Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Building The 15 - 2014 NBA Draft First Round Preview for John Hammond

Generally I believe that general managers should take the best player available irrespective of positional need with a few caveats.  For example, the Green Bay Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers so when the Packers are on the clock, especially early in the draft, they should devalue quarterbacks slightly given that Rodgers is on The 53.  I do not have any of those caveats in the NBA, which means that if I were Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond, I would always take the best player available irrespective of positional strength on The 15.

Plus its not like Hammond has a ton of high-end talent currently on The 15.  Given that it looks like the Greek Freak is the only potential all-star on The 15 so the Bucks can use help at every position, including The Greek Freak's wing position.  The Bucks struggle to attract marquee free agents so Hammond needs to add studs to The 15 via the draft.

Hammond was scheduled to pick in the mid-to-late teens in my last three previews of the first round of the NBA Draft (2011, 2012, and 2013) so we are in uncharted territory given that the Bucks are schduled to make the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.  The Cleveland Cavilers pick first for the third time in four years as the NBA continues to try to compensate them for losing LeBron James to the Miami Heat.  With all that out of the way, the Bucks are essentially in a no lose position right now given all the top-end talent in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Kansas center Joel Embiid.  Never has an injury loomed so large over an NBA Draft than Embiid's foot surgery.  A little over a week ago it looked like Embiid was going 1st to the Cavs, which meant that the Bucks would be able to choose between Kansas shooting guard Andrew Wiggins and Duke small forward Jabari Parker.  Given that Embiid went from potentially being the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon to the second coming of Greg Oden, it looks like the Cavs now have to choose between Wiggins and Parker or trade the pick.

No matter what the Cavs do, the only way the Bucks mess up the 2nd pick is if they choose Embiid.  Otherwise, the Bucks are in the position to take either Wiggins or Parker without having to even consider Embiid at this point.  There is an outside chance that the Bucks would consider Australian point guard Dante Exum but that seems short-sided given that Wiggins and Parker are two of the most enticing prospects to join the NBA since the 2003 NBA Draft that included the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.

On the court I favor Wiggins slightly over Parker based on the fact that Wiggins has a slightly higher upside than Parker.  Plus Wiggins actually plays defense while Parker barely even attempts to play defense.  The only thing that mitigates that is the fact that although the ceiling for Parker is slightly lower than Wiggins, I think the floor is much lower for Wiggins than Parker.  Both players should average 20 points a season at some point in their career, the question is whether it will take Wiggins a few more years than Parker since Parker is much more polished on the offensive end than Wiggins.

Recently rumors spread that Parker threw his work out in hopes of landing with the Bucks instead of the Cavs because of Milwaukee's proximity to Parker's hometown of Chicago.  There are very few players that actually want to go to Milwaukee so I want to believe that Parker wants to play in Milwaukee but let's not forget that Parker is trying to choose between Cleveland and Milwaukee, its not like Parker said he would rather player in Milwaukee than Los Angeles.

If I were the Cavs, I would draft Wiggins just because of his potential upside.  Fortunately for the Bucks, I see the Cavs being less aggressive so I see them taking Parker given the lower floor.  Before you bet money on that pick though, let's not forget that the Cavs took (fat) Anthony Bennett instead of Indiana combo guard Victor Oladipo with the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft so although it seems crazy to take anyone besides Wiggins or Parker, you only have to look at the last NBA Draft to see the Cavs do something crazy.

While we are looking back at previous NBA Drafts, let's not forget that when the Bucks took center Andrew Bogut with the first pick in the 2005 NBA Draft that the choice was between Bogut and small forward Marvin Williams.  The Bucks took Bogut first and the Atlanta Hawks took Williams with the second pick.  The next two picks are two of the best five point guards of the last decade: Deron Williams and Chris Paul.  With Embiid out of the picture, the real question is whether Wiggins or Parker is second coming of Marvin Williams.  If the Bucks think either of those guys are and that is the guy that falls to the Bucks, I totally support the Bucks pulling the trigger on Exum.

I ranked the Top 10 players in the 2014 NBA Draft in late February in my first look at the 2014 NBA Draft this way: Parker, Embiid, Wiggins, Exum, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Arizona power forward Gordon, Croatian small forward Dario Saric, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, and Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh.  All that matters now is that I rank my Top 2 as Wiggins and Parker.

That said, as long as Hammond takes Wiggins, Parker, and Exum with the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, I see this draft as being a huge win even if Hammond does NOT follow my advice for what to do with his three second round picks.  This post was a long way of saying that the only way Hammond bungles the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is by taking Embiid.  Sure Embiid could workout long-term but the Bucks could get a much less risky asset than Embiid that will be useful in both the short-term and long-term with the second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

With my advice for how Hammond should approach the first and second round of the 2014 NBA Draft out of the way, I am going to turn my advice to all NBA general mangers so make sure to check back tomorrow for my first round "mock" draft of what each general manager should do if they kept each pick they currently own in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

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