Use your imagination and take a journey back to May 22 2007, the day of the draft lottery.
The Portland Trailblazers had just finished a long 32-50 season and happily the ping-pong lottery balls were on their side. They were now in possession of the highly coveted number one pick.
The Seattle Supersonics fared slightly worse, picking up 31 wins. They settled for the number two pick.
What was the prize for which these two teams were willing to endure an atrocious six months of basketball?
On one hand, a 7 foot centre from Ohio State who perplexed college counterparts with his unique combination of strength, size and agility.
On the other, an athletic wing player who could score apparently at will but, said the sceptics, was too skinny to transfer his skillset to the next level with immediate impact.
Sound familiar yet?
Now, travel a few weeks forward to June 28. Portland Trailblazers choose Gregg Oden, the powerful big man with the huge upside, despite concerns over the health of his back, as well as his knees. The Seattle Supersonics (later becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder) were only too happy to select the lanky scorer from the University of Texas, Kevin Durant.
For Greg Oden read Joel Embiid. For Kevin Durant read Andrew Wiggins.
The ‘Durantula’ is now a global superstar, an MVP with multiple scoring titles and a Finals appearance.
We won’t ever know how good Gregg Oden could have been because those knees simply prevented him from playing any meaningful amount of games.
This time, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery. Milwaukee Bucks are in the number two spot.
The conventional wisdom followed by most general managers says it is always better to pick a great centre than a great guard, because a great centre is rarer and is easier to build around. Mind you, this was the advice that ensured Sam Bowie was picked over Michael Jordan in 1984.
This is not to say that Embiid will suffer the same fate as Oden – he might, he might not. It is not to say that Andrew Wiggins – or the equally trumpeted Jabari Parker – will become Kevin Durant-style NBA conquerors either. They might, the might not.
Part of the fun of the NBA draft is that it’s all about dreams and potential. There’s never a sure thing. But the front office experts for Cleveland can do worse than to use Durant and Oden as a cautionary tale.