It's amazing what just a few games can tell you—everything you need to know, yet at the same time, absolutely nothing at all.
We found out right away that this is at least a conversation. It's not just a race for No. 2 with Andrew Wiggins' seat reserved at No. 1. Jabari Parker and Julius Randle appear to offer first-pick upside of their own, and have each made strong impressions on NBA scouts.
But for the most part, our perception of each player entering the season remains intact.
Parker is the most skilled and versatile. Randle is the strongest, most dominant interior force. And Wiggins has supreme athleticism, pogo-stick bounce and towering long-term potential.
This is what we knew and can currently confirm. What we don't know centers around Wiggins and that loosely tossed around word "potential."
Based on what we've seen through a few weeks, you can't really argue that at 18 years old, Parker and Randle are the more skilled and polished basketball players. If three teams held a draft for one game played in 2013, Wiggins might actually go last of the three.
But the NBA draft is about long-term. And given Wiggins' unparalleled natural gifts, his ceiling sits a story above his other two competitors. The problem is that his journey to reach it will be more challenging than Parker and Randle's journey to reach theirs.
They already have the skill sets in place of future NBA All-Stars. Wiggins still has to build and ultimately develop his, and that takes time.
But more importantly—for an NBA team choosing at No. 1 overall, it takes risk.
It's like blackjack. Would you rather have a 19 or 20 knowing your hand is strong no matter what? Or would you rather have an 11 with a chance to double-down and possibly hit that 21? Both are nice positions to be in, but you can almost guarantee winning results with one of those hands. You can't with the 11.
Wiggins has the chance to be a blackjack type of player, while Parker and Randle appear to be strong hands with just a slightly weaker payoff.
Parker is ready to roll with his perimeter scoring arsenal, outside accuracy and ball-handling. Randle has the touch, the post game and top-notch rebounding tools.
Wiggins is still stuck on athleticism as his core strength. Can he expand and improve his skill set? Of course. But we won't know to what extent for another few years, and that won't help NBA executives in June 2013—especially not when there are so many other enticing prospects with similar All-Star upside and further developed games.
Compared to Parker and Randle, Wiggins simply has more improvements to make and room to grow. And the amount he eventually grows is really impossible to predict.
Offensively, Wiggins just isn't as smooth with the ball, nor does he possess the assertiveness to make a similar impact as Parker and Randle.
At Kansas, Wiggins plays the role of a more opportunistic scorer—if there's a lane or open jumper, he'll take it. But he's not currently refined enough to create his own scoring opportunities working one-on-one in the half court.
Parker and Randle have emerged as immediate go-to weapons—guys you can give the ball to and ask them to go get a bucket. Wiggins isn't at that level yet.
Will he get there eventually? That's a question NBA decision-makers will have to ask themselves. And questions equate to uncertainty.
With Randle and Parker, there really isn't much to question.
Skill Level, Feel for the Game
Take a look at the difference between Wiggins' and Parker's skill level and feel for the game.
Working one on three, Parker takes two strong dribbles before separating for a beautiful pull-up jumper from 18 feet away. No wasted motion, complete fluidity.
This is an NBA-caliber move that Parker can use from day one as a rookie to his very last All-Star appearance.
Wiggins doesn't exactly have this part of his game down.
Making a similar move, watch him take two dribbles, fumble one, recover and elevate before ever really having complete control of the ball. And as a result, he fires a brick off the side of the glass on what should be an easy stop-and-pop jumper.
While Parker can roll out of bed and get that shot up with ease, Wiggins is going to have to learn and develop it over time. He might get there, he might not. If he does, he's got the potential to emerge into a superstar NBA talent.
But we just won't know on draft night what's going to happen five years down the road.
And that's where certainty versus uncertainty comes into play. I know that Parker can shoot the rock, create his own shot and overwhelm as a physical mismatch.
I'm positive that Randle can score in the post and has the strength and motor to cause havoc in the paint.
And I'm extremely aware of Andrew Wiggins' mind-blowing athletic ability. But it's just impossible to be certain how much he'll improve fundamentally.
Wiggins has a lot more polishing up to do, both with his handle and outside game. And as an offensive wing in the NBA, you can't thrive without either—at least not at the level he's expected to get to.
He also looks awfully skinny out there. At 6'8'', 200 pounds, Wiggins will have to add a little something to that frame before schooling guys like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George or Luol Deng. Considering the position he plays, Wiggins is going to be guarded by some of the longest, quickest most physical defenders in the world.
Parker plays the same position with 35 more pounds of strength yet also maintains Wiggins' ability to impact a game with athleticism.
We can skip Julius Randle in this argument, given his place in it is obvious. At 6'9'', 250 pounds of muscle, he's good to go right away from a physical standpoint.
Wiggins will inevitably add some weight, but again—this is something the NBA folks will have to think about, whereas Parker and Randle offer certainty as physically overwhelming mismatches.
However, at the end of the day, nothing changes the fact that Wiggins offers the most upside down the road. If he does add to and improve his offensive repertoire, the sky is his limit.
But given the value of a No. 1 pick and how rare it is to obtain one, betting on "if" with Randle and Parker on the board might actually seem like a gamble.
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