Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Wiggins first, James next?

WITH ANDREW Wiggins at No. 1, it was a big night for Canada and Kansas. And it better be the right one for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland went north of the border to open the NBA draft for the second straight year last night, hoping Wiggins works out better than Anthony Bennett.

Thrilled to go first and even happier when Jayhawks teammate Joel Embiid went to the Sixers two picks later, Wiggins beamed in his black tuxedo jacket with a white floral pattern.

"A thousand thoughts are going through my head right now," Wiggins said. "It's a dream come true."

Bennett was injured last summer, came into the season out of shape and made no impact, one of the reasons the Cavs were back in this spot again.

But Wiggins seems a much more ready product after averaging a Kansas freshman-record 17.1 points. He might have ended up as the top pick anyway, but became the best option for the Cavs when Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot shortly before the draft.

After making Canada the only country besides the U.S. to have consecutive No. 1 picks, Wiggins slipped on a maroon Cleveland hat, hugged his supporters and went on stage to shake hands with commissioner Adam Silver, who was calling the first round for the first time since replacing David Stern.

Milwaukee followed with another freshman, Duke forward Jabari Parker, who on Wednesday disputed that he was out of shape for his workout with Cleveland and performed poorly. Some consider him the more NBA-ready player after an All-America season for the Blue Devils, and getting to play in Milwaukee puts him near his family in Chicago.

"I'm just very optimistic," Parker said. "If it was 1, 2, put me at 60, just getting that opportunity, getting that chance of being in the NBA."

Embiid went third to Philadelphia, drawing loud cheers from the many red-and-blue dressed 76ers fans who made the trip to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

"He worked so hard," Wiggins said. "He didn't let nothing get to him. He always stayed motivated. So I'm just proud. It's a proud moment for Kansas."

Arizona forward Aaron Gordon went fourth to Orlando, followed by Australian guard Dante Exum to Utah.

It was considered a deep draft, with top-level talent stretching toward the bottom of the lottery and perhaps beyond. It squeezed itself into the free-agency frenzy that kicked off Monday, when Carmelo Anthony informed the New York Knicks he would become a free agent. LeBron James did the same the next day in Miami, and moves around the league since then appeared to be made with the pursuit of them in mind.

If James is interested in returning to Cleveland, a new teammate would be glad to welcome him.

"I want to win," Wiggins said. "If he wants to win, we'd be good together."

Landing James might be a longshot, but so was winning the NBA lottery for the second straight year. The Cavs feel that with Wiggins, whose father, Mitchell, played in the NBA, they have at least filled the small forward position that has been problematic since James left in 2010.

Wiggins said he can play either shooting guard or small forward.

"I can play both. I think I'm tall enough and skilled enough to play the two or three," said Wiggins. "Whatever the coach wants me to play, I'll play."

The Heat made a move that may convince James to stay, acquiring the draft rights to Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets.

Miami gave up the No. 26 and No. 55 picks for Napier, a source told the Associated Press. The person said the terms were also expected to include a future second-round selection.

Napier was taken at No. 24 by Charlotte, two slots before Miami drafted former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston for the Hornets.

"My favorite player in the draft!" James tweeted in reference to Napier.

Napier averaged 13.7 points in his four seasons at Connecticut, going 12-1 in NCAA Tournament games and winning two titles in his time with the Huskies.

Noteworthy

* The Denver Nuggets used the 19th pick acquired from the Chicago Bulls in a draft-day deal to get Michigan State guard Gary Harris.

Denver surrendered the draft rights to Creighton forward Doug McDermott - its pick at No. 11 - to the Bulls for the opportunity to pick up Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic (16th overall) and Harris.

Denver acquired shooting guard Arron Afflalo earlier in the day from Orlando for guard Evan Fournier and the No. 56 pick in the draft. Afflalo played for the Nuggets for three seasons before being dealt to Orlando on Aug. 10, 2012. He averaged 18 points for the Magic last season. Fournier, 21, is an up-and-coming guard whose minutes increased late in the season after Andre Miller was traded and Nate Robinson went out with a knee injury.

* Between the 15th and 16th picks, commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA would let Isaiah Austin fulfill the dream of every young player, making him a ceremonial pick.

Just over a week ago, the sophomore center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the heart. It ended his playing career.

* A person with knowledge of the situation told the Associated Press that the Houston Rockets have agreed to trade Omer Asik and cash to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future first-round draft pick.

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