NEW YORK — Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker aren’t NBA players yet and they are already learning their first lesson.
This is LeBron James’ league and they will just be playing in it.
A night before they could be the first two selections in what appears to be a deep NBA Draft, Wiggins, Parker and the rest of the class of 2014 were sharing the spotlight with James, whose decision to opt out of his contract and become a free agent Tuesday still had the league shaking a day later.
Carmelo Anthony has the same plan as James, and right now they are a 1-2 that Wiggins and Parker can’t match.
“They’re going to dictate how this draft goes,” Parker said Wednesday.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 selection for a second straight year, and either Wiggins or Parker would be an improvement over Anthony Bennett, who had a forgettable rookie season. Wiggins, like Bennett, is Canadian, and would love to be called first today.
“It’d mean a lot to me. It’d mean a lot to my country, too,” the freshman from Kansas said.
When his Jayhawks teammate, Joel Embiid, broke his foot, it strengthened the chances of Wiggins going first. Or perhaps it could be Parker, the versatile freshman from Duke.
Or, as Parker realizes, perhaps the Cavs will decide a trade is the best option.
A deal with Minnesota for Kevin Love would bring the Cavaliers an All-Star and might make a return to Cleveland more appealing for James. So Parker said he would understand if the Cavs dealt the pick.
Perhaps some other team with aspirations of James or Anthony will shake up the draft by making a move that gets them ready for July 1.
“You never know what they want to do,” Parker said, “whether organizations want to trade picks to create a little bit more money. So you never know in this business.”
Milwaukee picks second, followed by Philadelphia, Orlando, Utah and a couple teams not used to picking this high: Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.
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Last year’s draft was woefully short on star power, with Bennett hardly alone among high picks who made little or no impact. This class appears to be strong well beyond the first few names, with Julius Randle (Kentucky), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Aaron Gordon (Arizona) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) highlighting some enticing choices from power schools.
“And it’s crazy because everybody knows from the top on through 15, the lottery, that it’s a lot of talented guys in there and it’s deep,” Smart said. “But not only that, you can go down to the second round and late first, it’s still a lot of great talent in those bottom rankings. So this class is probably, I think is one of the better draft classes to ever have and it shows.”
Miami needs a roster upgrade, and Shabazz Napier of national champion Connecticut was aware of an ESPN report that the Heat have targeted him as a player who can provide it. The point guard seemed flattered but didn’t know if anything would come of it.
“I definitely worked out with the Miami Heat, so at the end of the day I can’t do nothing besides just get ready to figure out who’s going to draft me,” he said.
The 76ers have two top-10 picks and five more in the second round. Phoenix has Nos. 14, 18 and 27, while Orlando (4 and 12), Utah (5 and 23), Boston (6 and 17), Charlotte (9 and 24), Chicago (16 and 19) and Oklahoma City (21 and 29) have multiple first-round selections. Brooklyn, Golden State, Portland and New Orleans currently have no picks.
If the Cavs pass on Parker, he doesn’t think it should be because of concerns about his fitness, disputing a reported poor workout for Cleveland.
“If you put a treadmill right here, we can have a contest and we all can judge that,” said the 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward, acknowledging surprise at the criticism.
“I’m not no couch potato. I’m not going to flip the channels. I love to play basketball and you can find me playing that almost every day.”
Embiid’s, Exum’s entrances
Though surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot on top of a late-season back injury appear to have ended Embiid’s hopes of going No. 1, the center from Kansas might be hard to pass up by one of the multiple-pick teams because of his potential. Dante Exum, the point guard from Australia, could go right around the same time in the top five.