NBA Draft 2014 Email Chain: Should teams tank, and who is #1?

Jamie Squire

Is there a battle for who will be the number one pick? And should the Magic and/or Cavs be tanking?

Our goal this season is provide year-round draft coverage because of the impressive nature of this draft. With that in mind, Tyler Lashbrook of Orlando Pinstriped Post and I are going to be doing a weekly email chain where we'll discuss specific prospects in the draft, general narratives about the draft, and other tomfoolery pertaining to the selection of players. They'll run every week, alternating between our two sites: Fear The Sword and Orlando Pinstriped Post.

This week's topic is the number one pick, as well as whether or not teams should be tanking. It's a little bit general this week and we'll be going into further depth into this future, but we felt this was one thing we needed to really discuss early. Hope you guys enjoy it!

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Sam: What's up Tyler,

Let's just kick these things off with the question that's on everyone's mind: who is your #1 prospect through the first three weeks of the NCAA season. With you being in Kentucky, I think I know where you're going to go with this one, but I'd love to hear your reasoning regardless.

Tyler: I have all the reason in the world to say Julius Randle, and it's not just because I'm Kentucky born-and-raised. Randle is about as unstoppable on the low block as it gets: he's big, fast, agile, can handle the ball, can pass and has great touch around the rim. With that said, I'm not yet ready to dethrone Andrew Wiggins from the top spot. Jabari Parker has been the most impressive and Randle is every synonym of the word "beast," but Wiggins just has all the potential in the world. He's probably at about 25 percent of the player he CAN be, which is scary seeing as how he's an 18-year-old averaging 17 points and six rebounds on a team that doesn't really feature him as much as it could. He's still my no. 1 prospect. What about you?

Sam: I'm actually right there with you. I've been a massive Parker fan for about two years now, and I think he's definitely the most polished of the three prospects. His jumper is so smooth, and he's a really underrated athlete that is now starting to get the type of respect he deserves after his torrid start. Let's just take a look at the abject absurdity of Parker's numbers through five games:

.646 eFG% on the 10th most field goal attempts in the NCAA.
24.7 defensive rebounding rate, good for third so far in the ACC.
37.6 (!!!!) PER, which I'm fairly certain isn't human.

The middle number there is the most interesting part to me, and further cements his status to me as a new wave 4 in the NBA that can step in and do just about anything. I see him as the closest thing the NCAA has seen to Kevin Durant since Durant. He's ultra-skilled, super athletic, and can both rebound and shoot.

Having said that, the #1 spot is still Andrew Wiggins' to lose. His athleticism gives him the potential to be an Anthony Davis-like contributor on both sides of the ball (albeit at a different position). He's the least skilled of the three right now, but his jump shot is coming along and his handle in transition is already there. Wiggins is a one man fast break. If he can consistently knock down that step-back jumper that he made to seal the Duke game, it's over. The kid would be unstoppable because of the room defenses have to give him because of his athleticism.

The third part of this piece is Randle of course. I have his as a clear third place for me, behind Wiggins and Parker, but assuredly ahead of Exum. I think he's going to be an all-star-level player, but can you sell me on the fact that he's simply not a man among boys in the NCAA, which leads to his production being so high? My concern with him is that, while he's extraordinarily skilled for a 6'9 forward, I'm not sure his power will translate to the league. Can you sell me otherwise that you think it will?

Tyler: I counter with this: think about when Carmelo Anthony is playing power forward and is engaged in the post. Anthony bullies small ball power forwards and he's 20 pounds lighter than Randle. Randle also has the speed/athleticism/ball handling skills to attack more traditional 4s. He's essentially a matchup nightmare.

Fun fact: Randle is averaging 10.6 free throw attempts per game and only shot one against Robert Morris. Throw out that game and he's averaging 13 a contest. And he's converting on 72 percent of those attempts. Free throw rate usually translates well into the NBA and those numbers are just absurd.

I'm not sure his raw strength is what makes him so good so in the post. It's that he has the speed and agility of a wing to match it. He has the ability to back down and spin back so fast that he leaves defenders in the dust. That combination is extremely rare. You give him NBA spacing and tell someone to guard him one-on-one in the post and it's over. He's going to be even more important to an NBA offense when he's able to recognize double-teams and zip the ball out to open shooters who can, in turn, fling the ball around the perimeter for open shots. He has the skills to pass (almost 15 percent assist rate) but he doesn't always recognize what the defense is doing.

I really like Randle. Is that a little obvious? I like Parker too! And then there's Wiggins, who I already said is the no. 1 prospect. God, this draft is awesome. College basketball is awesome this year. Have we talked about Marcus Smart yet? And then there's the unknown down under in Exum. Wow. I'm so glad the Magic aren't good.

Sam: That's a fair point about Randle and his athleticism. Maybe I was just a bit down on it for some reason. He's insanely fluid for a man his size, and he has the explosiveness to run in transition. His mid-post game is going to be exceptional in the NBA because of that quickness and the differentiation in spacing between the NCAA and NBA, I just wonder about his low post game.

The other guy at the top that we haven't talked about yet is Aaron Gordon, and he's someone else I absolutely love at the next level as a Shawn Marion type of do-it-all player. That guy plays so hard and is so athletic that he's without a doubt going to be a useful player at least on the defensive end. He's probably a bit more system dependent than the others as far as reaching star potential -- he's going to need to go to a place that he can play a bit more uptempo to start his career until he becomes more skilled -- but if he goes to that system he's going to be incredible.

The idea of being a fan of a bad NBA team this year is an interesting one, if only because of the tank. I'm starting to be turned on the idea that the Cavaliers should simply tank this season and go for a top ten draft pick now that they've started 4-10. But then again, because the East is so bad a 10-4 run could put them in the driver's seat for a 4-5 seed through the first third of the season. The Magic were always going to be bad this year, but should I hope for the Cavaliers to bottom out even despite their increased expectations this season?

Tyler: It almost seems like a lost cause rooting for the Cavs to lose this year. I mean, the East is so bad right now. There are, what, three teams over .500? I think there's a real chance Cleveland pulls it up and earns a 6-8 seed because who else will?

There has been a lot of discussion between commenters at OPP about whether Orlando should win or lose/how fans should choose to root for them to play? I find that there's a small middle ground where you want the team to "look" good but a loss is totally OK. It's a weird place to be, but that's just the stage Orlando is at.

Cleveland has the talent right now -- in Kyrie, Jack, Waiters, Gee, Miles, Thompson, Bynum and Andy -- to push for the playoffs. It's going to be really hard for that core to be worse than Utah, Sacramento, Charlotte, Boston, Orlando or Philadelphia.

(There's a part of me that wants Cleveland to win so they can't hurt Orlando's chances at a Top 3. You guys always seem to hit the proverbial lottery jackpot.) Push on Cavs!!

Sam: That's certainly true. But the Cavs' gaping hole at small forward sure would look good with one of Parker or Wiggins there.

I think that Orlando fans should essentially be rooting for losses. Is most of this core even going to be in Orlando when the team starts winning? This team is a solid two years away from the playoffs most likely unless they get Parker next season. I only see Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, and Nik Vucevic as major players on the next Magic winner (I'd throw Andrew Nicholson in there too, but the coaching staff down there really yanks him around with his role). I'm not sure it's worth those three guys getting playoff experience this year at the expense of potentially losing out on one of the top four guys, is it?

In that vein, do you have one of the top three that you prefer for the Magic specifically? As in, do you buy Harkless's three-point shooting enough to where you think taking Randle may make more sense?

Tyler: I actually wrote about Harkless' improved jumper recently. He's actually hit a bit of a slump since that piece -- go figure -- but his shot looks better and he's more comfortable taking it. Recently, Orlando has played Harkless more at the power forward position. He's started there the past week with mixed results.

Rob Hennigan covets roster fluidity. As in, guys who can play two or three positions rather than one. Harkless has played the 2, 3 and 4. Oladipo is playing both guard positions despite obviously being more comfortable at shooting guard. Tobias Harris interchanges between the two forward spots. I've got a feeling Harris will play more small forward this year, even though he's better at the four.

This is probably done so the Magic can evaluate these guys out of position to see their limits. It gives Orlando the chance to draft who it views as the best player without worrying too much about position or fit. It's an intriguing, new-wave way of thinking that could really pay off when they construct a roster built for winning. Then again, it might not and guys might struggle with changing, undefined roles. Time will tell.

Okay, so let's say the Cavs have the no. 1 overall pick. Parker helps you win now and is a perennial All Star talent. Wiggins has the potential to be the best player in the NBA when he's 25. Who ya taking, General Manager Sam Vecenie?

Sam: Oh wow. Putting me on the spot.

I know that I just said that Wiggins is the best prospect. He'd be really hard to pass up, and I don't think that Brown would actually allow the new GM to pass on him (because let's be honest, if the Cavs have the number one pick, Grant's not making the selection). He has too much potential to be an impact player on both sides of the ball. His length and athleticism is just so immense.

Having said that, the Cavs' desperate need for shooting puts Parker in the conversation. I don't think Randle is, given Thompson and Bennett, but then again LOLCAVS. I'm still taking Wiggins by a hair because of the upside, but Parker is really creeping up because of the fit -- along with his tremendous, All-Star upside. What about you, Tyler?

Tyler:Yup. I'm with you here. I can't let Wiggins pass. Not yet. There's too much potential there to let slide.

You really can't go wrong with any of the choices, though. That's the best part about this draft.

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As usual, let us know in the comments how stupid we are, and what other topics you want us to discuss in the future.

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