The word “tanking” has been used a lot since the start of the NBA season because the upcoming draft class is expected to have as many as nine or 10 franchise-changing players for struggling teams to build a contending roster around.
There are people already comparing the depth and talent of the 2014 class to the 1984 and 2003 drafts, which produced players such as Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
If you want to see why so many fans are hoping their favorite NBA teams tank the 2013-14 season so they lose enough games to win a high lottery pick, watch the 2013 Champions Classic, which begins on Tuesday night. The tournament pits four of the top-five ranked teams in the country in Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and Kansas at one amazing event. Those who watch will get an early glimpse of several players likely to be among the first five taken in the 2014 draft.
Players in that group include Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. These games also feature several other freshman stars who could be top 10 picks, including Duke’s Rodney Hood, and Kentucky’s James Young and Andrew Harrison. There is going to be an incredible display of talent on the court at the United Center in Chicago, and with NBA scouts and general managers watching, these players are going to be motivated to prove why they are the top prospects in the 2014 class. Two players to pay strict attention to are Wiggins and Parker, who will oppose each other in the second game of the double-header when the Jayhawks battle the Blue Devils.
Wiggins is a 6-foot-8 forward with unreal athleticism and a lightning-fast first step that allows him to penetrate defenses and finish at the rim over taller defenders. His shooting range extends to the three-point line and he’s an underrated playmaker. From a defensive standpoint, Wiggins anticipates very well and uses his length to get in the passing lanes and force turnovers. He’s also a disciplined post defender who blocks shots with his great quickness and timing. He’s a player who makes an impact at both ends of the court and dominates games in crunch time. His skill set will allow him to contribute in a starting role from the moment he steps onto an NBA court, which is one reason why he’s considered by most experts and fans as the top prospect in the 2014 class.
As for Parker, he combines a high level of offensive skill with one of the highest basketball IQs in college basketball. He attacks the basket often with an impressive repertoire of moves, but is also capable of converting a high-percentage of his mid-range jump shots. Parker is also one of the better defensive forwards in this class at 6-foot-8 inches tall with a long wingspan. His quickness, awareness and strength helps him shutdown talented scorers on the perimeter. He went to the same high school as Derrick Rose (Simeon in Chicago) and will want to put on a show for his hometown fans and family against a Kansas team led by Wiggins.
NBA fans who want to familiarize themselves with the next crop of superstars should watch both Champions Classic games on Tuesday night. It’s rare that so many of the nation’s best teams and players go head-to-head before March Madness.