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By LARRY VAUGHT
CHICAGO — From what ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has seen, he believes freshmen Julius Randle of Kentucky, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker will be the top three picks in the 2014 NBA draft.
“I don’t know the order. I don’t think anybody does,” Bilas said two hours before the Champions Classic in Chicago that featured those three teams along with Duke.
The consensus has been that Wiggins would be the No. 1 pick. Bilas isn’t so sure and says he’s not hearing so much about Wiggins being a clear No. 1.
“He (Wiggins) was the No. 1 rated player coming out of high school. The draft isn’t today. Wiggins is really talented,” Bilas said. “I don’t think he is as prepared to take a game over now as the others. I think Parker and Randle are better right this second. Right this second won’t determine very much. It won’t determine anything in the draft.
“The winners of the game tonight will be great. But it won’t determine a championship. You don’t get a trophy for this. In perpsective, you can lose this game by 20 and still win the national championship. It’s important but not an end all.”
Bilas liked Randle’s ability before the season started and has seen nothing to change his mind.
“He is doing a pretty good job, but he can get better. He is so physically imposing and is such a strong rebounder. When I have watched him, two dribble or less it is hard to deal with him. He is really, really good,” Bilas said. “He can expand his game. He can shoot a little bit. He really has not gone down in the post very much, and he can do that. He has a lot of versatility.”
Bilas said he’s not knocking Wiggins’ ability by noting Randle and Parker — “Parker is really good and versatile, too” — are better players today in terms of taking over a game.
“That doesn’t seem to be his (Wiggins’) personality of being a lead guy right this second, demand shots, to be the man. That’s something he will evolve into. I don’t see him right now being a guy who is going to get 30 tonight,” Bilas said. “Well, Randle can get 30. Parker can get 30. Both of them have scored more points in a game than Wiggins has (this year).
“Wiggins is tremendous. You are not saying when you say Randle might be a little bit better, you are not saying that Wiggins can’t play. That dude can play. What you are saying is that if I had to pick a player right now that I needed to go out and score 30, I would pick Wiggins third of those three right now. By the end of the year, it could be different.”
Bilas said the Champions Classic was good for all players, but especially young players like Kentucky has.
“You are going to be put in a Final Four atmosphere. This will probably be more powerful given that only four No. 1 seeds (Memphis, UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina in 2008) have made it to the Final Four once. These are all No. 1 seed caliber teams,” Bilas said. “This will probably be better than the Final Four. Maybe the level of play won’t be as good as it will be at the end because these teams are all going to get significantly better.
“We would be lucky to have a Final Four this good. It makes it more interesting in a way because it is in a smaller arena. The Final Four (in Dallas) is in this 80,000 behemoth. This is kind of old school. It is pretty neat.”