Welcome to the second half of our 2014 NBA Draft thought experiment. In part one, we debated the strengths and weaknesses of the prospects in the penultimate tier of the draft class (Dante Exum, Julius Randle, and Marcus Smart). In this edition, we break down the three players every Bucks fan desperately hopes will declare for this draft: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid.
Here's a refresher on the concept for this post. Members of Brew Hoop brain trust have been randomly assigned to to write condensed arguments that cover either strengths or weaknesses of each player in 200 words of less (because we like a good challenge). The argument made in support of each player is a hard sell on their best qualities, and the argument made against them is the spot to nitpick and raise potentially fatal issues. This is our first opportunity to air it out and acknowledge the positive and negative traits associated with each prospect expected to land within range of the Milwaukee Bucks this June. Enjoy.
The 200-Word Case for Wiggins (by Jake McCormick):
Andrew Wiggins is an 18-year-old basketball prospect whose biggest weaknesses are occasional complacency, and undue hype born out of fans' insatiable craving for the "next big thing." Otherwise, Wiggins possesses every physical attribute you look for in a potential two-way NBA superstar. Taken together, Wiggins still presents the highest reward option for the Bucks.
You could argue Wiggins' complacency at Kansas is a sign of boredom with an inconvenient detour to the NBA. It's also not accurate to say Wiggins has stalled as a prospect. He's improved his shooting range (37% 3fg), is anything but a ball stopper, and he still has the same Monstar athleticism, discipline, and length (6'8", 7' wingspan) scouts raved about four months ago. Two or three strong NCAA Tournament performances should steer the Wiggins narrative back to his strongest attributes.
Wiggins could be called a risky pick, but Bucks GM John Hammond has done quite well drafting potential over immediate production (Larry Sanders, John Henson, Giannis Antetokounmpo). On top of that, Wiggins has been mentioned in the same sentence as Vince Carter, Andre Iguodala, and Paul George. I'll take that gamble over a safe bet any day.
The 200-Word Case Against Wiggins (by Eric Buenning):
Wiggins is a pretty ridiculous athlete, but my biggest question with him comes within a half-court set. I don't think his motor is too worrisome, but I wonder just how much he can create for others in a condensed court. I'm not saying he's selfish by any means, but from what I've watched, he doesn't seem to have that ability (yet) to break down his defender and find the open man for an easier shot than a reliance on athleticism to get a layup. I don't necessarily wonder if he'll develop that skill, but rather how long it will take for him to get to that level of shot creation.
He is a hell of a defender and a ridiculous athlete, but with Giannis already projected to own the SF position for years to come, part of me wonders how much more Wiggins can do right now to separate himself from the likes of Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, and hell, even Giannis. I think he's good in a more loose system, but the Bucks don't have that right now, and Wiggins might not be guy they should take come June.
The 200-Word Case for Parker (by Mitchell Maurer):
‘Wanted: Versatile wing with ideal SF size and length, deep shooting range, half-court scoring ability, and willingness to run in transition. Rebounding a plus. Top-end college pedigree preferred.' If you see that on the draft board, who else but Jabari Parker?
Parker is a prototypical NBA small forward at 6'8" (with a 7'0" wingspan) and 241 lbs. He's not the most explosive athlete, but there's a certain Carmelo-esque ﬂuidity to his game. His transition offense is well-rounded, and he's a high-level rebounder. And we haven't mentioned his basketball IQ, passing instincts, or his motor, all of which are top-notch.
Parker is built to score. His raw stats are good (18.8 ppg, 46.5 FG%), and he's a plus-shooter from deep (38.2%). He gets to the line at a great clip (6.8 FTA per 36 minutes) and over 20+ games with Duke, he's had the freedom to score both inside-out and outside-in.
Bottom line: the Bucks need a top-scoring option. Parker is Melo 2.0, is good enough right now to be the ﬁrst option on the Bucks offense, and imagine how he'd look next to plus-defenders like Sanders, Henson, Giannis, and Knight.
The 200-Word Case Against Parker (by Jake McCormick):
Jabari Parker is, without a doubt, one of the most skilled scorers in college basketball, and one of its smartest players. He's also closer to his skill ceiling than any other prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft, and is reportedly considering a return to Duke for his sophomore season.
Parker can hit a shot from pretty much anywhere on the floor, and has been compared to Carmelo Anthony on a few occasions, favorably and unfavorably. Like Anthony, Parker isn't much of a defender and has problems creating shots against lengthy, athletic defenders.
The Bucks wouldn't mind a Glenn Robinson with range, but Parker's athleticism is par for the course in the NBA. Additionally, like Robinson and Anthony, Parker has recently played with heavy legs, raising concerns over his conditioning and subsequent ability to finish games strong.
Of course, Robinson and Anthony (more so) conquered those demons, but conditioning is one of the last red flags you want to see from an NBA prospect with as much skill as Parker.
The 200-Word Case for Embiid (by Frank Madden):
We're used to using the term "raw" to describe 19-year-old big men, but be careful using it around Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. Less than three years after being discovered at Luc Mbah a Moute's camp inhis native Cameroon, Embiid already does things that the vast majority of collegiate big men can't do. Towering over most of his NCAA counterparts with the frame--if not the strength--of an NBA center, Embiid already has the instinctive footwork, effortless shot mechanics and passing skills of a more seasoned pro. And though his raw numbers remain modest, his per-40 stats of 19.1 ppg, 12.7 rpg and 4.5 bpg on 66% shooting from both the field and the line tell the story of a player who is already capable of dominating on both ends.
It's not to say he's polished or ready to be an immediate impact player at the next level, but the bottom line is that Embiid's skill, length and agility make him the most talented big man prospect we've seen since Greg Oden went first overall in 2007. Embiid could become the kind of dominating, skillful two-way center that mostly died out after the ‘90s golden era of Hakeem, Robinson, Shaq, Ewing and Mourning, and that alone will make him difficult to pass up at #1.
The 200-Word Case Against Embiid (by Dan Sinclair):
While his overall level of polish is quite good for his age, Embiid has many of the weaknesses you'd expect in a player with so little high-level basketball experience. He still has trouble with the mental side of the game at times, showing questionable shot selection and situational awareness. Often times he'll force up an inside shot under heavy pressure when holding an extra second could allow a teammate to get open on the perimeter. He also commits a lot of turnovers, coughing up the ball on nearly a quarter of the possessions he uses, mostly when he's forced to put the ball on the deck.
Many of these are due to poor decision making or simply playing out of control, understandable for a player still getting used to directing his gigantic body around a basketball court. He blocks a ton of shots and has good steal numbers for a big man, but his fouling can be problematic-he's committing 6.0 per 40 minutes. That's not a death sentence-lots of big men are foul-happy in their first college season-but it does suggest he'll spend his early NBA years adjusting on defense, and it could take some time.
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