Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid looked good in workouts, so what should Cleveland do now with No. 1 pick?


Cleveland needs talent. Much more of it. They got a star in Kyrie Irving but have missed on other picks in recent years and they remain in the lottery despite owner Dan Gilbert saying he wanted to be back in the playoffs (which in the East should not be that hard to do).

They have another No. 1 pick and can’t blow it. Not again, as they did on Anthony Bennett last year (he could still pan out to be a rotation player in the league, but they passed over some much better guys to get a rotation player?).

Who do they take: Andrew Wiggins? Joel Embiid? Jabari Parker?

Embiid, the 7-footer out of Kansas, looked good, moved fluidly, got banged on by some former NBA big men and his injured back held up well in workouts in Los Angeles recently. That had a lot of people saying he jumped to the top of the Cavaliers draft board.

But PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of and Rotoworld says not so fast, there are other factors in play here.

“For many other teams, Embiid being okay physically would leap him ahead of the other main options, Wiggins and Parker, but this is Cleveland and how they handle this pick may require a lot more thought,” Isaacson told PBT. “The team clearly reached the past couple of years with Dion Waiters at #4 in 2012 and Anthony Bennett at #1 in 2013. Embiid could be a star in the NBA, but he still has a long way to go, and if you watched him play against similar sized players last year, it becomes more evident. Parker may be considered the “safest” of the three options, but I don’t see where he fits with the current team, especially if the team isn’t ready to give up on Bennett yet. Wiggins to me is still the best option at #1 with a great combination of being able to come in and make some impact immediately, but enough untapped potential that Cleveland should see significant growth from him over a number of seasons.”

[MORE: Multiple lottery picks available in trades … at the right price]

Fair or not fair, Parker is often third in these discussions with the reason being he is projected to have a lower “ceiling” than the other guys at the top of the draft board. Which is really not fair, Isaacson notes.

“I think the idea of Parker’s “ceiling” becomes more prominent when you put him in a discussion that involves the likes of Embiid, Wiggins, and even Dante Exum,” Isaacson told PBT. “Unfortunately, no matter how often people want to use the term ‘ceiling,’ it has no concrete meaning, and it becomes less meaningful when it gets tied to a player’s age.

“The general idea with Parker is he is so advanced offensively for his age, that there can’t be any real significant improvement likely, which is wrong. There are plenty of ways he can improve, especially over the next few seasons, but when you factor in the defensive part of the game, it’s easy to see why people get “down” on him compared to Wiggins and Embiid. When people envision Wiggins long-term, they see a player who could make a big positive impact on both ends of the floor, and Embiid, even if he just tops out as an average offensive player, could still be the rim protector that teams are looking for. I just don’t see Parker ever having that kind of full impact, even if he can become one of the top scorers in the league.”

[MORE: Watch Joel Embiid throw down dunks]

To me, Cleveland needs to bring in all three of these guys, grade them out after workouts, have the doctors look them over (particularly Embiid’s back) then take the best guy. Not the best player today, but the guy who will be the best player in three years, Position doesn’t matter, talent matters, the Cavs need to get as much of it as they can.

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton
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If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.

LeBron James: Spend less time comparing, more appreciating the greats

Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Monday night, LeBron James joined Oscar Robertson as the only two players in NBA history to be in the top 25 all-time in assists and scoring. Somewhere this summer (maybe late last season), Stephen Curry passed LeBron James and the best player walking the face of the earth. Don’t even get started on trying to compare LeBron or Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan.

No, seriously, don’t. LeBron thinks we spend to much time comparing and not enough time appreciating the great players of sport, such as comparing him to Robertson (or Magic). Here is what LeBron said to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I think what we get caught up in, in our league too much is trying to compare greats to greats instead of just accepting and acknowledging and saying, ‘Wow, these are just great players,'” James said. “I think in the NFL when you talk about great quarterbacks, they don’t really compare great quarterbacks. They say, ‘Oh, Joe Montana is great.’ You know, ‘Tom Brady is great. Aaron Rodgers is great. Steve Young is great.’ (Terry) Bradshaw, all those great quarterbacks they never compare them as much, but when it comes to our sport we’re so eager to say, ‘Who is better, Oscar or (Michael) Jordan?’ or, ‘Jordan or LeBron or Kobe (Bryant) or these guys?’ instead of just accepting greatness.”

He’s right.

I admit I can get as sucked into this as the next person, it’s a fun barstool argument to have, but in the end it can suck the joy out of watching great players. This is not a new position for me, I was a Laker blogger back in the Kobe/Gasol era and tried to tell those fans to enjoy it while they could. Be a fan of the game has been my mantra.

No player has had to deal with this level of scrutiny like LeBron, the first NBA superstar of the social media age. LeBron is a lock Hall of Famer, he will go down as one of the greats to ever play the game, maybe the most physically gifted ever (him or Wilt), yet while he is still just 30 years old we try to rank him against MJ, Dr. J., Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and a host of others. It’s been going on since he was 24. Probably earlier.

Can you imagine the online heat Jordan would have faced online when the Pistons rolled him and the Bulls in the playoffs three straight years, up to his age 26? But now in the mythology of Jordan those times are almost forgotten. They were dissected at the time, but not with the venom found on twitter. Not with the level of scrutiny LeBron faces.

Does Kobe suck this season? Maybe. But there are flashes of the great player and as fans we should try to savor those moments (even if we question now Byron Scott uses him). Same with Tim Duncan (who doesn’t suck). Or Kevin  Garnett. Plus there are all these great players on the rise like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and on and on, yet the NBA world is critical first.

We all need to savor these players, these moments more.

Even if we know LeBron is not MJ, it doesn’t mean LeBron isn’t special.