NBA 2014 Redraft: Is Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic the No. 1 Pick?

Nikola JokicHeading into the 2014 NBA Draft, the top two picks were obvious: Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker. You could argue who would go first between them, but they were the clear top two players.

Six years later, the top two players from that 2014 class are again clear. This time, though, it is Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic. They have overachieved in the NBA, while Wiggins and Parker have underachieved.

Let’s walk through a 2014 redraft, deciding who would go first between Embiid and Jokic and then re-selecting the rest of the top 10.

Cleveland Cavaliers select C Nikola Jokic

Original pick: G/F Andrew Wiggins (traded to Minnesota Timberwolves)

This was a tough decision, but Jokic’s durability over Joel Embiid was the deciding factor. The Serbian center came to the NBA one year after being drafted, but he has only missed an average of four games per season since then and has had no major injuries. Embiid missed his first two seasons due to a foot injury and has missed an average of 27.3 games per season since 2016-17. Issues just keep cropping up for him.

Jokic’s ceiling may not be quite as high as Embiid’s, but he is still a superstar even if he suddenly stops improving. The burly center is arguably the best passing big man in NBA history and he is also a fantastic rebounder and inside scorer. I can only imagine how much fun he would have playing with LeBron James given how capable both guys are as passers and scorers.

Jokic is definitely not a standout on defense but he is not horrible. Ultimately, he is a transcendent enough on offense for me to justify putting him No. 1 overall over Embiid.

Milwaukee Bucks select C Joel Embiid

Original pick: F Jabari Parker

I explained above why Embiid is a tough sell at No. 1. However, he’s great value at No. 2 for the Bucks. While Embiid played only a combined 31 games in his first three seasons after being drafted, Milwaukee was still in rebuild mode during that time, waiting on Giannis Antetokounmpo to turn into the absolute monster he has become.

Good luck scoring on a healthy Embiid and Antetokounmpo near the basket. Also, good luck stopping them on the other end of the floor. Between Embiid’s deft and physically overwhelming post game and Antetokounmpo’s dominance in transition, you know the Bucks would be able to put together a strong offense.

Philadelphia 76ers select G Zach LaVine

Original pick: C Joel Embiid

The Sixers, unfortunately, miss out on getting one of Jokic or Embiid, easily the two best players in the class. There is not an obvious choice for Philadelphia here, since there are a combined zero All-Star appearances and zero All-NBA selections from the rest of the class.

Philly has needs at every position but the team especially needs an offensive go-to guy. The Sixers ranked last in the NBA in offensive rating in the seasons both directly before and after the 2014 draft.

LaVine has gradually improved each year and was averaging 25.5 points per game on a solid 56.8 true-shooting percentage for the Bulls this season before the campaign was suspended. His highlight-reel dunks would also provide excitement for weary Sixers fans as they wait out the team’s long rebuild.

Orlando Magic select F Aaron Gordon

Original pick: F Aaron Gordon

The Magic were probably hoping for slightly better results than what they have gotten from Aaron Gordon so far in his six seasons. Gordon is a very good defender and often shows flashes of great offensive play, but he hasn’t been consistent on that end.

I do believe that the Magic have done Gordon a disservice with the players they have surrounded him with. AG hasn’t played with many good playmakers or shooters in his time in Orlando and that’s undoubtedly affected his ability to produce on offense.

In a do-over, the Magic would pick Gordon again, but they would try to build a more athletic and perimeter-oriented roster that could get him more easy dunks and open outside shots.

Utah Jazz select G Spencer Dinwiddie

Original pick: G Dante Exum

Utah’s major need at the time of this draft was a point guard, so selecting Exum made sense from a positional standpoint. Exum has struggled with frequent injuries and has never refined his skills enough to be a starting guard in the NBA.

Dinwiddie would have been an excellent pick for the Jazz. The 6’5” guard was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round in 2014 and he has always carried a chip on his shoulder at every stop in the NBA.

The 27-year-old guard can play on or off the ball on offense and he is serviceable on defense. At the very least, he could have been a much more consistent point guard option for the Jazz than Trey Burke, Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto, who held down the 1 position for Utah between 2013 and 2016.

Boston Celtics select G Marcus Smart

Original pick: G Marcus Smart

If you told Celtics fans right after the 2014 draft that Smart’s career averages after six seasons would be just 9.9 points per game on just 37.4 percent shooting from the field, they would have been very disappointed with Boston’s No. 6 selection.

It’s a good thing basic stats don’t tell the entire story. Smart’s grit and defensive intensity are second to none in the NBA today. He routinely wins games for the Celtics with his infectious hustle and tenacity that galvanizes his teammates.

Assuming you have one or two star players to carry the offensive load, Smart is the perfect guy to have on any winning NBA roster.

Los Angeles Lakers select C Clint Capela

Original pick: F/C Julius Randle

In a vacuum, Capela is probably the third-best player from this draft. However, given the needs of the teams drafting from No. 3 to No. 6, he wasn’t a great fit with anyone until this pick.

The Lakers were one year into their total rebuild in 2014 and had a roster that badly needed some talented youth. Los Angeles’ leader in total points for the 2013-14 season was Jodie Meeks.

Capela took a couple years to develop in the NBA before becoming a double-double machine for the Houston Rockets, but the Lakers would have continued to stockpile young talent over the next few years as Capela progressed.

Sacramento Kings select G Gary Harris

Original pick: G Nik Stauskas

The Kings haven’t made the NBA playoffs since 2006, which is the longest playoff drought in the NBA. During that time, they have consistently made poor personnel decisions, often relying on players who look good on paper but may struggle with defensive intensity, work ethic, shot selection or maturity.

Harris is the antithesis of the player Sacramento usually drafts. He doesn’t stuff the stat sheet. He is pretty athletic, but he doesn’t make that many highlight reel-worthy plays.

What Harris does provide is consistent effort, solid shooting, great defense and a low ego that fits well into a team environment. He could have helped spark change in the Kings organization that might have taken them to the playoffs by now.

Charlotte Hornets select F TJ Warren

Original pick: F/C Noah Vonleh

Charlotte needed offensive help in 2014. The team had ranked 24th or worse in offensive efficiency in each season since 2004-05 and its biggest offensive weapon at the time (Al Jefferson) was just about to start a major decline.

Enter Warren, a versatile scoring weapon who has averaged between 18 and 19.6 points per game in his last three campaigns. The 6’8” combo forward doesn’t really stand out in any other area of the game, but he won’t hurt his team in any area, either.

Philadelphia 76ers select C Jusuf Nurkic

Original pick: G Elfrid Payton (traded to Orlando Magic)

The 76ers have a bunch of different ways they could go with this pick. Andrew Wiggins is a talented scorer but his frustrating defensive struggles and shot selection would be a bad fit next to new No. 3 pick Zach LaVine. Rodney Hood and Julius Randle are good scorers, too, but they don’t provide enough in other areas of the game.

I do think Nurkic is the Sixers’ best choice. The Bosnian Beast was a polarizing big man earlier in his career but he has significantly improved his efficiency and feel for the game since then. He missed the Portland Trail Blazers’ 66 games of the 2019-20 season with a fractured leg, but he was about to return before the season was suspended and his game isn’t dependent on athleticism.

Nurkic offers very good two-way impact for a talent-starved 2014 76ers roster that needs help at all positions.