Connect with us


Cheap Seats: Who Should Go No. 1?

Who should be the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft? Basketball Insiders’ interns give their thoughts.

Basketball Insiders



In this week’s Cheap Seats, our interns Jesse Blancarte, John Zitzler and Cody Taylor discuss who should be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft when the Cleveland Cavaliers go on the clock.

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins has had a lot of hype surrounding him for several years now, often drawing comparisons to LeBron James. Wiggins was under the microscope in his one and only season at Kansas, which ended with a disappointing loss in the Round of 32 to Stanford.

Wiggins put up 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, one block and 2.3 turnovers per game. He shot 44.8 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the free throw line. While his statistics do not remind anyone of LeBron James, Wiggins showed flashes of why he is so highly regarded among talent evaluators, such as when he scored 41 points against West Virginia on March 8.

Wiggins has good shooting mechanics, despite his inconsistent results. He can knock down set shots and shots off the dribble, though he often settles for difficult jumpers to avoid contact. Nevertheless, with more time and practice, it looks like Wiggins will be a very good shooter in the future.

Wiggins is also great in transition. He uses his athleticism and long strides to outpace his opponents for easy finishes at the rim. However, in half court situations, Wiggins is not as effective with the ball, as he struggles to change directions quickly. This in part explains why Wiggins will often settle for a long two-pointer, rather than trying to use his athleticism to get by defenders. As his ball-handling improves, hopefully his assertiveness will too. Too often Wiggins seemed complacent, playing within the team structure as opposed to taking a game over himself when the situation called for it. To be fair, LeBron was criticized early on in his career for being too unselfish and looking to setup teammates for clutch shots. At just 19, Wiggins has time to continue developing his offensive game, which will hopefully lead to increased confidence, allowing him to take over games when his team needs it.

On the defensive end, Wiggins showed throughout his freshmen season that he has all the physical tools and instincts to be a lockdown defender. A good comparison for Wiggins is Paul George. Both players have the physical tools to be great wing defenders, but more importantly, both players have the desire to be great defensive players. As Wiggins adds more muscle to his frame, he will be able to guard bigger players as well, which will make him one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

With that said, Wiggins is facing tough competition for the number one spot in the draft. Jabari Parker is another talented forward who could potentially go number one, and many believe he is more ready to contribute in the NBA than Wiggins. Parker can score in a variety of ways, has a bigger frame than Wiggins and can potentially play as a small-ball four. However, the Cavaliers are not a fringe championship contender that is one piece away from winning it all. Instead, they are a team with a collection of young, talented players that need to grow together. While a player like Parker can be a part of such a core, it does not make sense to pass on a player with seemingly unlimited potential—like Wiggins— for a player that may put up slightly better stats in his rookie season, but does not have the same upside.

Similarly, Joel Embiid is another player that many believe could go number one. However, the Cavaliers in recent drafts have made some questionable picks (passing on players like Klay Thompson, Andre Drummond and Victor Oladipo) and need to get this one right. Embiid is a gifted big man, but sat out a number of games late in the season with a stress fracture in his back. While recent reports suggest that the back issues are cleared up, it would be a terrible scenario for Embiid to suffer major health issues while players like Wiggins and Parker are emerging as the future stars of the NBA. Embiid is a special talent, but there are many examples of big men being plagued by injuries, such as Bill Walton, Yao Ming and Greg Oden, just to name a few.

The Cavs are both fortunate and unfortunate. They are fortunate to have the first pick in a very talented draft, but will be picking first for the third time in four years. After another season missing the playoffs, recently firing former head coach Mike Brown (for the second time) and unexpectedly winning the lottery, the Cavs are under a lot of scrutiny around the league. If they mess this pick up, it will be something that others will be very critical of. Fortunately, the Cavs are picking from a crop of very talented players. But none of them have the star potential that Wiggins has. He may not be LeBron James, but he doesn’t really need to be. With Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, the Cavs have plenty of young talent to build around. Rather than waiting around hoping for LeBron to come back, it’s time for the Cavs to move forward, with Wiggins as the lead man.

– Jesse Blancarte

Jabari Parker

After striking out terribly in last year’s draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers desperately need to take full advantage of this year’s draft class. After miraculously landing the top pick in the draft, the Cavaliers must draft Jabari Parker. The Cavaliers are in need of a rim protector, but given Joel Embiid’s health history, can the Cavs afford to gamble on another top pick? Parker is arguably the safest bet among Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, and the Cavaliers are in need of the safest bet out there. The team can’t afford to have another overall pick play in just 52 games while averaging less than five points a game like they had in Anthony Bennett last season.

The Cavaliers struggled all season long with offensive efficiency and finished just inside the top 25 in the league in that category. A player like Parker that averaged 19.1 points in his freshman year at Duke can almost certainly step in and provide a big-time scoring punch. Parker was an efficient and effective scorer while at Duke and that’s a skill that goes far with scouts and executives in the NBA. In addition to his 19.1 points, Parker shot 47.3 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three-point range. The Cavaliers will likely lose Luol Deng to free agency and Parker would be the most capable out of Wiggins and Embiid to replace Deng’s 14.3 points per game in Cleveland.

At this point for the Cavaliers, Parker would be the best option to allow them to compete now. While a pick like Wiggins would be made with the hopes of him developing into a star within a couple of years, that may be too long to keep Kyrie Irving happy. Although Irving hasn’t publicly come out against staying in Cleveland long-term, there have been reports stating that he has told people privately that he wants out.

It’s a growing trend in the league when a star player is disgruntled. Does the team trade that player away to get some sort of value or do they keep him in hopes that he’ll stay long-term and risk losing him for nothing? It’s a path the Denver Nuggets have been down with Carmelo Anthony, a path the Orlando Magic went down with Dwight Howard and it’s a path the Minnesota Timberwolves currently find themselves on with Kevin Love. It’s hard to speculate which player will go number one, especially with the Cavaliers, but a player that will equal the most wins would likely be the best option at keeping Irving content.

The knocks against Parker are well-documented, but improving on the defensive side of the ball is something that can be practiced and worked on. The knocks against Wiggins and Embiid could be viewed as worse. The major factor helping Wiggins in the draft is that in five years he could be an elite player based off of potential, but potential isn’t guaranteed. Parker is the most pro-ready and should be taken with the top overall pick. Only the Cavaliers can mess it up from here.

– Cody Taylor

Joel Embiid

The top of the 2014 draft has a number of young prospects who possess the talent to change the direction of a franchise. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were both known commodities before they ever stepped foot on a college campus. Wiggins’ high school mixtapes left basketball fans in awe, showing off raw athleticism that is on par with some of the NBA’s elite. The expectations for Wiggins were impossibly high in his one year at Kansas. While he may not have dominated in the fashion some desired, he was able to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft. Parker similarly in his one season at Duke showed he already possesses a versatile offensive arsenal, one that should translate to the NBA from day one. Like Wiggins, Parker answered any questions doubters may have had and put himself into the mix to be one of the top three picks.

Both Wiggins and Parker look to have the potential to be great players at the next level, guys that could lead franchises for years to come. However, there is one player who has a combination of size and skill that is not often seen. A player that if he remains healthy and develops as projected will almost certainly be a dominating force on both sides of the ball. The type of big man coaches dream about. That man, of course being, former Kansas center Joel Embiid.

Embiid, who measures a legitimate 7’0 and is right around 250 pounds, has prototypical size for a center in the NBA. Add to that a 7’5 wingspan and it’s not hard to see why there is so much intrigue surrounding him. Any player with those physical attributes is going to garner attention from scouts on that alone. But it’s Embiid’s skill set, in addition to his size, that has NBA executives captivated with his potential.

On the defensive end, Embiid should be able to have a significant impact from the moment he steps foot onto an NBA court. In his one season at Kansas, Embiid was able average to 2.6 blocks per game in just over 24 minutes a night and that obviously doesn’t take into account the number of shots deterred by his presence alone. He was able to use his massive frame to make finishing around the rim a monumental task for the opposition. While he does have great size, that isn’t the only reason he is strong defender; he does a nice job moving his feet and getting himself into good position in both help defense situations and in one on one matchups. Right now, Roy Hibbert is the standard in the NBA when talking about interior defense. When you watch Embiid, it’s easy to envision how he could have a similar impact defensively at the next level.

Offensively, Embiid is surprisingly skilled for a player of his size and inexperience. Embiid reportedly only began playing basketball in 2011. A remarkable fact for a player who is now firmly in the conversation to the first pick in the draft. Embiid possesses a nice touch around the rim and has the ability to finish with either hand. He shows great poise when double teamed, often times making the proper pass to an open teammate even when under great pressure from the defense. He has displayed post moves that have drawn comparisons to former NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s still raw, but it’s more than evident that the talent is there.

There is one major caveat surrounding Embiid, and that of course is his health. The long-term forecast for his back may scare some teams. This is the only thing that is seemingly holding him back from being a lock to be drafted number one. He was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back in March, which kept him from playing in the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Embiid will go through extensive medical testing by any team that is considering drafting the promising center.

However, video of Embiid working out in Santa Monica recently surfaced and it was encouraging, to say the least. He looked fluid in his movement and threw down dunk after dunk with authority. This was just a solo workout absent of any competition so it must taken with a grain of salt, but it definitely created some buzz and was a step in the right direction in terms proving his health.

Embiid has the physical attributes that longtime NBA personnel marvel at. His potential to not only impact but dominate the game on both sides of the floor is beyond rare. He has the chance to grow into one of the better big men this league has seen in some time. If he can develop to the level that many are projecting, it would be flat out irresponsible to go in any other direction with the number one pick. If his back checks out, Joel Embiid is the best prospect in this draft and deserves to be selected first overall.

– John Zitzler


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


NBA Daily: Checking In With Terrance Ferguson

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Terrance Ferguson talks to Basketball Insiders about learning from his teammates, earning minutes and being mentally tough.

Ben Nadeau



Before he reached the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson was once often referred to as a man of mystery. After changing course on two different programs in a two-month span, Ferguson ditched the typical one-and-done collegiate season for an adventure on the other side of the planet. But even after the Thunder selected Ferguson with the No. 21 overall pick in last year’s draft — the questions still lingered. How would a teenager with one season overseas adjust to the world’s most physical basketball league?

Not many rookies can contribute to a 40-plus win squad out in the cutthroat Western Conference so quickly — but down the stretch, here Ferguson is doing just that. With the Thunder locked in a tight playoff battle with six others teams, the 19-year-old’s hard-working personality has fit alongside the roster’s three perennial All-Stars — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. And although his rookie season has come with some growing pains, Ferguson is earning meaningful minutes and making the most of them.

“I think it’s my work ethic, I come in every day with the same mentality,” Ferguson said. “I work my butt off — inside the game, being physical. Even though I’m a skinny guy, as everyone can see, I’m still everywhere on the floor being physical. I think [the coaching staff] really likes that, especially on the defensive end.”

Skinny or not, Ferguson is one of the league’s youngest players, so the 6-foot-7 guard has plenty of room to grow — literally. But for now, he’s playing an integral role on an Oklahoma City team looking to protect its high postseason seed. Late January brought the unfortunate season-ending injury to Andre Roberson — an All-Defensive Second Team honoree in 2016-17 — so the Thunder have needed both new and old players to step up in bigger roles.

While those candidates included the three-point shooting Alex Abrines, veteran Raymond Felton and the newly-acquired Corey Brewer, Ferguson’s recent rise in the rotation has arguably been the most interesting development. Since the calendar flipped to January, Ferguson has featured in almost all of the Thunder’s games, tallying just two DNP-CDs and one missed contest following a concussion. This steady diet of opportunity comes as a stark contrast to the 15 games in which he received no playing time, spanning from the season’s opening tip to the new year.

Of course, playing time is not always indicative of success, but Ferguson himself isn’t surprised that he’s carved out a crucial role ahead of the playoffs.

“Not really, it’s all up to coach’s decision,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just here playing my part, staying ready at all times and some minutes came, so I’mma take them and play to the best of my ability.”

Back in October, Basketball Insiders’ own Joel Brigham spoke to Ferguson about his unconventional path to NBA and the choice to spend a year grinding with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian outfit. In the land down under, Ferguson averaged just 15 minutes a night, considerably less than he would’ve likely received as a highly-recruited prospect here in America. Some five months later, Ferguson’s early-season stance on the move still stands out.

“I’m living the dream now, right? I must have done the right thing,” Ferguson said.

Today, it’s hard to disagree with Ferguson’s decisions considering that they’re currently paying off. In 2009, Brandon Jennings became the first to skip college and play in Europe before being drafted, with Emmanuel Mudiay most notably following in his footsteps six years later. While those two point guards both were selected in the top ten of their draft classes — at No. 10 and No. 7, respectively — it still remains the road far less traveled.

Considered raw by most pre-draft evaluations, an early expectation was that Ferguson would spend much of the season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate. Instead, Ferguson has played in only three games with the Blue, where he has averaged a commendable 14.7 points, four rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

But as of late, the Thunder have found somebody that’ll always work hard, learn from others and do the little things that don’t show up in the box score.

“I’ve learned a lot more from when I first started,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I got great teammates — I got Nick Collison, I got Russ, PG, Melo, so just picking their brains. I got Corey now, so just the work ethic they put in, just picking their brains each and every day about what I can do better, watching game film, it’s a lot of things.”

When he was drafted, Ferguson had a reputation as a skyscraping leaper with the athleticism to become an elite perimeter defender. Although his current averages with the Thunder understate his innate potential, Ferguson knows he can contribute without scoring — even noting that he can make up for it “on the other side of the court.” Playing defense and competing hard every night, he has slowly made a name for himself.

And while Ferguson has tallied far more single-digit scoring outings than his 24-point breakout performance in early January, he’s earned the trust of head coach Billy Donovan and his veteran teammates, which is something the rookie will never take for granted.

“Coach believes in me and that means a lot to me,” Ferguson said. “But my teammates believe in me, so I’m not gonna let them down. I’m gonna go out every day and play my hardest, compete and try to get the win each and every night.”

One might assume that his year abroad in Australia helped to mentally mold him into the high-flying, hard-nosed rookie we see today. Ferguson, however, contends that he’s had that edge from the very beginning.

“I’ve been mentally tough, it wasn’t overseas that did that,” Ferguson told Basketball Insiders. “I had to be mentally tough just to go over there — so I’ve always had that mentality, the [desire] to just dominate, play to the best of my ability and compete.”

And now he’s doing just that in the NBA.

Continue Reading


Is Kyrie Irving’s Second Opinion a Cause for Concern?

Shane Rhodes breaks down the tough situation the Celtics are in with Kyrie Irving.

Shane Rhodes



The Boston Celtics are in one awful predicament.

With a third of the roster out due to injury, Brad Stevens has been forced into the impossible task of maintaining Boston’s championship aspirations with some subpar talent; while they have performed admirably, the likes of Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye wouldn’t see the same run they are currently on with most contenders. Gordon Hayward has missed the entire season, save a few minutes on opening night. Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis are all currently out, some for the year and others not. Key contributors Al Horford, Marcus Morris and others have missed time as well.

It couldn’t get worse, could it?

Well, it may just have. Reports surfaced Tuesday that Irving, who had missed time this season — including the last four games — with left knee soreness, is seeking a second opinion after a lack of progress in his recovery.

In the wake of the Isaiah Thomas fiasco and his ailing hip last Summer, an injury that lingered deep into this season, the Celtics will likely be more than cautious with Irving, whom they gave up a haul (the rights to the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, most notably), to acquire. But one can only wonder if these persistent issues — Irving’s left knee was surgically repaired after he sustained a fractured kneecap in 2015, and he reportedly threatened the Cleveland Cavaliers with surgery this offseason before his trade to Boston — are a cause for concern for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics.

The situation presents the Celtics with a quandary, to say the least.

Knee injuries aren’t exactly a death-knell, but fans need not look far for to see the devastating effect they can have on NBA players (e.g. Derrick Rose). They can snowball and, over time, even the best players will break down. Regardless of the severity, Irving’s knee issue presents problems both now and in the future.

The problems now are obvious: the Celtics, already down Gordon Hayward, cannot afford to lose Irving if they are at all interested in making a Finals run this season. Boston struggles mightily on the offensive end when Irving and his 24.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists aren’t on the court. In a playoff atmosphere, especially, the team would sorely miss his scoring prowess.

Looking ahead, if Irving is dealing with these problems at the age of 25, what could the future hold for the All-Star guard? Knee issues, most lower body issues in general, are often of the chronic variety, and constant maintenance can wear on people, both mentally and physically.

Just a season separated from a likely super-max payday, will the Celtics want to commit big-money long-term to potentially damaged goods?

If there is a silver lining in it all, it is the fact that 20-year-old rookie Jayson Tatum must now shoulder the scoring load, something that should go a long way in building on the potential that made him the No. 3 overall pick last June. And, should Irving miss the remainder of this season, exposure to the fires of the playoffs should only temper the Celtics’ young roster. In the event that Irving’s absence isn’t prolonged, time like this could only serve to strengthen the roster around him.

Still, Ainge brought Irving to Boston for a reason: he was meant to lead the Celtics into battle, alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, in their quest for a title. Obviously, he can’t do that from the bench. Without Irving at 100 percent, the Celtics are not a championship caliber squad, healthy Gordon Hayward or not. That fact alone will make Irving’s situation one to monitor going forward and for the foreseeable future.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Houston Has It All

Deciphering whether Houston is a contender or pretender is tough, but they’re making it easy.

Lang Greene



It is very easy to get caught up in the NBA regular-season hyperbole. The past is littered with a plethora of NBA teams that looked like world-beaters in the regular season only to pull up lame in the playoffs and emerge as a bunch of pretenders.

So when it comes to the Houston Rockets, it’s no surprise many pundits and fans of the game fall heavily on one side or the other. The 2017-18 Rockets are a polarizing squad in that respect. On one side of the fence, you have the folks that are struggling to get behind Houston until they see how the franchise performs in the playoffs under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages. On the other, folks that place a great deal of weight on the 82-game regular season and the ability to sustain consistency throughout the marathon.

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

At the top of Houston’s lineup are two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. The latter was a perennial star in his heyday and is still a top-tier talent in the league. Harden, on the other hand, is closing in on his first MVP award and had serious cases for winning the honors in prior seasons, as well. Both Harden and Paul are criticized for their past playoff failures.

Paul entered the league during the 2006 season and has been dogged by the ever looming fact that he’s never reached a Conference Finals. Harden has been to the NBA Finals but has been dogged for multiple playoff missteps and shaky performances that remain etched in everyone’s memory. But something about this season’s Rockets team (57-14) seems different as the duo closes in on 60 wins.

One way to measure the true greatness of a NBA team is evaluating how many ways the roster can win playing a variety of styles. From the eyeball test, Houston checks the boxes in this category. The team sustains leads during blowouts. They have an offense built to erase large deficits quickly. The team possesses the talent to employ an array of versatile lineups to withstand top heat from opposing teams. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has shown the ability to adjust on the fly during certain situations. Houston is seemingly comprised of a bunch of guys that are selfless and ready to sacrifice at this stage of their respective careers.

Time will tell on all of those aforementioned aspects, but the Rockets are built to compete and win now. On paper at least, the team fits the criteria.

Floor Generalship

Paul has a chance to go down as a top five point guard in NBA history .His court vision is unquestioned and his big men always seem to end up being in the top five of field goal percentage each season (i.e. Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and now Clint Capela). In years past, the Rockets faltered down the stretch of games because the entire system ran through Harden. But this year’s club has the luxury of taking some of the on-ball expectation away from Harden and by giving the rock to Paul who naturally thrives in this role the squad doesn’t take a step back on the floor.

This is going to be big for Houston which has seen Harden gassed late in playoff games from carrying the entire load.

Small Ball Ready

Presumably standing between the Rockets and an appearance in the NBA Finals are the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors turned the NBA upside down with their free-flowing offense, long range accuracy and the successful ability to push the pace while playing small ball.

At the height of Golden State’s success they employed the “death lineup” which places All-Star forward Draymond Green at center. In different variations this gives the Warriors five guys on the court who can dribble, drive, pass and shoot. Versatility is important and if you look at this year’s Rockets team they have the ability to match the death lineup with their own version. Veteran forward P.J. Tucker would be able to guard Green in this scenario at center or Houston could just rely on the athleticism of Capela.


When it comes to defense, the Rockets will never be confused for the bad boy Detroit Pistons of yesteryear, however, the team has an assortment of individually capable defenders on the roster. Paul has all defensive team honors hanging on his mantle during his time in the league. Small forward Trevor Ariza made his bones in the league by placing an emphasis on defense. Before Capela emerged as a double-digit scorer, he was relied on as a defensive spark off the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute has a reputation and consistent track record of being a very willing defender.

Shooting, Versatility and Experience

All of this success, leads to the variation D’Antoni can put out onto the floor. The versatility to go with a small ball lineup or a lineup heavily skewed toward defenders is a luxury amenity. Houston also features five guys with 125 or more three-pointers made this season with Harden, Eric Gordon, Ariza, Paul and Ryan Anderson leading the way. A sixth, Tucker, should join the +100 club before season’s end. Veteran Gerald Green has only played 30 games with the franchise but has already knocked down 76 attempts from distance.

Experience is key as well. This year’s Rockets team features only one player under 25, receiving 25 or more minutes per night in the rotation. Look at NBA history, title winning teams are full of veterans not second or third year players.


Again, the Rockets will never be confused with the late 80s or early 90s Pistons but the team has more than a few guys that don’t shy away from contact or physical play. The collection of Nene, Tucker, Green and Ariza have had more than their share of shoving matches when things get heated on the floor.

With the start of the NBA playoffs (April 14) under a month away, the Rockets continue to build momentum toward a title run. Will Harden and Paul’s playoff demons from the past emerge or is their first true shot at greatness with a complete team? These questions will soon be answered.

Continue Reading

The Strictly Speaking Podcast


Trending Now