The NBA regular season is winding down and the focus is shifting for some to the playoffs. For others who’s team didn’t make it that far, the focus is shifting, or has already been shifted, to the NBA draft. The lottery will be held next month to determine the drafting order for all the lottery teams.
A lot of stock has been put on how exciting this young draft class is. The top three picks have been said to be almost certain All-Stars. With that kind of talent getting ready to come in, we have seen some pretty bad play on the court from teams wanting to secure one of those picks. However, what would happen if those kids decided to stay in college another year?
Jabari Parker (Duke) and Joel Embiid (Kansas) have been nearly a lock for a top three pick, along with Andrew Wiggins (Kansas). Recently though, a report came out that said both Parker and Embiid have been seriously considering returning back to school for their sophomore season. If you listened to Parker in his postgame interview after Duke lost to Mercer in the first round of the NCAA tournament, you could hear how disappointed he was and how he said his time at Duke so far has been “incomplete”.
If both decide to return to school and forgo the NBA this season, it really can change the outlook for some NBA teams. For starters, it basically guarantees that Andrew Wiggins would be a lock for the number one overall pick, which the Jazz still have a great shot at landing if the ping pong balls fall the right way. Secondly, after Wiggins, there is talent, but not nearly as much talent as there was with Parker and Embiid.
Those two have been regarded as possible franchise changing type players. With them not declaring, it moves guys like Dante Exum (solid pick), Julius Randle (hasn’t declared yet), Marcus Smart, and Aaron Gordon higher up the draft board. Randle is probably the best player out of those four and has just as good of a chance to become an All-Star as Wiggins, Parker, and Embiid.
However, for teams like the Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings who could possibly be drafting between picks five through seven, the news of those two not declaring could be very disappointing. If the Jazz draft at five, with Wiggins, Randle, Exum already gone, they would basically get the leftovers of Gordon and Smart. Gordon is a lengthy, athletic wing, but is said to be a “tweener”, meaning GM’s are not sure if he will play the power forward or small forward position in the NBA. Smart brings defense and knows how to score, but is awful from three point range.
If Embiid and Parker decide that it is in their best interest to return to college, the Jazz should put all their hope in landing a top two pick. Other than Wiggins and Randle, I don’t see many guys in this draft that can change a franchise for the Jazz. Chad Ford, ESPN Insider, said that a lot of GM’s are feeling like the two staying in college is going to happen, but he thinks that those feelings are “premature”. We will have to wait and find out, but if Parker and Embiid decide to stay, this draft just changed a lot.