Not that Chicago native Jabari Parker has too much to complain about these days, but like his fellow candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft, after Tuesday night’s lottery, the Kansas duo of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, there must be a feeling of uncertainty.
Cleveland surprisingly ended up with top selection in the NBA Draft, with the league’s two worst teams in the regular season, Milwaukee and Philadelphia, picking second and third, respectively. All three franchises have plenty of holes to address and while there will be speculation about which player ends up going where leading up to the evening of June 26th, it’s safe to say that nobody will know for sure until shortly before league commissioner Adam Silver makes the announcement.
[RELATED: Aggrey Sam's 2014 First round NBA Mock Draft]
While Parker had a more dominant season than either Wiggins or Embiid, opinions are mixed as to which of the three prospects has the most pro potential. Parker is the most polished of the trio, projects as perhaps the most NBA-ready and is seen as a go-to scorer upon arrival in the league, but Wiggins’ explosiveness and perceived high ceiling, and Embiid’s size and rare status as a potentially game-changing two-way center also make strong cases.
Having seen Parker’s development up close, from his ninth-grade year at Simeon Career Academy, also the alma mater of Derrick Rose, both his game and character have been scrutinized in Chicago for years, so while he’s unlikely to ever suit up for his hometown team, there’s an investment in seeing where he ends up playing.
If the Cavaliers were to pull the trigger on him, Parker would be an ideal running mate for fellow Duke product Kyrie Irving, Cleveland’s All-Star point guard. Offense isn’t necessarily the Cavs’ biggest issue—though recently-fired head coach Mike Brown didn’t exactly run the most efficient sets—but with the likely departure in free agency of another one-and-done former Blue Devil, ex-Bulls small forward Luol Deng, that position would be a big hole in the team’s lineup. Cleveland could certainly use some floor spacing and quality post-up play, and Parker’s ability to do both, as well as create his own shot off the dribble would make a lot of sense.
[MOCK DRAFT: Schanowski has Bulls taking players from Big Ten, ACC]
At the same time, the Cavs’ new permanent general manager David Griffin has indicated the desire to play faster, something that goes back to his roots with Phoenix, and Wiggins’ would make sense in that aspect, while a shot-blocking center like Embiid is also a major area of need. Furthermore, Parker’s game duplicates a lot of what last year’s No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett does, and while the Canadian had a disastrous rookie season and Parker is undoubtedly the superior talent, his presence would pretty much give Cleveland no hope of salvaging the young talent.
Of course, one of the worst-kept secrets in the league is the Cavs’ hope of putting together a roster attractive enough to lure LeBron James back to Ohio next summer and while James’ versatility would allow him to play with just about anybody, it should be noted that he and Parker play the same position, though both have the ability to slide over to power forward.
Milwaukee, located close enough to Parker’s hometown to have some regional ties and desperately seeking a face of the franchise, would be an excellent landing spot for Parker with the second pick.
The Bucks have new ownership and plans to build a new arena, giving the organization some stability and it’s easy to envision a dynamic, versatile and complementary forward tandem of Parker and talented rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. The defensive potential, playmaking instincts, unbelievable length, fluid athleticism and high upside of “The Greek Freak” would blend nicely with Parker’s scoring ability, and while the duo would be young and inexperienced, to paraphrase Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, they could cover each other’s weaknesses and play to their strengths and in time, be a very formidable pairing.
Besides Antetokounmpo, however, the rest of Milwaukee’s roster is somewhat up in the air, not to mention the eventual fates of general manager John Hammond and head coach Larry Drew, who both appear safe for the time being. Defensive-minded big man Larry Sanders had an extremely disappointing season, both on and off the court after receiving a surprising long-term contract extension, making Embiid a feasible option as a shot-blocking anchor on the interior. Similarly, shooting guard O.J. Mayo was a bust after signing with the Bucks as a free agent and given Wiggins’ ability to play both wing positions, as well as Antetokounmpo’s primary spot being small forward, the swingman is also a consideration.
Some of what the Bucks do will obviously be dictated by Cleveland’s selection, but it’s being whispered around the league that agents don’t want their players in Milwaukee, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Embiid’s medical records—he’s had back issues dating back to his senior year of high school—are somehow unavailable, and in the cases of Wiggins and Parker (the latter shares an agency, Wasserman Media Group, of which the aforementioned Rose is also a client, with Embiid), it’s possible they decline to work out for the team.
Philadelphia, which has the third selection in the draft after a season of strategic tanking that also featured a historic consecutive-games losing streak, is faced with choosing the player left remaining out of the top three prospects.
The 76ers would be extremely fortunate if Parker dropped to them, as a wing scorer like Parker would take a lot of pressure off of point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the league’s Rookie of the Year. While a frontcourt of Parker, veteran forward Thaddeus Young and shot-blocker Nerlens Noel—the Kentucky product missed all of his rookie season while recovering from an ACL injury suffered in his lone college campaign—would be undersized, Parker’s scoring, Young’s versatility and Noel’s defensive prowess has the potential to mesh well.
Just like with Milwaukee, Parker would be Philadelphia’s top offensive option immediately, without a proven supporting cast around him—aside from the aforementioned Young and Carter-Williams—and also similar to the Bucks, the Sixers aren’t likely to be a winning team in the near future, but Parker would certainly provide an excellent foundational piece to build around. While the 76ers could opt to trade the pick or even choose another player, such as Australian guard Dante Exum, who is regarded as the top backcourt prospect in the draft, it’s likely that one of the consensus top three.
Embiid makes less sense for the Sixers because of Noel’s similar skill set, though the Kansas center is regarded as the better talent in all aspects, including having legitimate size to play in the pivot. Wiggins would be an intriguing fit next to Carter-Williams, but judging from the athletic wing’s inconsistent freshman year, it’s still unclear to some observers whether he has the chops to be a dominant go-to guy at the NBA level.
For Parker, not having a feeling of where he’ll begin his professional career, coupled with wanting to be chosen first for pride purposes—though going second in the draft didn’t seem to damage Kevin Durant, nor did going third for Michael Jordan—is surely unsettling, but regardless of where he ends up, the native of the South Shore neighborhood will make a significant impact.