College, NBA Draft / Jan 13, 2014 / 2:30 pm

Is The 2014 NBA Draft Class Overrated?

Andrew Wiggins, Cameron Clark

Andrew Wiggins, Cameron Clark (Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2014 NBA Draft is supposed to feature the most stacked array of talent since that ‘Bron-‘Melo-Wade smash hit in 2003. But with the play of Andrew Wiggins leaving a lot to be desired, and with some glaring weaknesses in the other top recruits, one long-time basketball writer wonders whether we’re over-valuing all the players earmarked for future All-Star games. Is the 2014 NBA Draft class overrated?

Veteran NBA writer, Mark Heisler, who has been writing about the NBA, seemingly forever, recently published a piece at Forbes.com where he talks about the 2014 Draft class, and asks whether all the tanking that’s been so talked about this season in the NBA is even worth the trouble. According to Heisler, the 2014 studs we’ve been talking and writing about for the last few months, maybe aren’t all that good.

The problems arise with specious No. 1 pick and the top rated recruit on Chad Ford’s Top 100, the hotly debated, Wiggins.

One Eastern Conference scout tells Heisler, “There’s zero chance of any team taking anybody before Jabari Parker, and there’s zero chance of any team taking Wiggins before Joel Embiid.”

That’s a far cry from this summer, and it harkens back to the debate we made before the college basketball season started when Dime‘s co-founder argued in favor of Wiggins taking the year off and bypassing college altogether.

In fact, another personnel guy, this time from the Western Conference, claims the No. 1 picks over the last few years (barring Anthony Bennett‘s atrocious beginning) are a lot better than any possible first pick this coming summer:

Deep as this draft class is, its star quotient is another question. Setting aside comparisons to LeBron James and Durant, who are beyond anyone on the horizon, no one in this class is as highly regarded as No. 1 picks Anthony Davis (2012), Kyrie Irving (2011), John Wall (2010), Blake Griffin (2009) or Derrick Rose (2008).

“If you called the Pelicans, the Cavs or any of those teams and offered this year’s first pick for their guy, they’d fall over laughing.”

Heisler goes on to talk about the various stud recruits that have so many people labeling this year’s draft as one of the best in history. But he points out a weakness in each of them. For Jabari Parker, it’s a lack of a supernatural athleticism like Wiggins. For the 6-9 Julius Randle, it’s the belief he’s more likely 6-7 1/2 and not big enough to dominate on the block at the NBA level like he has this season for Kentucky. Some compare Kansas’ Joel Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon and say that scouts looking at Wiggins have come away thinking Embiid is a better selection. But Embiid is as raw as you’d imagine for someone that only started playing organized basketball at 16 years old.

Then, there’s Wiggins, as hyped as you can get in this era of Twitter and the all-important YouTube mixtape. Here’s Heisler on Wiggin’s slight fall from grace — at least among the NBA people he spoke with:

Wiggins, a 6-8 small forward, is blessed with fabulous athleticism and length but often drifts, or as scouts say, “Motor?” He has a “loose handle” with a high dribble and drives in straight lines, making it hard to get past defenders (“doesn’t beat you off the bounce”) and create his own shot, a make-or-break skill for NBA superstardom.

As special as Wiggins is physically, he now amounts to a super-athletic project. The intangibles that will decide, like coachability and hunger, are harder to judge… but drifting is a red flag, raising the question of how natural, or important, it is to stand out. It’s not something that came up with Kyrie, AD or Blake, to say nothing of the young KD, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.

So Wiggins hasn’t impressed as much as you would have thought with all that preseason bluster, but isn’t that to be expected? People were talking about him as the Canadian LeBron James, and that’s really unfair for an 18-year-old kid that hadn’t ever played at the college level before. Sure, for all the savior snark, people prepared for a let-down, but Wiggins hasn’t been awful and has shown glimpses of that gaga athleticism. It’s a bit premature to label him a bust before he’s even completed his freshman season.

We’re only about halfway through the college basketball season before the Big Dance in March, but it’s unlikely this is the last piece talking about the once-in-a-lifetime 2014 NBA Draft and whether we’ve all overshot the ceilings for these kids. Only time will tell whether we’ve been hoodwinked by the hype, but maybe these kids should get a chance to be kids before we throw them under the bus for failing to become dominant in the college game before they can legally buy alcohol.

[Forbes by way of Comcast Sportsnet]

Is the 2014 NBA Draft overrated?

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  • 2cents

    I still think Wiggins will be alright, if he lands in the right situation in the NBA. For now, he is on a loaded college team, so it might be hard to stand out/dominate.

    But I do agree with the sentiment of this article. Does anyone else notice how some teams play for the following season, making this current campaign a lifeless affair.