After months, or even years in some cases, of the 2014 NBA Draft class being hyped up to be one of the best since 2003, expectations and projections are quickly beginning to come back down to reality. It’s still a very promising group, but the talk of multiple franchise players coming out of it is nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be.
Kansas center Joel Embiid is now regarded as the best player available and it’s with good reason. The young big man has improved at a rapid rate. Once thought of as a multi-year project, he’s now the most intriguing center prospect to play college basketball since DeMarcus Cousins was at Kentucky. Rather than continuing to beat around the bush, here it is simply: he’s worth tanking for. Embiid has all the tools necessary to be the league’s next great big man. He’s barely halfway through his freshman year and teams have already seen enough to push him past the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker – the previous candidates for the top overall selection.
However, the NBA is more ready for Embiid than he is for it. After seeing that Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon stayed in school for more than a year, Embiid isn’t sure if he should do the same.
“I was curious because I want to be great, I want to be the best at my position one day,” Embiid said to ESPN’s Dana O’Neil. “I’m trying to learn everything and what other people did. All of the great big men went to college at least two or three years. I think it’s a big factor. I don’t know if it will always work, but I think it’s the best choice.
“I don’t know. I think [the NBA] would be too overwhelming for me right now. I’m not sure I’m ready.”
Passing up on the draft when you’re in contention for the top spot is far easier said than done, but it has been done. Look no further than Marcus Smart deciding to stay at Oklahoma State last year when he was almost a virtually lock to go in the top three, Cody Zeller sticking around for two years at Indiana when he could have been a lottery pick as a freshman, or Blake Griffin doing the same at Oklahoma.
Embiid isn’t the only top freshman to be lukewarm about being one-and-done. Parker also has his reservations. Like Embiid, he’ll have more reasons to leave than stay, but he’s always made it clear that he could stay.
“My wife, my son and I haven’t talked about it,” Jabari’s father, Sonny Parker told WEEI.com. “We honestly don’t know. After the season, we’ll talk about it. That’s what I told Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] when he was recruiting Jabari, and that’s what I tell him now. ‘We just want Jabari to enjoy the season.’ People can speculate all they want, but it’s not a discussion. Right now, he’s dealing with being a student-athlete at Duke. He’s not entertaining that.”
“We’re not thinking about that right now, and we don’t want him thinking about it,” added Sonny Parker. “He doesn’t want it to be a distraction for his teammates. I don’t know where they’re getting their information, because we really don’t know what he’s going to do. He just wants to have fun, concentrate on this season and enjoy school.”
In the case that Embiid and Parker do decide to stay in school, all of the talk about how great the 2014 NBA Draft class could be is going to become nearly extinct. It’s deep and rich of talent, but the absence of those two would be a huge loss for the class.
The 2014 class’ loss would be the 2015’s gain, though. And, probably in short order, it’d be the ’15 class getting all the hype and being compared to the likes of the aforementioned 2003 class or even 1996. Embiid and Parker would start the year at the top two spots, but there wouldn’t be a huge drop off after them.
Before the possibility of Embiid and Parker sticking around became public knowledge, the 2015 draft was already looking strong. It’s highlighted by five big men with All-Star potential in Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Myles Turner (Undecided), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Trey Lyles (Kentucky) and Karl Towns (Kentucky). If those five were eligible to make the jump straight to the NBA this year, the only way one of them would fall out of the top 10 is because of team needs. They’re big time prospects and within short order you’ll be hearing a lot more about them along with SMU bound guard Emmanuel Mudiay, Arizona’s wing Stanley Johnson and Duke forward Justise Winslow among others.
The draft is such an inexact science and always so difficult to project. Because of that, it only seems fitting that next year’s class would end up being the one to really go crazy for. If Parker and Embiid are a part of it, there could be even more hype – and it would be completely justifiable.
Gallinari’s Costly Setback: This offseason Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari was told that he did not need reconstructive ACL surgery due to a knee injury suffered in April. Instead, only his torn meniscus was operated on. The belief at the time was that his ACL would heal on its own, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Gallinari underwent surgery today to repair the ACL, which will cause him to miss the 2013-14 NBA season in its entirety.
“Danilo’s knee required that he undergo reconstruction surgery of the ACL, which was successfully completed earlier this morning,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “Knowing Danilo’s drive and work ethic, we look forward to a full recovery and a healthy return to the court next season.”
With Gallinari out, the Nuggets will continue to rely heavily on Wilson Chandler, who has finally gotten over some health issues of his own and emerged as the team’s second-leading scorer with 13.5 points a contest. Quincy Miller and Jordan Hamilton, whose playing time would have been in jeopardy with Gallinari’s return, will continue to see the most minutes they have in their respective careers.
The Nuggets are currently 20-20 and three games out of the Western Conference playoffs.