Last week, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft was a fairly cut-and-dry proposition, as Joel Embiid was considered a virtual lock to go to Cleveland. Given that the Kansas product suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and is projected to miss four to six months, however, the Cavaliers find themselves back at the drawing board.
“Well, they’ve got a tough choice,” NBA.com writer Sekou Smith said on The Morning Show. “I think they’ve got to really evaluate their No.1 pick from last year and ask themselves if Anthony Bennett is the answer at small or power forward – and I think he has to be a small forward. And if he is, can Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker be a shooting guard? I don’t think the answers to those questions are clear. I think if you’re going on pure talent, Wiggins is clearly the guy with the highest ceiling. But if you’re talking about NBA readiness, Parker is the one guy to me – other than Aaron Gordon – whose skills translate immediately to the NBA.”
While Cleveland could entertain trade offers for the No. 1 pick, Smith doesn’t see it happening.
“Teams blow smoke about it every year; they always talk about how they might move that No. 1 pick,” Smith said. “But when you get down to it, the most surefire way to build quality teams in the NBA is through the draft and through free agency. You think about all the guys who have been drafted in those top three to five spots over the years. Those are the guys that become the cornerstones of franchises. So to trade away one of these picks for an established NBA player that’s going to lead you to that next level, I think, is kind of a farfetched dream – especially for the Cavaliers, a team that hasn’t been able to get it right through the draft. Even when LeBron was there, they struggled to make the right moves to get to that championship level.”
Some analysts feel that Embiid is still a lock for the top five, but Smith isn’t buying it.
“He’s going to fall,” Smith said. “There’s no doubt about it. You go from being the projected No.1 pick in most people’s eyes to a guy who’s probably going to end up in the second half of that top 10 and potentially into the teens.”
Smith would be shocked to see Philadelphia draft Embiid third overall – which is what many analysts are projecting. The 76ers, you may recall, took Nerlens Noel last year – knowing full well he would likely not play as a rookie.
“If they (draft Embiid), they need to consider playing in the D-League,” Smith said. “Enough of the nonsense.”
Smith wonders if the Lakers would be an ideal landing spot for Embiid, even though Kobe Bryant is in win-now mode. If the Lakers were to draft Embiid, they’d have to make several impact moves in free agency to placate the Black Mamba.
But get this Embiid-to-Philadelphia idea out of your head.
“This idea that you’re going to continue to dive off that deep end the way the Sixers have the past couple years is a joke,” Smith said. “If somebody in their organization makes a decision about gambling on Joel Embiid, they seriously need to lose their job.”