Andrew Wiggins is favored by oddsmakers to be the first pick in the National Basketball Association draft even though analysts consider Jabari Parker more likely to have an immediate impact and former University of Kansas teammate Joel Embiid the best prospect.
Wiggins, a 6-foot-8 small forward, is given 1-2 odds by online sports book Bovada.lv of becoming the first player from the University of Kansas drafted No. 1 since Danny Manning in 1988. Parker, from Duke University, has 7-5 odds of being the top pick and the 7-foot Embiid is 12-1 after suffering a recent stress fracture in his right foot.
Regardless of whether Wiggins, Parker or Embiid is selected, it would mark the seventh time in eight years the top pick played just one season in college. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in four years.
“We just don’t have as much data as we have on guys in the past,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said on a media conference call. “It’s a hard thing.”
The Milwaukee Bucks have the second pick after the Cavaliers, who last year made Anthony Bennett from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas the surprise No. 1 choice, two years after taking Kyrie Irving. The Philadelphia 76ers have the third selection, followed by the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Cavaliers have sought to trade the No. 1 pick after initially targeting Embiid, the New York Daily News reports, with the 76ers and Jazz among the teams interested in moving up the draft order tonight at the Barclays Center in New York.
Wiggins may be the most athletic of the potential top picks. His parents are Mitchell Wiggins, who played six seasons in the NBA, and former Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins, who won two silver medals in relays in 1984 and 1988.
Wiggins averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds as a freshman for the Jayhawks. In a season-ending loss to Stanford in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, he was held to a season-low four points after averaging 28 in his previous four games.
“It would be a dream come true,” Wiggins said of potentially being the No. 1 pick during a pre-draft media session in New York’s Times Square. “At a school like Kansas, where the basketball players are treated like rock stars, you really get a feel for how it’s going to be at the next level. That really prepared me for all this.”
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in his lone season at Duke.
“Parker is the safest pick because he’s NBA ready on the offensive end,” Bilas said. “But he’s not nearly as good a defender as Andrew Wiggins is. Wiggins is a superior athlete -- long, excels in transition, pretty decent shooter. The only problem you have with Wiggins, if you want to call it a problem, is whether he’s the type of guy that’s going to have a killer instinct and be a superstar.”
Embiid, from Cameroon, averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots at Kansas before suffering a stress fracture in his lower back that forced him to miss the end of the season. He was widely considered the probable top choice before undergoing surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. There’s no timetable for his return.
“We’re going to want someone who is going to help us on day one,” Bucks new co-owner Marc Lasry, whose team is coming off a league-worst 15-67 season, told reporters last week. “It’s hard to take Embiid.”
Bilas pointed out that Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, had a similar injury that limited him to 18 games during his second NBA season.
A year ago, potential No. 1 pick Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-11 center, went sixth overall after tearing a ligament in his knee and landed with the 76ers. Embiid could still be available when the 76ers select third tonight.
“I don’t think anybody would have said, ‘I’m not going to go get Michael Jordan because of this foot injury,’” Bilas said. “I think the same thing about Embiid. He’s a special prospect. He’s the best player in this draft, if healthy.”
There are also injury questions about 6-foot-9 University of Kentucky forward Julius Randle, with ESPN citing several unidentified NBA executives who said a broken foot he suffered during his senior season in high school hasn’t healed properly and could require additional surgery. Randle has said his foot is fine and he’s been pain free in workouts for NBA teams.
The over/under for Randle’s draft position is 6 1/2, according to Bovada. Other top draft prospects include Australian guard Dante Exum, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Indiana forward Noah Vonleh, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon, Creighton forward Doug McDermott, Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas and Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier, who led the Huskies to a national title as a senior last season.
“It’s one of the deepest and most talented drafts in maybe a decade,” said Bilas, adding it comes a year after one of the NBA’s weaker drafts. “It’s full of players that can come in and not only contribute, but can start and be stars.”