Making the No. 1 selection in tonight's NBA draft should have been a no-brainer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs needed a big man, and Joel Embiid, a 7-foot, 250-pounder, is a strong two-way center who has been drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
But last week a stress fracture was discovered in Embiid's right foot and he had surgery to repair it. Suddenly, what had been shaping up to be a nice orderly draft has devolved into something risky and mysterious. So much so that no one is sure whether Cleveland will make Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker the top pick Thursday night at the Barclays Center. There is also a lot of conjecture that the Cavaliers are considering trading the pick with reports that the Celtics have been talking to them about making a deal.
Wiggins, Embiid's teammate at Kansas this past year, knows where he wants to go.
"I want to be the No. 1 pick," Wiggins, who is from Toronto, said Wednesday at the predraft media day in Manhattan. "It would mean a lot to me and a lot to my country too."
A Wiggins No. 1 selection would mark the second consecutive year that the top pick was a Canadian. Cleveland, which has had the top pick in three of the last four years, took Toronto native Anthony Bennett last year. This year's draft could include as many as eight Canadians with Wiggins, Nik Stauskas of Michigan and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse leading the list.
Before the college season began, Wiggins and Parker were the two biggest names in the game. Wiggins, considered an athlete with incredible raw potential, easily would have been the No. 1 pick last season. Parker, a more polished player from Duke, said Wednesday that the Milwaukee Bucks have told him that "most likely" they will use their No. 2 pick to take him if he is not taken with the first selection overall.
Parker took issue with rumors that he tanked his workout in Cleveland last Friday because he preferred playing with the Bucks.
"I think I have too much pride to waste other people's time," he said. "I come from Duke and, most importantly, I come from a family with good values. I don't have time to waste other people's opportunities and the chances I have in front of me. There's going to be a lot of speculation and a lot of negativity."
As for Cameroon native Embiid, he was not in New York Wednesday and no one seems to know how far the recent injury will cause him to drop.
Said Wiggins about Embiid: "He's doing great. We talk all the time. He's going to be good. Nothing can stop him."