The Cleveland Cavaliers took Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
The draft has shaped up to be one of the most open ended in years because the presumed No. 1 overall pick, Kansas center Joel Embiid, suffered a stress fracture in his foot and had surgery last week.
Today is a key day as well for the Lakers, who have the seventh overall pick. It’s the first time since 2007 that the Lakers have a first round pick; every year since then they have either sold or traded away their selection.
No. 1 -- Cleveland Cavaliers -- Andrew Wiggins, 6-8, 200, Kansas, small forward
Before his freshman season at Kansas, Wiggins was seen as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, so good that Sports Illustrated put him on the cover in comparison to Jayhawks legend Wilt Chamberlain. Then, the season started. Defensively, he was superb, but offensively, Wiggins was erratic. He finished the year averaging a hair over 17 points and six rebounds a game, which is good for most players but apparently not good enough for the second coming of LeBron. Regardless, going into draft day he was almost guaranteed to go in the top three.
Ben Bolch: Cavs took upside over polished product but already have concerns about fashion sense.
No. 2 -- Milwaukee Bucks -- Jabari Parker, 6-8, 235, Duke, power forward
Parker is another case of a player who got a ton of attention in high school and couldn’t mask the impossible expectations set up for him in college. He averaged 19 points and almost nine rebounds, but was inconsistent offensively and sometimes just plain bad defensively. The argument could be made that Parker wasn’t used in a position to best showcase his abilities at Duke, as he often played power forward and sometimes center in small-ball lineups. In the NBA, he’ll probably be a larger small forward. Offensively, he’s one of the best pure scorers in the draft, but he’ll need to improve his defense at the next level.
Ben Bolch: Most NBA-ready player headed to team barely qualifying for league accreditation.
No. 3 -- Philadelphia 76ers -- Joel Embiid, 7-0, 250, Kansas, center
Embiid was widely considered the No. 1 overall pick, but suffered a foot injury a week before the draft. He underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot, and it’s unknown when he’s going to be able to play. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16 years old. The versatile 7-footer had a jaw-dropping freshman season with the Jayhawks, averaging 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds while blocking 72 shots to earn Big 12 defensive-player-of-the-year honors, before suffering a stress fracture in his back. Injuries aside, he’s a potential franchise center who can run, shoot and defend with the quickness of a guard. Scouts say he has the potential to be a 7-foot Serge Ibaka.
Ben Bolch: Big man could follow in injured footsteps of Nerlens Noel and sit out entire season.
No. 4 -- Orlando Magic -- Aaron Gordon, 6-7 1/2, 220, Arizona, power forward
He’s young (18), athletic (39 inch vertical), and averaged close to a double-double (12.4 points and eight rebounds on one of the best teams in the country. He also grew more than 1 1/2 inches in his freshman year at Arizona. Still, scouts are concerned about how his offensive game will translate to the pros. He’s small for a power forward, but probably doesn’t dribble or shoot well enough to be a small forward and his free-throw shooting was 42%. Gordon also faded down the stretch his freshman season. His ceiling’s high, but it’s going to take a team convinced it can figure out how to maximize his potential for him to be a lottery pick.
Ben Bolch: Surprise pick can play both forward positions but can’t shoot free throws (42.2%).
No. 5 -- Utah Jazz -- Dante Exum, 6-4 1/4, 196, Australia, point guard/shooting guard
As is the case with many 18-year olds who didn’t play basketball in America, Exum’s draft stock is hard to gauge. The No. 1 international prospect in the draft is a tall point guard who can shoot, and has a frame that will make it easy to put on muscle. At the same time, it’s telling that his NBA comparisons range from Penny Hardaway to Leandro Barbosa. He might get passed up for more recognizable players, but he’s high on scouts’ draft boards for a reason.
Ben Bolch: Dynamic guard from Australia has the kind of game that plays well anywhere.
No. 6 -- Boston Celtics -- Marcus Smart, 6-2, 227, Oklahoma State, point guard