With Kentucky freshman Julius Randle announcing his decision this past Tuesday, all of the perceived top ranked prospects have declared themselves eligible for the NBA draft. This draft class has been viewed by many as the reason why many NBA teams “tanked” this year in order to boost their chances of winning the lottery and netting the top pick.
Going back the last six years, the top picks in the draft have been: Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Anthony Bennett. The verdict is still out on Bennett, a 6-foot-8, 250 pound tweener.
But Rose (the 2011 MVP) and Griffin have developed into superstars. Wall and Irving can be considered second-tier stars and are franchise players. In his second year, Davis led the league in blocked shots and looks like he could be a future MVP candidate for years to come.
Back to this current draft class, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Randle are considered the top prospects by the masses, in no particular order. Which of these prospects should go no. 1? We make the case for each player below.
Jabari Parker- SF, Duke, 6’8″, 235 pounds
Parker might be the most NBA-ready prospect in this whole draft class and if there was a sure thing, he would be it. His game has been compared to that of Carmelo Anthony as he’s a bit of a tweener – not exactly tall enough to be a permanent power forward or athletic enough to defend small forwards. He can however score from everywhere on the court. He had a poor showing in the NCAA tournament, scoring only 14 points in the first round defeat to Mercer, but Parker should be an immediate starter from day one wherever he goes.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas, 7’o”, 250 pounds
The NBA today lacks big men who can dominate on both ends of the floor. Prior to the stress fracture in his back, Embiid showcased his ability to do both. The most impressive aspect of his game is the footwork and the post moves he has already, as he reportedly started playing basketball three years ago. Because of his footwork, he has drawn comparisons to the great Hakeem Olajuwon who had a similar build. The issue with Embiid though will be how well his health checks out, as that will be the focal point for any team that drafts him.
Andrew Wiggins- SF, Kansas, 6’8″, 200 pounds
Wiggins is seen by many to have the highest ceiling of all the prospects with his freakish length and athleticism combined with his ability to play defense. He has all the tools to develop into an elite perimeter player with a skill set similar to a young Tracy McGrady or Paul George, though his jump shot and ball handling skills need to improve. Evidenced in Kansas’ loss in the tournament to Stanford when he only took six shots and scored four points, scouts will question his aggressiveness and his mental make up. Does he want to be great? It may take a couple years for Wiggins to piece it all together, but any team that drafts him will be ecstatic to have his talent. The one thing we know about NBA general managers – they love potential. And potential is key when talking about the no. 1 pick. Teams like to draft a player who hasn’t peaked yet. Wiggins is far from a finished product.
Julius Randle- PF, Kentucky, 6’9″, 250 pounds
The lefty led the nation in double-doubles as a freshman and plays like a more athletic Zach Randolph inside. When he struggled to score, he showed that he can impact the game in more ways than one, by rebounding the basketball and setting up opportunities for his teammates. With his ability to take the ball coast to coast, Randle has an intriguing face up game that he rarely utilizes. At the next level, taller and stronger defenders will take away his go-to move where he finishes over his right shoulder with the left hand, so he’ll have to develop some counter moves and establish a right jump hook. With the right coaching and right system, Randle’s game could translate to the NBA game very well.