Throughout the entirety of the 2013-14 NBA Season, our resident sports aficionado, Phife Dawg of the legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, has graced us with his analysis on everything from his NBA Playoff predictions, to the lack of fundamentals present in the game of basketball today, the pursuit of equality within sports, his opinions on the current superstars in the league, to sharing some of his favorite memories of his all-time favorite NBA legends, and ultimately providing insight into how he sees the future of the league taking shape.
The Queens, New York native, who also goes by the alias “PHIFEdaPHanalyst”, not only has a deep passion for digesting sports as a fan, but also has an affinity for breaking them down from an analyst’s point-of-view. Always outspoken on the subject of athletics, you can find Phife interacting and debating a multitude of sports related topics on a nightly basis with his fans on Twitter.
For this specific feature, Phife sat down with us and put on the proverbial General Manager hat. With there being some major developing storylines throughout the league, and the 2014 NBA draft taking place this week, we dissected all of the impending uncertainty and attempted to predict how it will all play out. Focusing primarily on the first fourteen lottery picks of the draft, we readily present to you: “PHIFEdaPHanalyst: If I Were GM, NBA Draft Edition”
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Andrew Wiggins (SG) (Kansas)
“If I was Cleveland’s GM I would seriously think about taking Jabari here, too. But I think they’ll take Wiggins. Personally, I still believe in defense being the most important facet to a high draft pick. His offense is definitely going to come eventually. He’s already a great athlete. He’ll be a perfect fit in Cleveland. He’s long and athletic. Jabari can get you instant buckets, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired. And as far as I’m concerned, defense is what Cleveland needs the most right now.”
NIS Selection: Jabari Parker
2. Milwaukee Bucks
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Jabari Parker (SF) (Duke)
“Let’s be honest, Milwaukee needs a little bit of everything, including Jesus Christ. But I think he’ll go to Milwaukee. He’ll be elated to be close to home in Chicago, too. Milwaukee really needs a big name and they’ll get it either way with Wiggins or Parker. Most importantly though, they need offensive fire power. They have a good young core there with Henson rebounding, Giannis doing his thing, and O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight there, too. They are slowly and surely building something nice over there. Jabari will instantly come in and make that team better.”
NIS Selection: Andrew Wiggins
3. Philadelphia 76’ers
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Dante Exum (SG) (Australia)
“With Wiggins and Parker off the board, I think the Sixers go Dante Exum here. Him and Carter-Williams can switch back and forth between the 1 and the 2. It’ll be a really good fit. He can play either guard position. He’ll be a really valuable asset in the NBA, because depending on matchups and who his team is playing, he’ll be able to guard three positions, and he’ll always be able to back down smaller guards. The amount of possibilities the Sixers would have by putting those two young men together is crazy.”
NIS Selection: Dante Exum
4. Orlando Magic
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Marcus Smart (PG) (Oklahoma State)
“They need a lot in Orlando right now. A lot of air was deflated when Dwight Howard cried his way out of town. They did a great job in starting the rebuilding process by selecting Oladipo last year. That kid is really nice and will be a superstar one day. Now, if you add Marcus Smart, that would be a lethal back court. As we talked about earlier this week, you said you don’t really trust Jameer Nelson, and I totally feel you on that. Jameer was OK, but injuries have really derailed his game. Marcus Smart would be a great fit in Orlando to continue their rise from the mess that Dwight left them in.”
NIS Selection: Noah Vonleh
5. Utah Jazz
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Noah Vonleh (PF) (Indiana)
“Although Utah recently drafted heavy on big guys with Kanter and Favors, I’m just not too sure about those guys’ future roles in the NBA. You have to take the best player for your system here, and depending on how Vonleh looks early on in his career, that makes Kanter or Favors expendable. He’s a great fit for the system that Utah runs and will surprise a lot of people with how athletic he is as a stretch 4.”
NIS Selection: Aaron Gordon
6. Boston Celtics
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Joel Embiid (C) (Kansas)
“The Celtics have nothing to lose. They are obviously in a rebuilding stage, and this is the one team that it’s not going to hurt if they go out and take a risk on an injured future star like Embiid. His surgery went well, and once he’s prepared to come back and become active again, they’ll see that they got a possible steal at this pick. I truly think he will pan out to be a great player for whoever takes him. Boston needs a myriad of big men right now. They have Sullinger and Olynk, but those guys play their certain roles. Rondo is the type of player that can really help a guy like Embiid reach his potential quicker than usual.”
NIS Selection: Joel Embiid
7. Los Angeles Lakers
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Julius Randle (PF) (Kentucky)
“If I’m Mitch Kupchak, I’m ecstatic to bring in a player like Julius Randle at pick #7. He just belongs in L.A, It’ll be such a nice fit. He’s pro-ready, and will have Kobe in his ear. When it comes to being motivated to contribute right away, what better player would you want in your ear? Let’s say you have a healthy Kobe and Pau, and you add a productive Randle and an improved Kendall Marshall at the point. That’s a nice lineup that people are going to sleep on. I’m a big fan of Julius Randle. I really see good things for him and I think he’ll be a great NBA player.”
NIS Selection: Julius Randle
8. Sacremento Kings
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Aaron Gordon (PF) (Arizona)
“The Kings should be happy to get Gordon right here. Also, being that he’s from San Jose, he’ll be happy to be close to home. I see it as a great fit. If you throw him in that lineup with Rudy Gay coming back at the 3, and DeMarcus at the 5, that’s a lethal front court for years to come.”
NIS Selection: Marcus Smart
9. Charlotte Hornets
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Doug McDermott (SF) (Creighton)
“I think MJ is going to shock the world and take Dougie McBuckets. I think MJ goes with Doug because he spent four years at Creighton, he got better every season, and his type of game can translate smoothly to the NBA. Especially being the son of a coach, his basketball IQ is off the charts. He’s hard worker and has a good head on his shoulders. MJ knows he’s not drafting a young kid that has all kinds of developing to do. He’s been playing at a high level his whole life. He played high school ball with Harrison Barnes in Southern Iowa, so he’s just been familiar with elite competition from day one. He’s going to be a really good one in this league.”
NIS Selection: Doug McDermott
10. Philadelphia 76’ers
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Zach Lavine (SG) (UCLA)
“If they can throw Dante Exum and Zach Lavine in the mix with Carter-Williams and Nerleans Noel.. Man, I’ll tell you what, The Sixers have a special youth movement going on. This is an important draft for them as they look towards the future. I’m really trying to envision all of those young cats in that Sixers uniform playing together and it could be something really special for that franchise. Lavine jumps out of the gym, he can play three positions if needed, and he just adds that insane athletic ability to this team. I’m really interested in seeing how the Sixers draft turns out, It’s a big one for them.”
NIS Selection: Nik Stauskas
11. Denver Nuggets
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Gary Harris (SG) (Michigan State)
“Systematically, I think he fits here. He’s a very solid player. He’s 6-5′, he can shoot lights out, and the Nuggets desperately need another scorer on that roster. As far as shooting is concerned, they need as much fire power as possible. They have a good core with Lawson and Gallinari coming back, and the “Manimal” up front, but they could really use someone to come in and knock some outside buckets down. Coming from a good college program already at Michigan State, he’s the type of player that could really benefit from playing under Brian Shaw. Brian could help guide Harris into becoming a very productive NBA player.”
NIS Selection: Gary Harris
12. Orlando Magic
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: James Young (SF) (Kentucky)
“I would love if the Magic pick James Young here. As I mentioned earlier, Orlando is in the middle of rebuilding their franchise with a youth movement. So if you have James Young, Marcus Smart, Oladipo, Afflalo, Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless, you can really let these guys play and see which ones you want to build around for the future. Being that he only spent one year at Kentucky, I think it will take a couple seasons for James Young to really be presence in the NBA, but I think his game will be a great fit in the NBA. He’ll have an opportunity to work on his game in Orlando without a whole lot of pressure, which is crucial for a younger player like him.”
NIS Selection: Elfrid Payton
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Nik Stauskas (SG) (Michigan)
“I really like Stauskas’ game. We’ll see what happens with Kevin Love and that whole situation, but looking at the Timberwolves roster as it stands, they need another shooter. Even if he comes off the bench, he can still fill up the stat sheet to a certain extent. They have a pass first point guard in Rubio, so they need some shooters over there who can execute when Rubio is doing his thing and getting teammates open looks. With a natural stroke like his, he’s always going to maintain value to whatever team selects him.”
NIS Selection: Rodney Hood
14. Phoenix Suns
PHIFEdaPHanalyst’s Selection: Adreian Payne (PF) (Michigan State)
“Wow, this one is was really tough. The Suns have a really exciting roster. Their back court is so nice with Gragic and Bledsoe (if Bledsoe re-signs). With Gerald Green at the 3/4, they need to be looking at a big guy here. I really like Payne on this roster. He stayed in school all four years. He’s a major defensive presence and his offense has gotten better every single year. He’s also a dominant rebounder. I think he’d be a perfect addition to compliment the Morris twins up front.”
NIS Selection: James Young
NIS: As the draft approaches, there are some really interesting story lines throughout the NBA. The eventual destination of three of arguably the best ten players in the league is currently up in the air. We’ll start with the King himself. Fresh off of a disappointing showing in the Finals against the Spurs, LeBron announced that he’s opting out of his contract with the Heat. Although he can instantly re-sign with them, there’s a legitimate possibility of him leaving and signing with a different franchise. Where do you think LeBron will be playing basketball when the NBA season starts next year?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: Oh boy, That’s a circus all on its own again. I don’t know man. I think he either stays in Miami or he goes back to Cleveland. A lot will depend on what Cleveland does in this draft, too. You got to believe that if they select Wiggins or Jabari Parker, Lebron would have to consider going back home. You then are sitting with a trio of LeBron, Kyrie, and Jabari/Wiggins. If I’m LeBron, that sounds a whole lot better than an aging Miami team. If Miami shakes things up though, and can make some moves in this draft, maybe it will be more appealing for him to stay there. I really don’t know, man. I mean, they went to four straight finals and won two of them. He’s the King of Miami right now, so I won’t be surprised if he stays.
NIS: It’s a fairly similar situation with Carmelo and where he will end up next year. There’s a lot of negative talk about him being a bad fit for certain teams because of how much he seemingly demands the ball, and how many shots he needs to get up on a nightly basis. With the Knicks being your team, and having watched him play in New York for the past four years, what’s your take on that whole situation? Where will Melo be playing next year?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: I understand the gripe that people have with him that when he gets the ball it sticks there. But let’s look at the teams he’s played on. When he was in Denver, who else was able to score the ball on that team? Same thing in college at Syracuse, and especially with the Knicks. He’s really had no significant help at any point in his professional career, so he may have become this player that people see as a “me first” shooter, but for the specific teams he’s played on, he’s really had to be that way or else those teams aren’t winning games. My thing is, if he goes to Chicago and Derrick Rose is healthy, he has no choice but to spread the floor. He’s not going to have the ball in his hands like he used to. It’s Derrick Rose! You know what I’m saying (laughs)!? Straight up though, the league knows Derrick Rose is at his best when he’s stopping and cutting and getting in to the paint, and now if you have a player and shooter like Carmelo on the wing? Man, c’mon.. these teams are going to be on eggshells playing defense against that. That would be crazy. So, I think he’ll either re-sign with the Knicks or go to Chicago, but if comes down to those two teams as the only real options, it needs to be Chicago. He’s better off there. Ultimately, I think he’ll end up looking at the Knicks roster and saying “I can’t do this shit anymore” (laughs).
NIS: I know from talking with you that Kevin Love is your favorite big man in the NBA. His situation is a little different and a bit more imminent, where he is almost certain to not re-sign with the Timberwolves. So the pressure is really on Minnesota to get something back for him before he walks. If something happens with that situation, it’ll likely happen very soon. Where do you see Kevin Love ending up?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: I think it will be real cool if he ends up in Golden State. You know what, that’s where I actually do think he’ll be next year. I wouldn’t mind seeing him out in Golden State with Steph Curry. That would be ridiculous. I do think the Bulls will get either Kevin Love or Carmelo, but if I had to choose right now, I definitely see him in a Warriors jersey next year. That would be a special combination with him and Steph. Those boys could do some serious things in the NBA together.
NIS: Regarding this specific rookie class, when we look back in fifteen years from now, which of the fourteen players you mentioned above could end up being a bust in the NBA? I suppose not necessarily a bust, but just not living up to the expectations of where they were drafted.
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: Joel Embiid is an obvious candidate here, because of that injury. You never know with big men and pre-draft injuries. We’ve seen so many centers fall victim to career altering injuries, and it seems like one injury can lead to another with those guys, you know? Another one could be Stauskas. Only if he goes to Minnesota though, just because I’ve never really believed in that franchise like that.
So with him, it’s not about his ability, but more just falling victim to the situation?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: Yeah exactly, but hopefully in cases like that, these players who have potential but are in situations that continue to spiral downward, they can get out after a few years and play elsewhere. But regarding the track record of that team and organization, if he get’s drafted by Minnesota, I’ll say Stauskas could be a bust.
NIS: I know we kind of talked about it the other night, but can you touch again on how you feel about young players with unlimited potential, who get drafted by struggling franchises and may never sniff a Championship in their career. I think it’s kind of tragic that a potential legacy can be limited by a specific scenario. But you see it just a bit differently and don’t necessarily share that same sympathy.
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: Yeah, I mean it’s these player’s dream to make it to the NBA. So it’s just amazing for these guys to be playing in the league after years of hard work. They also have to realize that it’s a business. That part of the game is bigger than them, and they don’t have much control over it. Honestly though, nowadays if you have patience, there are always options. If you ball out for the team that drafted you, and you see that the organization is in bad shape after a few years, you can always get traded, ask for a trade, or eventually hit free agency. You’re right though, it is a little difficult to see great players stuck in bad situations, but as far as the amount of time you’re stuck with those franchises, the window has never been more narrow than it is now. It’s a different game in the NBA today. For the most part, players aren’t necessarily loyal to the teams that drafted them anymore. So while it’s frustrating from a basketball standpoint, I really don’t feel sorry for them. When it comes down to it, these guys are all millionaires. At the end of the day they are taking care of their families, and that’s what matters most.
NIS: On the other end, when it’s all said and done, and we look back at the fourteen players above and how the entirety of their careers played out, which players will end up standing out among the rest in having the best NBA careers?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: I think when it’s all said and done and we look back at it, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon will have had very successful careers in the NBA. But if we’re talking like superstar status, I do believe that Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are just on a different level. They will be really special to the game of basketball.
NIS: So you are on board with the hype and potential of both of them? When their careers are through, we will be able to say that Wiggins and Parker can be considered some of the best to ever play in the NBA?
PHIFEdaPHanalyst: Yeah, I really do. I think they’ll mean a whole lot to the NBA when their careers are over. Looking at this class, those are the two players that I know for certain will be able to produce at an elite level in the NBA. I mean of course there are things that they need to work on before we can even consider them in that breath. Wiggins needs to work on his body and his physical presence, and Parker needs to work on his defense. But If I’m a GM, especially this year, I’m so thankful that my franchise landed one of the first two picks. Both of those kids are going to make a big impact in the future of the NBA. They will be great superstars one day. I truly believe that.