It was 11 years to the day where LeBron James entered the NBA as one of the most scrutinised rookies in American sports history. On June 26th, we had what may be known 10 years down the line as a draft that changed the face of the NBA. Filled with potential all-stars became the faces of franchises that hope to improve on their regular season record from the previous year.
2014-2015 NBA Rookies: Meet The Players
Since the end of the college season, Joel Embiid of Kansas was considered the best player in this draft class and had the highest potential. He draw comparisons to the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon and looked to have a high ceiling for his rookie season. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a foot injury a week before the draft. Andrew Wiggins then became the dominant player that everyone expected to be the first one to shake Adam Silver’s hand. Embiid’s shot blocking and incredible offence skills make him stand out as the best prospect available. People wondered how far his draft stock would slip, luckily for him not to far. The Philadelphia 76ers selected him third.
Unable to attend the draft, many took the Sixer’s selection differently. Does he turn into the powerful bigman people think may become or be continually rigged with injuries throughout his career making him a draft bust similar to Greg Oden or Kwame Brown? Sam Hinke, the general manager of the Sixers, must believe in the Cameroonian star as he looks to sit out the entire 2014 – 2015. Philadelphia already have experience of a key player sitting out a whole season in Nerlens Noel. The question is how Brett Brown is going to implement both players into his system. For both players to fulfil there potentials, they must work together with Noel most probably having to play power forward. He has the height of a center, but must prepare himself physically, improve his offensive game and become stronger to cope in the NBA Can Noel play power forward or is he going to be traded? There was talk on draft night that a trade was going to take place between the Cavaliers and the Sixers in a swap deal between the two Kansas teammates. Cleveland are missing a center while Philadelphia have been tanking for Wiggins all season long. This deal did not happen so it will be interesting if Embiid and Noel can play together and while the Sixers have added strength and power under the rim, their backcourt still has limited talent with only Michael Carter Williams being the stand out player. He will once again be heavily relied on offensively this season as the Sixers continue to be patient and build for the future.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, they want immediate success with Cavaliers general manager David Griffin reiterating that making the playoffs is there target. That’s why Embiid isn’t in a Cavalier uniform and Canadiens Phenom Andrew Wiggins is. A swingman that can play shot guard or small forward has an incredible vertical, outstanding athleticism and is a good defender. People question his offensive skills and his will power to become the best he can be. This pick gives Cleveland several options, if you play Wiggins in the backcourt, does this mean Dion Waiters will be traded. If he plays as a small forward, does this mean they’re not going to go after LeBron James in free agency? Having point guard superstar Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins and King James in their roster will certainly add to their title credentials and put them immediately in contention for an NBA ring.
Andrew Wiggins has been on NBA scouts radar since high school, becoming the most hyped player since LeBron James. Of course there is a reason for the hype, he possesses unbelievable skills but must improve his shot and ball handling. These are minor flaws for a player that hasn’t even played an NBA game. With both parents being former athletes, Andrew has learned to deal with the hype. His sky high potential excites NBA fans, with an offensive arsenal which resembles Tracy McGrady or even Kobe Bryant. He always had the intention to be the first pick and hopefully will add to this Cavaliers squad full of young players.
With Wiggins being selected first, there was no doubt in the minds of the Milwaukee Bucks that Jabari Parker was there man. In my opinion, a future hall of famer. He has the ability to lead this poor Bucks side and prove himself as a leader. Parker is a complete player, a sharp shooter, explosive when driving the lane and is the early favourite for Rookie of the Year. It’s good that someone actually want to play for the Bucks and he is already considered a hometown hero, and has settled in quickly. Even throwing the first pitch at a Brewers game. He has stated his intention to remain a Buck for a long time and I believe if the Bucks add a few people in free agency, they could be a force to be reckoned with. Especially, if the latest rumour that Jason Kidd may become head coach becomes reality.
He has a similar skill set to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce and his numbers at Duke weren’t bad at all. What stands out are his ball handling skills, great wingspan and his shooting. Certainly, will be the face of the NBA in years to come. A concern I would have is that Jabari may be relied on too much, similar to LeBron James in his Cleveland days. Milwaukee can’t just hope for the best with Parker otherwise they will never have success. But, if Parker can post up good numbers in his rookie season and improves the Bucks regular season record, he may be an outsider for an all-star appearance in his rookie season. Jabari Parker doesn’t seem like the man that would move for the money or even championships as he will try and prove to critics that he can bring success to Milwaukee, although it seems unlikely.
Other members of this draft class stand out as potential stars in this league. One of the surprises in the draft as well as Wiggins’ shocking choice of attire was Orlando’s pick taking Aaron Gordon. He is defensive skilled and too has a good vertical and is a good addition to the Magic line-up which lacks size. Dante Exum of Australia was very much the mystery man of this draft and was expected to be picked by Philadelphia considering the relationship between Exum and ex Australia coach, now Sixers coach Brett Brown. Exum will now form a partnership with Utah point guard Trey Burke as the Jazz now have a promising backcourt. The Boston Celtics who looked likely to select Embiid if his draft stock fell dramatically, picked Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. Smart who would have been a high pick last year made the wise decision in remaining with the Cowboys. This helped improve his physique and defensive skills. He has a NBA-ready body and game. Physically he has good size for a point guard at 6-foot-3 (with a 6-9 wingspan) and a strong 227 pounds. He’s explosive but also solid with the ball, able to finish through contact at the rim. He’s great in transition but really understands how to run a team and where the ball needs to be to execute in the half-court. He must establish a relationship with Rajon Rondo to make the Celtics effective offensively and return to their former glory days.
Julius Randle I believe is the most underrated player in this draft class. He was selected seventh by the Lakers, the team he supported as a boy. Randle has all the power forward skills offensively, but is most impressive facing up off the dribble from the top of the key or from the mid-post. For his weight, he is very explosive off the dribble and finishing at the rim. Randle has nice ball handling moves for his position, with crossovers, hesitations and jump stops that are very effective. The former Kentucky forward has joined a roster without a head coach, but does this move mean Pau Gasol is more likely to depart from Los Angeles. He will team up with Kobe Bryant on a mission to help Kobe leave the NBA with his reputation untarnished and try to bring some success to Staples Center in Bryant’s final two years. The balance of Kobe’s offensive with Randle’s rebounding, and the hopeful addition of a few free agents should return the Lakers back into the playoffs in a competitive western conference.
This draft noticeably had a lack of trades, but one that did take place may have kept LeBron in Miami. He said prior to the draft that his favourite player was Shabazz Napier, the point guard of the Connecticut team that won the National championship. This is clearly a tactical move by Pat Riley to lure James back to South Beach, which is why Miami traded up to get a higher pick in case Shabazz was selected. Who knows what influence Wiggins has on LeBron’s crucial decision.
This draft class has increased the anticipation of the upcoming NBA season, this is a draft that has many future stars. The relationship between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron during their younger days resembles the friendship between Parker and Wiggins. Can this class live up to the hype? Many of these new additions will improve failing franchises that look to increase the competition in the NBA. Like Kobe, LeBron and Durant our today….in the future will we be saying Wiggins, Parker, Embiid?