The 2014 NBA Draft has been on the radar of the league’s general managers since before last season’s draft. Fans and media members were fed assurances that incoming freshmen Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins were the second comings of Carmelo Anthony and Andrew Wiggins. Other freshmen such as Joel Embiid and Julius Randle were pegged as top five picks as well, players guaranteed to be superstars. In the backcourt, we had sophomore Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State, another surefire superstar, as well as Australian phenomenon Dante Exum and the Harrison twins who are now shining at Kentucky. Not a single player at the top of the 2014 draft is now a sure thing, and eventually the NBA’s group of tanking franchises is going to rue the decisions they have made in recent years with sights set solely on this draft class.
One thing the draft does not have is obvious superstars. There is no Anthony Davis or Blake Griffin to be had with the first pick, although Parker, Wiggins and Embiid all have extraordinary potential and are likely to be great players. Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did an extensive interview with Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe and offered his two cents on the draft class. Ainge noted that the class is “realistically hyped” at the moment since everyone has gotten a better evaluation of the field. He added “before the season even started that it was completely overhyped.”
The draft class may not have an obvious top pick or any can’t-miss superstars, but this draft is without a doubt one of the deeper ones in recent memory. Tanking for a top pick this year is not the way to get ahead, as teams soon will find out. A couple of teams did go about things the right way by stockpiling picks, a much more efficient way to rebuild. The Philadelphia 76ers are one game away from setting the NBA record for longest losing streak at 27 games. They have completely mailed it in by trading away Spencer Hawes and Even Turner, while dealing Jrue Holiday in the draft last year to land No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel. They field a roster full of d-league castoffs, but are hoping all will be well once they land a top-five pick and get someone like Jabari Parker. However, they did pick up another first-round pick from the Pelicans in that deal that should fall just outside the top ten.
The Sixers’ rebuilding plan stands in stark comparison to that of the Phoenix Suns. The Suns dealt most of their veterans this past offseason for guys like Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee and Eric Bledsoe, all of whom have become major contributors for the surprising playoff contender, the latter of which is breaking out and becoming one of the brightest young guards in all of basketball. Better yet, Phoenix has a potential four first-round picks in the upcoming draft and although it may still make a handful of trades to capitalize on its bevy of assets, the Suns have proven that a team can shed veteran cap space without losing dozens of games in a row. They say hindsight is 20/20, so in this case, which scenario now sounds more appealing? Are the 76ers in a better position next year with a roster full of NBA castoffs highlighted by Noel, rookie of the year candidate Michael Carter-Williams and potentially Jabari Parker, or the Suns current upstart roster with four more talented youngsters coming in? Jabari Parker alone does not outweigh potentially bringing in Aaron Gordon, Montrezl Harrell, Adreian Payne and Shabazz Napier.
The NBA’s handful of pathetic teams who are blatantly mailing in the last quarter of the season are in for a rude awakening at the top of the 2014 NBA Draft. Quality over quantity is so often the case in most things in life, but it does not apply to a draft with so many incredibly talented players and no surefire superstar.
Commentary by Justin Hussong