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Should the Cavaliers draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker No. 1 now?

Jun 23, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kansas Getty Images

Joel Embiid had it all – size, skills, athleticism and upside.

Unfortunately, it’s never that easy in Cleveland.

With Embiid injured, the Cavaliers’ options for the No. 1 pick likely come down to Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

They could always take a flier on Dante Exum, or given how they’ve operated the last couple years, someone like Aaron Gordon. Maybe they could even still draft Embiid.

But all logic says Wiggins and Parker are the only two reasonable candidates, and the sudden shakeup makes the debate between the two – once with the No. 2 pick on the line – all the more intriguing.

It’s been easy for top-selecting teams to hide behind positional need to justify their selections. Players of the same position haven’t gone 1-2 in the draft in eight years, since the Raptors took PF Andrea Bargnani No. 1 and PF LaMarcus Aldridge followed at No. 2 in 2006.

Wiggins and Parker are heavy favorites to end that trend with the Bucks taking the one the Cavs don’t. Though Wiggins falls more toward a 2/3 and Parker a 3/4, both are essentially small forwards.

Here’s how the major sites rank them right now:

Site Wiggins Parker
DraftExpress 2 3
ESPN 1 2
CBS 1 2
SB Nation 1 2 3 2

Wiggins definitely holds a perceived edge. He possesses elite athletic traits – from his lengthy wingspan to his ridiculous vertical. He must become more aggressive and a better ball-handler to capitalize offensively, but his defense – while it comes and goes – looks excellent at times.

Parker can score from anywhere on the court, and he has the dribbling ability to get anywhere. He’s a willing passer with as diverse of an offensive skillset as you’ll find in a one-and-done player. His lack of lateral quickness leaves him a limited defender, though.

If you notice, there’s no discussion of fit here. For one, Wiggins and Parker share similar enough profiles.

More importantly, it doesn’t matter.

The Cavaliers won 33 games last year. They should not worry about how a player fits into a roster that should change significantly.

Only Kyrie Irving would make me even hesitate about positional overlap, but if the best prospect were a point guard, I’d still probably pick him and roll with two-point guard lineups – an underutilized weapon – and sort it out later. Conveniently for Cleveland, the only point guard even in the periphery of the discussion, Exum, could easily play the two.

In terms of what they bring to any team, looking at a player’s track record is a great place to start.

With minimal room to argue, Parker was better in college last season. He made every major All-American first team while Wiggins made all the second teams.

Even if we knew Parker was more likely than Wiggins to become the better player, that alone wouldn’t make Parker the clearly better draft choice.

If Wiggins has a higher ceiling – even with lower odds of reaching it – that matters. Superstars drive the NBA, and it might be better to swing at the fences for one rather than taking the dependable line-drive double.

I’m just not convinced that line of thinking matters in this case.

Why is everyone so convinced a 19-year-old Parker is so much more of a finished product than a 19-year-old Wiggins?

Wiggins entered school as the consensus No. 1 pick, and though we have 35 more games to analyze, I believe that label still colors perception of Wiggins. People look for reasons to justify his early project as No. 1 pick. Parker, an elite prospect coming out of high school himself, doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt.

Nothing indicates potential more than age, and less than a month separates the two. Wiggins’ athleticism give him an upside advantage, but without an age discrepancy also significantly in his favor, Wiggins’ upside advantage has been overstated.

That’s evident in the statistical ratings produced by Kevin Pelton of ESPN, the foremost public statistical draft ratings now that John Hollinger works for the Grizzlies. Pelton’ system features age prominently – in addition to pre-NBA production – in the equation.

And that’s why drafting Wiggins No. 1 is so unnerving. I might do it, but it would scare me.

He ranks just No. 22 in Pelton’s rating (Wins Above Replacement Player, aka WARP), which would make Wiggins the lowest-ranked No. 1 pick in the eight years for which Pelton has revealed data.

Year No. 1 pick WARP rank
2013 Anthony Bennett 13
2012 Anthony Davis 1
2011 Kyrie Irving 2
2010 John Wall 10
2009 Blake Griffin 3
2008 Derrick Rose 9
2007 Greg Oden 2

I’m always most comfortable when the analytics match my eye test.

It’s not about taking the player statistics rate No. 1 – Marcus Smart for Pelton this year, by the way. It’s  about using all methods of evaluation to reach a conclusion.

Like Wiggins, Parker passes the eye test, though perhaps not as effortlessly. But Parker ranks No. 7 in Pelton’s system, substantially higher than Wiggins.

That’s the case in other statistical models. Counting The Baskets places Parker No. 3 and Wiggins No. 19. Jacob Frankel has Parker No. 6 and Wiggins No. 13. Layne Vashro put Parker No. 8 and Wiggins No. 10, and Basketball Analytics ranks Parker No. 1 and Wiggins No. 3, but going by score rather than rank shows pretty substantial gaps between Parker and Wiggins in those two formulas.

Still, that some analytical methods place Wiggins so high certainly eases some of the worry of drafting him.

Simply, it’s an intriguing debate.

My gut says Wiggins. My head says Parker.

I’ve tried to train myself to follow my head over my gut – and usually I do – but it’s not easy. Wiggins is so tempting.

If I were the Cavaliers, I’d take Parker No. 1 and never look back look back constantly in fear of Wiggins becoming the better pro.

  1. loungefly74 - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    take Wiggins. end of story.

    • moneyz2 - Jun 23, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      can’t shoot, can’t dribble, cant rebound (too skinny)..big athlete, great leaper

  2. jeffkx - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    I’d take Wiggins..if Anthony Bennett gets his stuff together you may have a very similar player to Jabari (and rumor is he’s down to 230 pounds and his shot is looking a lot better).

    • lazeglow954 - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:52 PM

      Where the hell did you get that rumor sounds make believe to me

  3. loubearkane - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Parker belongs in Milwaukee

    • jeffkx - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      Yea I have to be honest I had no idea how close Milwaukee was to Chicago..would be the perfect spot for him..Jabari seems like a really good dude..

  4. John X - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    Parker fits better with the Cavs because he does already have a game. Wiggins would fit better in Philly. And Milwaukee should take Embiid. If they lose again they can have their Center and another top pick next year to pick or trade and with the Greek guy they could be a nightmare to score on. The Cavs need another player. Not another project. Wiggins I just can’t see developing in Cleveland.

    But they will take Wiggins. That is why they hired the Euro coach. More empahasis on teaching the game.

    • bougin89 - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Why would Wiggins fit better in Philly than in Milwaukee? The Bucks wisely have said they won’t take Embiid. Wiggins and Giannis leaves you with tons of length and athleticism on the perimeter. Plus both are two way players. You could go big or small with them, I like versatility in lineups.

      • unxpexted1 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Length athleticism and 0 outside shooting.

      • bougin89 - Jun 24, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        Giannis is a bad 3 point shooter? You haven’t watched him play very much. He’s not exceptional but he’s not half bad.

        Regardless I’d take my chances with athletic two way players that can finish at the rim. Put a stretch 4(Ersan) and Knight around them and you’ll have enough range in your lineup. Plus with G-Po you could go “small” with him at the 4.

      • John X - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:20 PM

        You could be right but I see a team in Milwaukee with questionable veteran leadership and a young,shoot first PG who may or may not get better and makes bad decisions, Philly he could be a 1-2 punch with MCW. Thad Young is a pro and good example if still there. They have Noel coming in at Center and a solid Coach who can teach. Just think it is a better spot for him.

      • John X - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        And honestly, I’d take Embiid anyway. The Cavs have enough talent they should be a better team with a new Coach alone. Those are high picks and decent players that need to play like pros. Not just get paid like them. The prospect of a Center like Embiid…. I would have to pick him anyway and wait. Big guys make any roster better.

      • bougin89 - Jun 24, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        If Embiid didn’t have the injury history I’d say without a doubt he’d be the pick but it’s not just 1 injury. We still don’t know if he has a chronic back problem(he’s had the same stress fracture in his back twice now) and now he’s got screws holding his foot together while it heals. These are injuries that can keep coming back. Too risky IMO at #1 or #2. I really hope he can get healthy though as the NBA really needs an infusion of quality, true centers.

  5. papichulo55 - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    The Cavs need Parker because he gets buckets. Not picking him because of Bennett would compound their bad 2013 Draft. I think Wiggins will play soft in the NBA. Just my hunch that teams will shut him down by playing him physical in the begining of the games.

  6. jamesk2465 - Jun 23, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Take Wiggins. He fits in perfectly w the Cavs since they need 2 way players. He’s also not going to be asked to score a lot cause we have 2 explosive guards for that (Kyrie &Dion). I don’t like the team defensively w Kyrie, Dion, and Jabari someone needs to guard the teams best player. Not to mention there is already 2 other Canadians on the team so he should feel right at home.

  7. campcouch - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Wiggins and Parker’s stats-

    Parker (6’8 235): 19.1ppg/ 8.7rpg/ 1.2ast/ 1.1stl/ 1.2blk/ 2.3TO/ .473fg/ .748ft/ .358-3pt

    Wiggins (6’8 200): 17.1ppg/ 5.9rpg/ 1.5ast/ 1.2stl/ 1.0blk/ 2.3TO/ .448fg/ .775ft/ .341-3pt

    Who knows who will be better? Nobody. These guys played on some pretty talented teams and put up great lines for freshmen. We don’t know if that’ll translate. Parker may become like Melo. Wiggins may become like Durant…or you’re looking at Michael Beasley and JR Rider. We don’t know until they play in the league. But it’s fun to guess,that’s why I’m here!

  8. mungman69 - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    I’d take Wiggins #1 but the Cavs “WILL” take Parker #1. Cleveland must play this safe and Parker is the safe pick plus he’s a pretty good player.

  9. sportsfan18 - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Amazing luck for the Cavs isn’t it?

    A team that had the number 1 pick in the draft in 3 out of 4 yrs…

    Surely they have a of quality young talent on board…

    I’m sure they may pick Embiid and let him sit and heal all year…

    I mean in the 2011 draft they had the FIRST and FOURTH picks overall…

    In the 2012 draft they had the Fourth pick and then a second pick in the first round at 24.

    In the 2013 draft they had the First overall pick, the 19th pick, the 31st and 34th picks in the draft.

    Now, in 2014 they have the First overall pick again…

    Surely they may pick a top talent guy and let him heal right?

    With all their recent high level draft selections…

    I mean, in the last 3 drafts, before this one they’ve had two #1’s and two #4 selections.

    Heck, with their number pick this year they should have a starting five of three recent #1 picks and two #4 picks…

    And many fans think Lebron would actually WANT to return to this…


  10. saint1997 - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Ahh I have to say it I love this time of the NBA calendar as much as any other. Speculation about drafts and free agents, there always just seems like such excitement and promise for all 30 NBA teams. It’s what we fans love to see and should rejoice in!

  11. floreskins - Jun 23, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Who SHOULD they take? Wiggins. Who, as a Sixers fan, I HOPE they take? Parker.

    • jeffkx - Jun 23, 2014 at 10:29 AM

      Parker and Wiggins go 1-2..who do you have the Sixers taking?

  12. chiadam - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    WARP in Cin-cinn-aaaaaaaaaaaaa-ti.

  13. unxpexted1 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    I’ll always contend that Jabari is the best player in the draft and will likely have a better career than Wiggins. BUT, for fit reason’s only i believe wiggins should number one to the cavs. I think wiggins will thrive in a situation where he doesn’t have to shoulder the scoring load. One of his weakness is his inablity to create his own shot, so having a very good PG guard on your team should alleviate tha. And he brings defense at the 3 that i don’t believe thier 1 and 2 possess. Him and Kyrie on the break would be fun too.

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