Andrew Wiggins entered Tuesday night's lottery as the presumed favorite to go #1 in the 2014 NBA Draft, and 24 hours after the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by claiming their third #1 spot in four years, Wiggins' grasp on the mock consensus remained.
But the draft--and especially the tail-chasing way it's covered by the media--works in mysterious and predictably unpredictable ways. So it's probably not surprising that a couple days later Wiggins' Kansas teammate Joel Embiid is now back on the rise and threatening to usurp the top spot in the June 26 draft, thanks in no small part to an individual workout on Friday that made him look like a basketball Godzilla playing on an 8-foot rim:
Run for your lives, middle-aged white guys! And yep, that was former Bull big man Will Perdue and former Celtics victory cigar Brian Scalabrine taking turns letting the big fella dunk on them. More impressive than chairs, I suppose.
Organized by super agent Arn Tellem, Friday's workouts also featured Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart, with Chad Ford tweeting that "virtually all" of the league's GMs were present. Among them: Bucks GM John Hammond (in a blue shirt), VP of Player Personnel Dave Babcock and Director of Scouting Billy McKinney can be seen sitting in the first row on the left side of the court.
On to the notes...
Grantland | Simmons: "Embiid was always going first"
If you were looking for a sell-job on Embiid--and the video above isn't enough--then Bill Simmons is here to help:
Q: Wait ... what? You watched Joel Embiid work out last week?
A: Yes - at a secret location in Santa Monica. He wasn't playing against anyone, just going through a two-hour workout with Will Perdue. Here's what I can tell you: He moves around as effortlessly as a 7-foot Serge Ibaka; he's such an athletic freak that he's one of those "still going up as he's finishing the dunk" guys; his freakish wingspan might make Jay Bilas pass out; he has been playing basketball for only four years (which seems impossible); he gave up a world-class volleyball career; he has 3-point range; he can shoot jump-hooks with both hands already; he couldn't have seemed more coachable/agreeable/likable; he's a hard worker with a goofy sense of humor; his voice is just a touch Mutombo-y (deep with a heavy African accent); and his friends call him "Jo-Jo." And again - his back seemed totally fine.
The Cavs, Bucks and Sixers will of course want a little more than Simmons' word and a short workout before assuming Embiid's injury woes are behind him, but obviously it's a good sign that he appears physically healthy. DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony and ESPN's Chad Ford were also in the gym for the Embiid, Parker and Smart workouts, and offered a bit more color on the proceedings via Twitter:
Jabari Parker just finished working out here in LA. pic.twitter.com/Ii3CPMJ6II— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 23, 2014
Yes. Definitely not out of shape. RT @nsanba: Jabari Parker seemed to have lost some weight in the pics. Did it seems that way to you?— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 23, 2014
Jabari just finished working out. Went hard. Shot it well. Ended it with a series of emphatic dunks. Overall he looked really good.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 23, 2014
Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 23, 2014
Just spoke with Embiid. Told me his back is 100 percent. Been working out hard for last 3 weeks.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 23, 2014
Embiid said he's gained 15 pounds. Up to 265. Still getting back into shape. Got a bit winded in workout but still looked quick & explosive— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 23, 2014
Bear in mind that guys always tend to look better in these settings--that's why agents set them up--but in Embiid's case there's obvious value in simply being healthy enough to do anything. As for Jabari, losing a bit of weight should help him more easily defend NBA wings, and it also makes it a bit easier to do this:
Meanwhile, Wiggins was spotted talking to fellow Canadian Steve Nash at the BDA Sports workout on Friday, but--contrary to what was rumored a week ago--he did not work out himself. Perhaps not a coincidence given the focus of the day was cross-town on Tellem's guys, but we'll presumably see Wiggins in a similar setting within a week or two.
SB Nation | Podcast: Paul Flannery talks NBA Draft with DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony
As always, tons of interesting insight here from DX's Jonathan Givony, who says Embiid is #1...but only if he's healthy. If not, Wiggins will stay atop his board. Two other SB Nation pieces you'll definitely want to check out: scouting reports on Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
Grantland | Russillo: Three (anonymous) league execs give their opinion of Wiggins, Embiid, Parker and Randle
LOTS to digest in this interesting roundtable featuring three league execs giving their (honest?) assessments of the big three (and Julius Randle, just for the hell of it).
Obviously we don't know what kinds of agendas these guys might have, but nevertheless it's interesting to note some recurring (and familiar) themes: Embiid is the best prospect (but his back scares teams), Wiggins is athletic and will defend (but has major skill concerns on the offensive end), and Parker will unquestionably score (but no one knows where he'll defend). Here's one take on Embiid:
If the medical staff clears him, he should go no. 1, but people are still freaked out about Oden. Before the concerns about his back - which are real, by the way - I'd be very comfortable taking him one or two. Has all the ingredients: feet, hands, touch. I've watched him in practice, and he was automatic from 15 feet, which is something we didn't see him use a lot at Kansas.
He played with a little chippiness. Some of it was immaturity, but some of it was good, which shows he is competitive. Depending on how it falls with the decision-makers, Milwaukee is the kind of team that will feel pressured to take Parker over Embiid, because of the health risks, but who knows now with new ownership.
At our level, there has to be some motivation to get better. Are you doing it for you, or other people? With his background, you hope he really loves the game. But he seems focused and competitive.
Journal Times | Woelfel: Parker the player's pick, Bucks to begin workouts on Monday
For all the debate over Embiid and Wiggins, Gery Woelfel reports that a poll of 20 players at the draft combine suggest that Parker is in fact the choice of his peers. Interesting.
Woelfel writes that the Bucks will continue their workouts on Monday (Memorial Day? C'mon!), though I'll go out on a limb and say it won't be anyone in contention for the top overall pick. Remember that the Bucks have the 31st, 36th and 48th picks as well, so expect to see plenty of late first and second round prospects at the Cousins Center in the coming weeks.