The Sixers have reportedly had Andrew Wiggins as the top target on their big board all season, and, at this point, it seems that they may have a realistic shot of landing the gifted athlete from Kansas without moving from their third pick perch.
Before diving too deep into that idea, it is important to remember that everything heard leading up to draft day must be taken with a grain of salt. Reports are released faster than they can be read, and a vast number of them are riddled with misinformation and conjecture. Teams remain purposely opaque, and agents do their best to float only flattering information about their prospects.
The order of the draft’s top selections is far from set in stone, as the Cavaliers, Bucks, and Sixers will continue to evaluate talent all the way up until draft day, and the names at the top of their boards could certainly shuffle.
However, after countless calls and endless reports read, some semblance of sense and consensus can be pieced together. That consensus tells us that any of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid could be the top pick in the draft, and that there is a serious shot that Wiggins falls to Philly at the three spot.
Again, this status could change countless times leading up to draft day, but it is safe to say that the Cavaliers and Bucks are at least equally enamored with both Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, as they are with Wiggins, if not more so.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford, who has been updating his information with new names seemingly daily to keep up with the rumors, recently reported that Wiggins may not even be in the conversation in Cleveland.
“A trusted source with close access to the Cavs' front office told me that he believes that Wiggins isn't even in the discussion in Cleveland, and that it's already been narrowed down to Embiid or Parker,” he stated.
While it seems silly to rule Wiggins out as the top pick, it is clear that the Cavs have some serious interest in Embiid, as the seven-footer won’t work out for any other team until Cleveland is given a chance to see if they want to select the center.
And after a workout last week in front of NBA executives, many, including Yahoo’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, don’t see Embiid slipping past the first pick.
Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 23, 2014
Of course, Embiid’s selection is entirely dependent on his health, and his being cleared as physically fine from his back injury in March, which according to Ford, he already is.
“Embiid told me that his back was ‘100 percent’ and that he was feeling no effects from his injury in March,” Ford stated. “That was confirmed by several sources who have been working with him in the gym the past few weeks.”
If healthy, Ford agrees with Wojnarowski that it would be very difficult to pass on the prospect with the first pick. More from Ford:
“If [he’s healthy], then I think it will be very hard for the Cavs to pass on him. Players like Embiid don't come along very often and if he continues to impress, he has the chance to be the best center in the NBA someday. For a team that has a need at the 5 (Anderson Varejao is 32 and in the last year of his contract), he gives them both low-post offense and the rim protection that the Cavs have desperately lacked in the past.”
That’s pretty high praise, especially the whole ‘chance to be the best center in the NBA someday’ part. With that potential in his pocket, it may indeed be tough for Cleveland to pass up on Embiid, especially considering the dearth of dominant centers across the league’s landscape.
This isn’t the 2003 draft however, and Cleveland’s selection isn’t nearly as clear cut as it was eleven years ago when they made a local kid from Akron, Ohio the first overall pick in a deep draft. If Embiid isn’t the go-to guy for Cleveland, it could perceivably be Parker, who the Cavs have had atop their big board all season, according to Ford:
“There's also the chance [Parker] could wind up as the No. 1 overall pick. The Cavs, under GM Chris Grant, have had him at the top of their Big Board all season. Parker is the most NBA-ready of the group, and with the likelihood of Luol Deng leaving via free agency, he fills a need for Cleveland.”
Wiggins is of course nowhere near out of the conversation for Cleveland, as his upside is astronomical. They may very well decide between now and draft day that Wiggins is the best potential professional and scoop him up with that top pick. There is also the possibility the Cleveland trades that pick and another team uses it to grab Wiggins, a possibility that Cavs’ GM David Griffin did not eliminate.
“I think we’re very open-minded to a lot of things,” Griffin stated after the lottery. “I’d trade me if it made us better.”
Obviously a lot is up in the air for Cleveland as they face an extremely important, franchise-forming decision.
As for Wiggins? Ford, who is an excellent source of information around this time of year, sees the potential star slipping to the Sixers if he’s not selected first overall by Griffin’s Cavaliers.
“If Wiggins doesn’t go number one, I don’t think he’s in the top two on the Milwaukee Bucks’ board right now, which means he would fall to the 76ers, a team that has had Wiggins as its top target all season.”
Ford has Wiggins listed as fourth on the Bucks’ big board, behind Embiid, Parker, and Australian guard Dante Exum, who he thinks would be the Bucks’ guy if Milwaukee’s management had more job security. He also notes that the Bucks feel that Embiid would be a nice fit alongside Larry Sanders on their frontline.
Some of these claims have been difficult to confirm, although I have been told that the Bucks were extremely impressed by both Parker's and Embiid’s workouts. An article published Friday on Bucksetball also hints that Milwaukee favors Embiid and Parker over Wiggins.
While nothing is set in stone, it is clear that consideration is being given to other options than Wiggins by both of the teams selecting before the Sixers in the 2014 Draft. There is still ample time before draft day, and that could change, but it is becoming clear that it would not be out of the realm of possibility for the highly-touted Wiggins to slip to the Sixers at the third selection spot.