a No. 1 draft choice. However, his conditioning and overall play improved as the season went on. He averaged 7.0 points per game in February and 5.0 in March, according to ESPN.com.
It's too early for the Cavs to punt on Bennett; pairing Parker with incumbent forward Tristan Thompson could soak up all of his minutes next season.
Wiggins offers more upside on the defensive side of the ball than Parker. As ESPN's Hollinger rankings show, Cleveland was right in the middle of the pack in terms of defensive efficiency last season; it gave up 104.8 points per 100 possessions in 2013-14.
Wiggins' one-on-one perimeter defense is his one true ironclad commodity. ESPN's Paul Biancardi thinks it is part of what makes him a great prospect:
.#NBADraft Wiggins best offense could be his defense. He will influence the game more on the defensive end as a rookie.Parker impacts on "O"— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) June 26, 2014
Cleveland would be better served improving on defense and trying to lure a proven scorer through free agency in the next year or two. Joel Embiid offers this defensive-transforming potential as well, but the foot injury makes him too much of a risk for Cleveland.
Some have questioned Wiggins' ability to take over in games. ESPN Insider's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) wrote that Wiggins' stats don't reflect those of current NBA scoring machines:
In particular, Wiggins failed to showcase the elite ability to create his own shot that is a requisite for superstardom. He finished 25.5 percent of the Jayhawks' plays while on the court, per KenPom.com, as compared with 31.8 percent for Parker at Duke. As freshmen, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony finished approximately 28 percent of their team's possessions, and Kevin Durant was at 31.6 percent. Wiggins' mark is more similar to Luol Deng, who had a 24.0 percent usage rate.
Wiggins may not have shown the ability to take over during college, but it's possible that the draft scrutiny has emboldened him as a player.
"That's more of the competitive side just me wanting to be above everybody else, not wanting anyone to go ahead of me," Wiggins told Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears. "I still want to go [No.] 1."
His competitive drive shouldn't be questioned; it should also be noted that the emerging Embiid may have taken a hit on Wiggins' usage rate while at Kansas.
And it's not like Wiggins was a slouch on offense in any case. He averaged 17.1 points per game in 2013-14, good enough for sixth in the Big 12 Conference. His athleticism and ability to drive to the hoop is not in question, and coaches can work on his 34.1 percent shooting from three-point range to make him more of an outside threat in the NBA.
Which of these players will have the best professional career?
Now that Embiid's foot injury will likely take him out of the top three in the NBA draft, Wiggins' and Parker's NBA careers will become even more intertwined. Their status as two of the best players in a highly regarded draft class will have the media comparing them for many years.
This will only be intensified if they go first and second overall in the draft. Wiggins may be as strong as Parker in his first couple of years in the league due to Parker's polished offensive game, but he certainly has the athleticism and ability to justify being chosen over him down the line.