Led by the trio of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, the 2014 NBA Draft class was one of the most sought-after of the decade. Those three were supposedly guaranteed superstars with a number of high-end prospects behind them as well.
SLAM Magazine went so far as to recreate the famous cover photo of the 1996 class with the new crop of youngsters, one that included future Hall of Famers like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.
Revisionist history is a much used-practice in the realm of sports, especially when it comes to the annual draft. It’s easy to look back on specific selections and criticize the decision-makers behind them. In reality, teams can do as much prep as they want, but there’s always a certain amount of luck that comes with just about any pick.
The 2014 Draft is an interesting one to look back on. There have been those whose stocks have plummeted since entering the NBA five years ago with expectations having failed to been met.
Others who weren’t even first-round selections have risen to prominence around the league while making quite a number of front-office executives look very bad in the process.
For this exercise, the fit between player and team is not as important as overall talent. Those in the lottery were there for a reason, and beggars are rarely afforded the option of being choosey. The teams outside the top 14 may be able to reach for a specific positional need, but they likely wouldn’t be upset with the best overall player at their respective slots.
2014 NBA Redraft: 1. Joel Embiid, Cleveland Cavaliers
Joel Embiid was the best player leading up to the 2014 Draft, flashing tremendous two-way potential reminiscent of Hakeem Olajuwon. Most mock drafts had him first overall for months on end, but a pre-draft broken foot changed everything.
The injury had the Cleveland Cavaliers thinking of other damaged greats such as Bill Walton or Yao Ming, Hall of Famers who could’ve been all-time legends if not for their bodies betraying them. Given the other talented players in the draft, it was not a risk the Cavs were willing to make, hence the selection of Andrew Wiggins.
The threat of injury is still very much apparent within Embiid. Every hard fall skips a heartbeat of Philadelphia 76ers fans while the seven-footer has failed to crack even 65 games in any of his four seasons on the court.
That he is still the first guy off the board speaks volumes to an incredibly high level of play that has been turned up several notches in the 2020-21 season.
Before going down with an injury, Embiid was the MVP frontrunner. On a Sixers team with one of the best records in the east, he’s averaged almost 30 points a night with over 11 rebounds and three assists per game. He’s shooting better than 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and over 80 percent from the line on more than 11 attempts a night, all career-high marks.
Philly had to wait two years before seeing Embiid take the court. Even upon his arrival, the experience felt as if something was still being left on the cutting room floor.
Now, Embiid is operating at the peak of his powers and it is glorious.