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June draft will be biggest NBA story of 2014

Jan 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

Andrew Wiggins AP

The beauty of sports is that our predictions are often off the mark — like life itself it goes in directions we can’t predict.

Still, we have some ideas of what we will look back on in a year as the biggest stories in the NBA for 2014. If the Miami Heat three-peat it will be a huge story, a coronation for LeBron James. A first title in Indiana or Oklahoma City would be epic. Unfortunately injuries to star players — Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez — and their returns will continue to be huge.

But I predict the biggest 2014 NBA story will be the June draft.

We may not know if the individual players pan out until sometime in 2017, but the way teams are jockeying — read: tanking — because their scouts tell them the upcoming draft class really does contain multiple franchise-changing players has already changed this NBA season. Once the lottery balls find their slots it will forever change several franchises for the rest of the decade (at least). Nothing will shape the NBA landscape in the next 12 months like this draft.

Most draft boards still have Andrew Wiggins, the explosively athletic Kansas swingman, at the top. His ceiling almost doesn’t seem to exist, the question is do teams think he can play that way consistently and get there?

Then you get into the big men — Julius Randle, the Kentucky power forward; Jabari Parker, the Duke sensation at the four; then maybe the most interesting of the group, Kansas center Joel Embiid.

They are followed by a couple of point guards such as Australia’s Dante Exum and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.

Any or all of them could be franchise changers. We know based on history that a couple of those guys will not be as elite as imagined, but it’s also likely somebody picked farther down the board (Gary Harris of Michigan State?) will exceed expectations.

What we do know already is a host of NBA teams trying to be bad this season to get one of those top lottery slots and a chance at one of those game-changing players. In the NBA you need one of about 10 elite players (ideally two of the top 15) to win a title. If you are in a middle to small market you can really only get those players through the draft.

When Adam Silver announces the lottery order in May the fortunes of multiple franchise will change — some will get one of those coveted top slots, others will fall down and look for other ways to rebuild.

But one way or another the draft of 2014 will shape the NBA going forward in ways even other recent drafts do not.

Those lottery balls and the players attached to them will be the biggest NBA story of 2014.

  1. hojo20 - Jan 1, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    This is the reason NCAA basketball is dying. Imagine how exciting it would be if these guys played 3-4 years in college.

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      Jabari Parker should be the face of the draft, not Wiggins (pictured above).

      • dondada10 - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        Zach LaVine is getting no love. Guy is a monster.

    • redbaronx - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:18 PM

      @hojo20 – Some of us don’t have to imagine….that’s the way it used to be and that was great for fans. At the same time, everyone has the right to earn a living, and there’s no reason if someone is over the age of 18 that a kid should be prevented from entering the draft.

  2. frankgarrett - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    The Milwaukee Bucks will pick up the key to what they’re missing in this draft . Within a couple years the Bucks will be the Thunder of the East . BOOK IT . FEAR THE DEER!

    • sire2334 - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Anything’s possible….

    • tomtravis76 - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      Would stink if they were playing their games in Seattle, though Seattle should get a team.

    • leet793 - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      Rob Deer is back? Be afraid, be very afraid

    • pfic15 - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      No. They will package a high first round pick for a slew of second rounders over the next 3-5 years, overpay another Mayo type player and continue their mediocre ways.

    • 00maltliquor - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:47 PM

      I don’t see why not. With Sanders and Henson D’ing up and rebounding in the backcourt and Giannis Anthhgehgjkjfsioipwrdnvbfshrwhjbvdjckoumpo on the wing, one more solid wing or PG should make them a team to seriously watch.

      • bougin89 - Jan 2, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        Bingo. At least this is the hope. If we do end up with the first pick they have to go with Wiggins or Parker, no? If we end up somewhere in the 3-6 range I think Marcus Smart would be the best fit but we just need to select best player available regardless of position.

  3. johngalt1783 - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Say what? The draft will be like most pretty boring. Occassionally there is a surprise or two but for the most part who the top five picks will be is pretty well known before the draft.

    Sometimes a signficant trade can occur on draft night but other than that the draft is pretty boring. It might be exciting for the fans of the lottery teams becasue truthfully that is about all they have to get excited about until FA which begins a few weeks after the draft.

    I expect the FA period in 2014 will be a heck of lot more exciting than the draft with all kinds of rumors of players signing here there and everywhere. Especially this year when the FA crop will have a lot more impact on the 2014-15 playoff chase than a bunch of rookies going to lotttery teams.

  4. 950003cups - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Gee I can’t wait to see who the Knicks gave to Denver, who will in turn give it to Orlando!! Probably gonna be a future Hall of Famer.

    Go Knicks!

    • 00maltliquor - Jan 2, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      Ouch

  5. lastdukestreetking - Jan 1, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Regarding the pick that NYK owes Denver, it may not be that pick that goes to Orlando. Denver gets to keep the better of the two picks (their own or NY’s) and Orl gets the other. That may not be determined until after the draft lottery.

  6. hannsta - Jan 1, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    I agree this will be an important draft, but the big markets losing key players in no way marginalizes this seasons importance. In the end a draft is just a draft. The arguement just sounds too much like the “lebrons only won a ring and a half, because of the lockout”. And besides neither the lakers or nets were going to contend this year and the other two had the same injuries last year. It takes a very dull season and a very strong draft for the draft to override the season. Only 2003 comes close imo.

  7. captainwisdom8888 - Jan 1, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Philadelphia looks poised for a top-5, if not top-3 pick in June. Add the fact that they own the Pelican’s 1st rounder and if New Orleans struggles down the stretch, than the 76ers can easily be looking at almost two top-10 selections. I can think of very few NBA teams who desperately need some star-power more than Philadelphia at the current moment. I would like to see Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, or Gordon as the newest 76er, and this may be more of a dream-scenario than actually reality…but if the 76ers can pair Evan Turner with their 2nd lottery pick and move back down to take another superstar…WOW.

    • biasedhomer - Jan 1, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      I doubt the Hornet pick ends up top 10. They have to much talent on that team. They will be around .500.

      • sumkat - Jan 1, 2014 at 4:49 PM

        Right now it would be the 13th pick. I don’t think they have enough talent to knock off the Warriors or Mavs, so it will still be a lottery pick

  8. saint1997 - Jan 1, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    Jabari Parker is a combo forward (like Melo in that sense) and Exum and Smart are combo guards

  9. ravenswhat - Jan 1, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    If anyone has seen the two of them play, Jabari Parker just does everything better than Wiggins. He’s the smarter player and shoots much much better. He also rebounds and passes better. I would say Wiggins is the better athlete and has a higher ceiling because of that but I’m picking Parker if I have the top pick. He’s a Durant type game changer.

  10. bryco9 - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    The whole draft lottery is a complete joke, everyone and they’re uncle knows its a scam. The NBA has had it rigged for years, giving the top picks to those teams THEY deem worthy. Like it or not, the team with the worst record should get the first pick. Tanking take place in all sports and doesn’t always make a team better (Cleveland browns, timberwolves, royals, ect…). No other major sport uses a lottery system, it’s a joke that only adds to irrelevance of the NBA.

    • kcroyal - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Excuse me, but the Royals have never “tanked”. We are just a legitimately horrible franchise.

    • thomaskouns - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      While that’s a fun and entertaining ‘conspiracy theory’ that let’s us all hate on coporations & ‘Big Brother’, the NBA has too waaayyy too much to loose if that were the case.

      David Stern behind bars & reputation destroyed, NBA credibility ruined, loss in ticket &TV revenues and on and on and on..

      And the reality is most recent franchise players don’t go to big markets & statistically a few will (by sheer probability) which has held true.

      Oops gotta go – late for my 9/11 Conspiracy Group.

      • 00maltliquor - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:59 PM

        Don’t worry, they canceled group tonight and rescheduled it for tomorrow night at 8:00pm because Bob couldn’t make it.

      • sumkat - Jan 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        Please give an example of a franchise player that went, by choice, to a small market

        There isn’t one

    • spursareold - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Given that the Spurs won the lottery twice while Stern was on watch, no there is no rigging going on. SA is the very last franchise that Stern would bestow two players like DRob and Duncan to.

  11. cranespy - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    This may be the silver lining in the injury to their current franchise player…….a lost season…can lightening strike the Cavs a third time?!?! If the “son” is picking get ready for another piece to the puzzle that will someday bring what the SELF PROCLAIMED King could NOT…..a Championship for the Cavs.

  12. truninerfan49 - Jan 1, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    i bet the lakers will win the lottery

    • 00maltliquor - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:42 PM

      One could only hope! :-D

  13. 1historian - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    Who was the biggest most humongous most important lottery pick in the last 10 years? Lebron James. How long did it take him to win a title? About 7 or 8 years and a change of teams. The biggest reason he left Cleveland is the fact that the Cleveland franchise owners did nothing to get players to complement him.

    MJ – It took 7 seasons for Jerry Krause to put together the team that ruled the NBA in the 90s. MJ was 21 and a veteran of 3 years in NCAA competition when he went to the NCAA.

    We’re talking about 18-19 year old kids.

    Teams that tank to get a high pick in the lottery are creating a losing atmosphere on the court and in the locker room. A 19 year old kid is not going to change that.

    • bougin89 - Jan 2, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      “Teams that tank to get a high pick in the lottery are creating a losing atmosphere on the court and in the locker room. A 19 year old kid is not going to change that.”

      Well the Cavs literally tanked to get Lebron. They ended up being much, much better than they were pre-Lebron even though they didn’t win a title. Multiple 60+ win seasons and a finals appearance with Lebron. A 19 year old did change it for them.

      Tanking doesn’t always work. Teams will avoid tanking at all costs until a certain point where they almost have to in order to get better.

  14. sportsfan18 - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    Wiggins equals Michael Beasley.

    • sasquash20 - Jan 2, 2014 at 7:55 AM

      Except that Wiggins is 10x the athlete. Wiggins will fill out and be a beast. He may not end up being the best player in this draft but he will at least be a force offensively.

      • sportsfan18 - Jan 2, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Beasley in college for his one season…

        26.2 points a game
        .562% 2 pt FG%
        .379% 3 pt percentage
        .774% free throw

        He WAS an offensive beast.

        It WAS a tough choice for folks to choose between D Rose and Beasley (then).

        I know Wiggins one college season isn’t done, but here’s his stats…

        15.9 points
        .527% 2 pt FG%
        .341% 3 pt percentage
        .757% free throws

        Wiggins will be considered for the top selection with a few others, Parker maybe, Randle, Smart etc… and it will be a tough choice too.

        OH, AND when Wiggins fills out from his 200 pounds as you say he’ll fill out, then he’ll be like Beasley who IS 235 lbs.

        Wiggins disappears from portions of many of their games and is disinterested. It’s been written several times by many different folks covering his games.

        I still think Wiggins ends up like the Beas…

        Oh, and if you didn’t know, KD and Beasley were best friends, childhood friends.

        Not that it has anything to do with anything, I was just throwing in some filler.

        The Beas was the Player of the Year in college, a first team all American… and yet…

        Anyway, Wiggins has a ways to go to catch the Beas and his production in college.

  15. 00maltliquor - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    Getting sorry for Jabari

  16. powerpop1 - Jan 2, 2014 at 2:01 AM

    Do the Knicks have their # 1 draft choice?

    • Kurt Helin - Jan 2, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      No.

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