NBA scouts offer up the skinny on draft’s top three prospects

Will Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NBA Draft? Even NBA scouts don't know for sure.

Lance King/Getty Images, Ed Zurga/Getty Images

It’s not often an NBA draft like this comes along.

"It’s like having three No. 1 (overall) picks in one draft," one NBA scout said.

Of course, he was referring to center Joel Embiid, swingman Andrew Wiggins and forward Jabari Parker. One of them is certain to be selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first pick in the June 26 draft. The other two likely will go to the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, drafting second and third overall. Everyone, it seems, will win.

At least, that’s the general consensus of three NBA scouts — each of whom spoke to FOX Sports Ohio on the condition of anonymity, thus avoiding the wrath of their respective employers.

Let’s take a look at excerpts of what they had to say about each player:

Joel Embiid, 7-0, C, Kansas

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Scout 1: "He reminds me of Hakeem (Olajuwon) in that he looks really comfortable for a 7-footer. He doesn’t slouch or seem awkward. Playing volleyball and soccer early in life probably really helped him. … Everything about him screams upside. … I’m not sure if he’s ready to be a big contributor offensively. In fact, he may have a ways to go in that area. But he should be a force on D right away. … Eventually, he could alter the course of your franchise."

Scout 2: "Any time a kid has a great work ethic and a really good personality and is 7-foot, you have to think about him (at No. 1). Then you throw in that he’s unbelievably athletic with NBA skills, I just don’t see how you pass on him. … I do get the concerns over his back. It’s the type of injury that gets guys fired and dooms franchises. I’d be lying if I’d say the Cavs and others aren’t scared. And they should be. … But if he stays healthy and is as good as we think, watch out. He’ll be a major difference-maker, a superstar."

Scout 3: "Great body control, great hands and a throwback of a low-post presence. … It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a center like this. He’ll be better than Dwight (Howard). I suspect he’ll be more like David Robinson. … He may be a little too nice, and he leaves his feet too much on defense, but he’s going to alter shots and block some, too. … His back will have to be monitored closely for a long time, I don’t care what anyone says about it now."

Consensus: Emiid is viewed as a franchise-changing pivot, the type of big man who hasn’t been seen since center was still a position on the All-Star ballot. Scouts like his drive, athleticism and strength. If it weren’t for the stress fracture in his back that ended his college season, Embiid would likely be the clear-cut No. 1, even in a loaded draft.

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Andrew Wiggins, 6-8, SG/SF, Kansas

Scout 1: "Athletically, he’s off the charts, and he doesn’t get enough credit for being a cerebral player. … I’ve heard him compared to Tracy McGrady and even Kobe Bryant, and I think he’ll fall somewhere in that range eventually. … Our biggest concern is his inconsistency. He can be a little too casual. … Defensively, he can be a lockdown-type."

Scout 2: "Very dynamic, very smooth with the ball. Obviously, everyone has seen that picture of his vertical jump (44 inches) on the Internet. So everyone knows what he can do athletically. … I like how he can run the floor and finish. Even if his halfcourt game never develops beyond what it is now, his ability to get out in transition should make him a career 20-point scorer. … Concerns are his passing and inability to go left."

Scout 3: "For starters, he should put fans in the seats right away. He’s explosive and can be flashy without overdoing it. … Consistency is an issue, and I’m not talking about his numbers. We wonder if he is the type of kid who will bring it every night. He didn’t display that in college, and that’s hard to learn. It’s a personality trait. … He’ll be a good pro, but he’s been third on our (draft) board all along."

Consensus: Scouts are enthralled with Wiggins’ natural athleticism, wingspan and potential to erupt as a scorer. They like him already as top-notch wing defender. But what they view as an overall lack of aggressiveness clearly gives them some pause.

Jabari Parker, 6-8, SF, Duke

Scout 1: "We view him as sort of a cross between Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. But that’s just for comparison’s sake. (Parker) has his own set of skills. … Another guy with a great personality and work ethic. One of the nicest people you’ll meet, but on the court, he’ll slit your throat. … Can score in a number of ways, and of the three prospects, he’ll give you the most offensively in Year 1, and perhaps beyond that. … His defense is atrocious. He couldn’t guard you."

Scout 2: "I’m not sure why everyone thinks he’s behind Embiid and Wiggins. Maybe because Duke lost to Mercer in the first round (of the NCAA tournament. … He’s on another level from anyone else in the draft offensively. He will get you 20 points a night next season. Doesn’t everyone want a player like that? … There are questions about his weight. Some people call him pudgy. I think he’s strong, though. Some guys aren’t bothered by a few extra pounds. That’s just nitpicking. … I’m not sure who he’ll be able to defend in our league. Right now the answer is nobody."

Scout 3: "It’s become a small forward and shooting guard league, and he’s the best one entering the draft. … If I want to win next season, I take him over Wiggins and probably Embiid. (Parker) is already a pro player on offense. He’s that skilled. … Doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism. In fact, he’s way more athletic with the ball than anyone in the draft. That’s what really counts. … People talk about his lousy defense, but so what? Alex English, Bernard King, even Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, weren’t good individual defenders, either."

Consensus: Parker will make the biggest immediate impact of the potential candidates for No. 1, according to the scouts. They like how he can overpower opponents and finish near the basket equally well with either hand. Despite his scoring ability, Parker is considered a team-first player. His defense, clearly, terrifies scouts.