Once upon a time, analysts billed the 2014 NBA Draft as the next great rookie class. Not so much. Andrew Wiggins never lived up to the hype of the No.1 pick, the No. 2 pick (Jabari Parker) isn’t even in the league right now, and in hindsight, the lottery is littered with NBA has-beens.
That said, there were several quality players selected that night — including two future Hall of Famers in Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, who have finished first and second in MVP voting for two straight seasons. It’s hard to call the draft a total whiff based on those two alone.
The Sixers were fortunate enough to draft two important contributors that night: Embiid at No. 3 and Dario Saric at No. 12, though he’s no longer with the franchise. Now, let’s travel back in time and see who should have been picked where in the 2014 NBA Draft lottery.
Re-drafting the 2014 NBA Draft — 1. Nikola Jokic
There’s an argument for Joel Embiid in this spot, but the Cavs would be hard-pressed to pass on the two-time MVP. Originally the 41st pick, Jokic has emerged as an all-time draft steal — the kind of hidden gem front offices dream of unearthing. He’s the best offensive player in basketball right now. The Cavs — or the Wolves, as a result of the Kevin Love trade — would have been much happier with the result here.
Jokic’s passing wizardry and basketball I.Q. are well documented. He’s the most courageous and inventive playmaker in the NBA as a 7-footer. He’s also a historically efficient scorer who can beat defenses at all three levels. What he lacks in explosive athleticism, Jokic makes up for with craft, power, and skill.
No player can elevate teammates like Jokic. He dragged Denver to the playoffs last season despite missing both of his co-stars. The on-off splits for Jokic are telling. His advanced stats and basic counting stats are impressive in equal measure. He has the potential to be the first three-peat MVP winner since Larry Bird. He has to go No. 1.