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Cleveland might not be destination for Wiggins, Embiid after all
When Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia popped up as the NBA franchises which hit the lottery jackpot and owned the highly desirable top three picks in the 2014 draft, it seemed fair to assume Kansas University products Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid would end up in two of those cities.
Maybe the former Jayhawks end up donning a Cavs, Bucks or 76ers cap June 26 in Brooklyn.
Here is a look at the chatter coming out of the three cities in question.
The Cavaliers have their choice of any player in the NBA Draft — Wiggins, Embiid, Duke's Jabari Parker. Whomever.
But The Plain Dealer's Mary Schmitt Boyer thinks Cleveland could trade away that right to some other franchise in order to land an established NBA star.
The Cavs were slotted at No. 9 before the lottery played out and they somehow nabbed the top pick for the third time in four years. No one is complaining about 2011 selection Kyrie Irving. However, Cleveland hasn't made the NBA Playoffs since LeBron James bolted for Miami in 2010. What's worse, the organization appears to have blown it in 2013, when they took Anthony Bennett (4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds as a rookie) No. 1 overall.
They have to get it right this time. And doing so might involve trading the pick, if that means Cleveland can get someone like Minnesota's Kevin Love in return.
Cavs general manager David Griffin, as quoted by Schmitt Boyer, won't rule out any scenario:
"We're going to try to get radically better much quicker. We really feel like there's a sense of urgency about improving our team as a whole. We're going to look for the right fit and we're very open-minded about what that means.''
The strategy behind trading the pick for a proven NBA vet would be to make the roster more attractive to James, who could opt to leave Miami as a free agent if he so desires.
Love would be Cleveland's top choice — meaning Minnesota could be a destination for Wiggins or Embiid.
But Schmitt Boyer identified some other big-name NBA big men Cleveland should try to trade for in Memphis, Miami and Portland. So who knows what the Cavs will end up doing with the pick. They certainly have options.
If Cleveland can't find a deal that makes sense, or just decides to keep the top pick, who should they draft?
The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade addressed that question, and provided some more insight from Griffin:
"I think it's not necessarily limited to three names that are more highly hyped. We've got to do a more thorough evaluation of all of the guys to know that we're not doing something too quickly. When you're looking at the guys who have all the hype they have that because of their upside and athleticism."
That sounds like crazy talk. And Griffin might not have even meant what he said.
Let's assume Cleveland doesn't pick a wild card again at No. 1. Valade wrote that Wiggins would become the Cavs' third Canadian, joining Bennett and Tristan Thompson. Plus, the high-flying KU product would fill "the glaring need they've had at small forward for four years," since LeBron left.
As for Embiid, she said the 7-footer is "still developing, which is always intriguing for teams."
In the Plain-Dealer's online poll, more than 50% of Cavs fans wanted the team to take Wiggins. Embiid was third, behind Parker, with about 22% of the votes.
The Bucks (15-67) had the league's worst record in the 2013-14 season, thereby obtaining the best odds to win the draft lottery. But they clearly didn't have the luck of Cleveland (33-49).
Although speculation began even before the lottery that certain agents might try to somehow manipulate pre-draft interactions with Milwaukee in order to deter the team from drafting their clients, Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens doesn't think they will be so unlucky on that front.
The Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner spoke with Edens about how the organization plans to work with the top prospects.
"I think they'll all want to work out for Milwaukee. It's a great place to be; it's a great place to play. At the end I think we'll get the player that the organization really wants."
The Milwaukee newspaper identified five potential picks for the Bucks at No. 2 — Embiid, Wiggins, Parker, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Dante Exum, of Australia — and examined how each player might fit in with the pieces already in place.
• Journal Sentinel on Embiid:
"… could be a once-in-a-generation center and would immediately bolster the front court. With Embiid at center, the Bucks could consider using Larry Sanders at power forward. Adding Embiid, though, might mean that Milwaukee will want to trade one of its current forwards or centers."
• Journal Sentinel on Wiggins:
"The addition of Wiggins would give the Bucks yet another athletic wing player as well as a player who can score. Some of Milwaukee's wing players struggled with man-to-man defense last year and Wiggins would shore up the Bucks on that end."
Unlike Cleveland, it seems Milwaukee isn't floating the idea of moving its top pick. The Journal Sentiel's Charles F. Gardner interviewed Milwaukee general manager John Hammond, who appears more interested in a young player who can grow with the rebuilding franchise.
"This is where we want to be, to be honest with you. We want to be in a position where we can start building this, and I think we need to build it through the draft."
At this point, it seems like Philadelphia is the least likely destination for Wiggins or Embiid among the franchises with the top three picks.
Philly.com's first mock draft doesn't expect either to be around when the Sixers pick at No. 3.
Even so, The Inquirer's Keith Pompey wrote than one anonymous agent thinks Wiggins will work out for the Sixers, as well as the Cavs and Bucks — but not for any other teams.
Pompey also spoke with Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie, who doesn't think the organization will have to worry about top players being uninterested in the franchise.
"I suspect from our discussions thus far that most of the top players in this draft find Philadelphia an attractive place because they want to be in a place where they'll have opportunity. They want to play in a big market and recognize what a platform it is to play in Philadelphia."
Inquirer sports columnist Bob Ford wrote about a scenario in which Wiggins and Parker are off the board when it's time for the 76ers to pick.
Surprisingly, he thought the organization might trade the pick to a team that covets Embiid:
Since the Sixers appear to be building their frontcourt around Nerlens Noel and have a playing-style philosophy that doesn't include two 7-footers in the starting lineup, they could find themselves in a powerful spot.
The Sixers picked Noel sixth in 2013. He missed the entire season due to a knee injury. For some reason, people in Philadelphia think Noel's presence means the Sixers should avoid Embiid. Michael Kaskey-Blomain wrote about that subject on philly.com.
We'll have to wait and see if the team's front office feels the same way — if the Sixers even get a chance at the Cameroon native who looks the part of a future all-star.
Philly.com also posted a photo gallery that included how each of the draft's top 10 prospects would fit in with the 76ers. Again, they were down on Embiid. Wiggins, on the other hand...
He has been prone to turning over the ball and that could be the case in a high-volume offense like Brett Brown’s. However, Wiggins probably would be the most valuable asset to acquire given Brown’s speedy and transition-heavy offense.