The 2014 NBA Draft was one of the most highly-hyped drafts in recent memory. The depth of its talent pool drew comparisons to the famed '84 and '96 drafts as it seemed to be bursting with potential stars. There were several players who could have been the top pick in other drafts, scouts said, as there were several worthy candidates.
With so much young talent bursting onto the scene, the Rookie of the Year race was sure to be a memorable one, with a pack of young players battling it out throughout the season to get their hands on some inaugural hardwood, or so we assumed.
Almost two months into the 2014-15 NBA season however, the reality is slightly different, as injury issues have ravaged the 2014 draft class.
It all started with Joel Embiid, who underwent surgery for a broken navicular bone in his foot a week before the draft and is likely to miss the entirety of what would have been his rookie season. The Sixers, in no immediate intention to compete, still snatched the center with the third overall selection.
The injury issues plaguing the '14 class didn't stop with Embiid however.
Next came Julius Randle, the highly-hyped forward out of Kentucky who the Lakers snagged with the seventh selection. In his first game as an NBA player, Randle broke his tibia and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
That's two of the draft's top eight picks down for the whole year before the season barely began if you're keeping count.
A few short weeks later, Orlando's Aaron Gordon, who they selected fourth overall, was ruled out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his left foot after appearing in only 11 games. In addition to Gordon, Boston's Marcus Smart, Charlotte's Noah Vonleh, and Chicago's Doug McDermott, all lottery picks, have all missed time dealing with injury issues.
While Smart, Vonleh, and McDermott have been able to return to the hardwood, Milwaukee's Jabari Parker, the second overall pick of the 2014 Draft, was not as fortunate. Parker, who was in the midst of a solid rookie campaign, tore his ACL in a recent game against Phoenix, and is expected to miss the rest of the season. The injury is extremely unfortunate for Parker, who had been probably the most consistent rookie, and also for the Bucks, who have been putting together a surprising season after finishing with the league's worst record last year.
Less than two months into the season, seven of the top eleven picks of that highly-hyped 2014 draft have battled injury issues to some extent. That is an astonishingly high percentage.
That Rookie of the Year race looks a lot less competitive now, with top selection Andrew Wiggins as the obvious front-runner. Wiggins leads all rookies in points per game with 12.6, and despite some inconsistency, he has shown flashes of the athleticism and ability that had NBA scouts drooling. Behind Wiggins, two Sixers, K.J. McDaniels and Nerlens Noel, may be next in line in the ROY race. The award is Wiggins to win.
After such a high level of hype surrounding the rookie class heading into the season's start, it is unfortunate that for several of them the dream has to be delayed a little longer.