Greg Oden was the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. During his only year at Ohio State, he averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. He was also voted as an All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Mock drafts suggested the Oden was the clear choice to be the top pick even though he had already suffered a litany of injuries. Portland knew the risk when they made the pick and sadly, the risk ended up outweighing the reward.
To make matters worse, the second overall pick, Kevin Durant, has become a top 3 player in the league. Every time Durant makes the playoffs, it’s a slap in the face to the Portland organization that chose an injury prone center over the sharpshooting, lanky small forward. The tragic damage Oden caused for the Trailblazers franchise scarred not only them, but also all franchises when it comes to injured big men, and that has worked out perfectly for the Sixers.
Going into the 2014 NBA draft, the top three picks were essentially solidified, with their order being the only unknown. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid were must-watch college basketball. Wiggins was a highflying uber-athletic shooting guard at Kansas. Parker was a scorer at Duke, with a polished offensive game. Embiid was the unknown, going into the collegiate season. He was a dominant big man with more raw potential and significantly less polish at Kansas along side Wiggins. All three players could’ve conceivably been the top pick, until Embiid got hurt.
Teams have learned their lessons about investing high draft picks into athletes that cannot stay on the court. Had Embiid not gotten hurt, he could’ve easily been the top selection. But his broken foot solidified his fall to the third spot. Teams might take a risk like drafting Joel Embiid first even with his injury history had the level of talent between him and the rest of the class been more drastic. But when the Cavs were on the clock, their piece was close to a no-brainer.
The three of them resemble future perennial all-stars. Wiggins’ athleticism will make him a mismatch for defenders that can’t keep up with him. The weakest part of his game is his inconsistent jump shot. Parker, who missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL, has continued to improve his game. His role is starting to become clear, act like Scottie Pippen did for Michael Jordan for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Embiid, while only a small sample size, has looked like a young Hakeem Olajuwon.
Wiggins, Parker, and Embiid could make the 2014 draft class rival the 2009 draft that included Blake Griffin, James Harden, and Steph Curry, or the notorious 2003 class led by LeBron James. But, if Embiid turns out to be the best of that draft, the Sixers need to thank Greg Oden for scaring the Cavs from injury prone big-men.
Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports