Four years after LeBron’s nationally televised “The Decision”, the tables have turned and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the ones on the hot seat.
Thursday’s draft presents an intriguing forking path for the divided Cavs organization. One thing we know for sure is that there won’t be another Anthony Bennett-type surprise.
Now that Joel Embiid’s back and foot have conspired against him before the two most pivotal periods in his NBA career, the Cavaliers are reportedly vacillating between the tandem of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker as their latest No. 1 overall pick.
Reportedly, owner Dan Gilbert is sold on Wiggins while general manager David Griffin is leaning towards Parker. Glbert refuted that report via his Twitter account, but the mystery over the Cavs draft strategy remains up in the air.
Which choice the Cavaliers make is representative of the mindset of their franchise. The safe, “win-now” pick is Parker.
He’s the smooth operator with a silky jumper that leaves the net wetter than Apollonia in Lake Minnetonka and an offensive repertoire as prolific as Ray Charles hacking away on a keyboard. On the downside, Parker’s athleticism and lower upside put a cap on his impact. He has All-Star ability, but he probably won’t be a franchise cornerstone.
On the flipside of Parker is Wiggins. If Parker is a luxury hotel, Wiggins is a skyscraper project. Hyped as Maple Jordan, before he’d stepped on Kansas’ campus, Wiggins has the prerequisite size, athleticism, wiry frame and defensive skills, but the bust potential is greater.
As it stands, Wiggins’ high dribble and loose handles don’t make him a candidate to create his own shot on a regular basis at the next level. He may never develop into a ravenous scorer or an alpha dog.
However, there are concerns about whether he’ll ever develop into a guard that can maneuver towards the basket and around defenders with the ball consistently.
He’s not exactly a lights out shooter either, which could make him simple to game plan for. After flubbing on Anthony Bennett 12 months ago, it’s a necessity for Cleveland to get this pick right.
However, Wiggins does complement Cleveland’s ball-dominating guards Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, whom he can defer to on the offensive end.
For everything Wiggins can’t do—yet. There is a matching asset he does bring to the game.
Despite Wiggins’ deficiencies on the offensive end, he can turn it up a notch when he’s compelled to play with urgency.
Once Kansas lost Embiid, Wiggins ripped Kansas’ opponents before being locked down by Stanford’s senior all-world defender Josh Heustis.
Another factor in Wiggins’ favor is that defensively, he has Paul George or Kawhi Leonard-type All-NBA First Team Defense. Developmentally, Wiggins is ahead of the curve for both players, but he may end up as a hybrid of George defensively and Leonard offensively.
Frighteningly enough, Parker resembles Carmelo Anthony on the offensive and the defensive end.
If this were 2013, Parker would be the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick. However, in a draft with so many potential future franchise-players, Parker is being scrutinized at an atomic level and the deciding factor could depend on the Cavs vision of the Ghost of Parker Future.
While his rookie season may dwarf Wiggins’ year one production, The Prospect Formerly Known as Maple Jordan is a hoops Pokemon with the potential to evolve into a game changer.
Wiggins is bustling with possibilities. Parker doesn’t provide a jolt to the imagination and doesn’t conjure up any Jordan, Kobe or LeBron comparisons. He could wind up somewhere between Luol Deng and Anthony as a pro, but is that worth a No. 1 overall pick in this draft?
There’s also the elephant in the room for the Cavs to consider. If LeBron James gives any indication that he’d be willing to return to the franchise where it all began, Wiggins would blend in seamlessly as a 2-guard while Parker clutters the small forward position along with Bennett (or James).
The podium is set up for Commissioner Adam Silver to kick off the post-Stern era, the green room is being prepped for the NBA's next great class of prospects, King James is weighing his options, the Cavs are on the clock and the world is watching Cleveland.