The 2014 NBA Draft – which, believe it or not, is just eight days away – is expected to be one of the deepest drafts in league history. You’ve got Jabari Parker, you’ve got Andrew Wiggins and you’ve got Marcus Smart.
But the best player? That would be Joel Embiid, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick.
“I think it’s Embiid if he’s healthy,” CBSSports.com national columnist Gary Parrish said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “I hesitate to throw out the Olajuwon comparison because you know – and anybody else who watched Olajuwon (knows) – that’s a special dude. (He) was a once-in-a-generation type guy. If not for Michael Jordan existing, we might be talking about Olajuwon in a conversation for the best of all time. He was just so smooth and so naturally gifted.”
“And so, to throw that on a 19-year-old kid who’s only been playing basketball for three years seems a little crazy. But when people say it, I get it. I can see that same stuff. You never know if it’s going to develop into the same thing long-term, but you can see the tools are there to be special.”
Parrish was in Lawrence, Kansas, last October to do a feature on Wiggins but caught a glimpse of Embiid working out. Parrish had seen Embiid here and there in the past, but he had never seen him like this.
“He was moving in a way that just blew me away,” Parrish said. “And then he was taking three-pointers. He didn’t make them all, but he made a bunch. And more important, he looked like a shooter. He looked natural. There was nothing weird or awkward about the way he was running around. (Great) footwork in the paint. He can just do things you cannot teach. And if he can do them this well already and he’s a presence on the defensive end and he’s got a little bit of an edge to him – barring injury – I think he’s going to be great. His ceiling’s higher than anybody else’s.”
Which is why Parrish believes that Embiid – who averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and was a block-party machine in his one season at Kansas – must go No. 1 to Cleveland.
“History suggests that if you have a top-five pick and you trade it away – either for a player or you actually move down – it almost never works out for the team that moves down,” Parrish said. “Historically speaking, if you’ve got the No. 1 pick, you should use it. And historically again, it’s usually used in a proper way. There are busts obviously. We remember them. But way more often than not, it’s a great thing to have the No. 1 pick, and it turns out to be a really good thing for your franchise.”
“So if I’m Cleveland and I really have a conviction about Joel Embiid and my doctors say (his back is) okay, I do not entertain offers at all. I select him and hope I’ve just drafted a center who’s going to develop into an All-Star in this league for the next decade.”