The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly have their eyes set on a certain Kansas freshman for the No. 1 pick — but which one?
The Cavaliers are leaning toward selecting Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 pick, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. “My sources in Cleveland indicate Wiggins is the likelier choice at this early stage,” Ford writes. “They feel he has the most long-term potential, helps them defensively right out of the gate and can replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup while adding character to the team.”
But wait — another ESPN report says Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid is on the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board, but the team is still trying to acquire medical information on his back. The report says the Cavs also are looking at Duke freshman Jabari Parker.
Wiggins, Embiid and Parker are the consensus top three prospects in the draft class. Australian point guard Dante Exum is another player who could be selected with a top-three pick, but the Cavaliers don’t need to address the point guard position because of Kyrie Irving’s emergence as a superstar.
Wiggins projects to be a small forward capable of averaging 20-plus points, along with elite one-on-one defense after he fully develops. He’s drawn comparisons to Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
Embiid is coming off a stress fracture in his back, and he may have the cautionary tales of Greg Oden and Nerlens Noel following him until draft day.
Whomever the Cavaliers choose first overall, their fans are hoping that he makes a stronger impact as a rookie than Anthony Bennett did this past season. Bennett was taken with the top pick in the 2013 draft and averaged just 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Cavaliers. It was one of the worst rookie seasons by a No. 1 pick in league history.
The Cavaliers will be the first team to pick No. 1 overall in back-to-back seasons since the Orlando Magic in 1992 and ’93. The Magic selected Shaquille O’Neal in ’92 and Chris Webber (who was quickly traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway) in ’93. O’Neal and Hardaway helped Orlando reach the NBA Finals in their second season together. Cleveland is hoping for similar results after failing to make the playoffs in each of the four seasons following LeBron James’ departure.