BY JOE BARTEL & ERIC SCHROEDER
“Joe Knows” is a feisty verbal banter between two competing sports reporters who hope to claim the ultimate title Best Sports Writer in the World–or maybe just Best Sports Writer for the Day. Nevertheless, this week’s topic will once again focus on who will be the number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
I value the little things in my NBA prospects. Sure, it is cool that a prospect can jump 13 feet in the air and has the wingspan of a cargo plane, but I care more about if he has the proper footwork, if he can dribble through a crowd or if he can throw a good outlet pass in transition.
So sure, Joel Embiid is really tall, but a big man with a reported spinal stress fracture does not sound the best option available in the draft, and neither is an Australian point guard who is tall but shoots worse than Ricky Rubio. I like Marcus Smart’s playmaking ability, but his maturity leaves something to be desired in a first overall pick. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are proven scorers but certainly not proven winners.
Ultimately, I stand by my original statement I made months back that Julius Randle should be the number one overall pick. And I think the team that will get that pick will be the Los Angeles Lakers. Call me crazy, but the Lakers will somehow luck into the first overall pick and select the 6-foot-9 forward from Kentucky to build around once Kobe finally leaves. Randle is averaging a double-double on the season (15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds) and has demonstrated that he can find the open man when double-teamed. He’s a terrific teammate and a tenacious competitor, everything you would want in an ideal teammate. And he should be the number one overall pick when it is all said and done. Do not cry conspiracy when you see Randle with a Lakers cap on June 26. You heard it here first.
The NCAA Basketball season will wrap up in about a week, and there have certainly been some telling observations about the supposed best players earlier in the season. No longer is there this huge clamor for the fabulous freshman that echoed around gyms just a couple months ago. Parker and Wiggins failed to even make it to the Sweet 16, and both had very forgettable final games. NBA executives will certainly have some difficult choices when it comes to draft day.
While just a hypothesis, it would not be shocking to see Orlando get that number one pick. With that being said, Orlando has the ability to gain a huge asset to complement last year’s first rounder Victor Oladipo who has put up a stat line of 14 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds a game–not bad for a rookie. If I were at the helm of the Magic I would certainly look at a 3-4-wing player to compliment Oladipo.
The obvious choice, in my opinion, would be 6-foot-9 Aaron Gordon of the Arizona Wildcats. He has put up solid numbers for the Wildcats (12 points and eight rebounds a game) while leading them deep into the NCAA tournament. He complements an outstanding guard in Nick Johnson already, and I could see that easily translating to success with Oladipo.
Gordon has the ball handling skills of a guard but the around the rim presence of a big man making him a dangerous player. He would fit well in Orlando, a team that could use an infusion of athleticism, which is a quality Gordon certainly can provide. Even though some players like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins will have lots of success in the NBA, I see Gordon as a high-energy player who will make an immediate splash a la Blake Griffin of the Clippers. Come draft there will be a number of surprises in a very deep class, but it would be a mistake to pass on Gordon at number one.