All month we're breaking down the top talent in the 2014 NBA draft with our Eye on the Draft series. Originally, Joel Embiid was not on our list. Why? Well because it was seemingly a lock that he'd go #1 overall, and if not #1, in the top-three for sure.
But things are changing. Embiid, who has already had back and knee issues, is now undergoing surgery on a stress fracture in his foot. The surgery is on the navicular bone, one of the slowest healing bones in the body (and the same bone that ended the careers of both Yao Ming and Sam Bowie). All of a sudden Embiid is a realistic possibility with the sixth pick, and therefore we are breaking him down. Let's do it.
Name: Joel Embiid
Age: 20 (turns 21 on March 16, 2015)
Weight: 240 pounds
2013-14 numbers: 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 63% FG, 69% FT
Draft Express mock prediction: 4th overall to the Magic
Strengths: Where do we begin? Embiid is a defensive presence, averaging 2.6 blocks in just 23 minutes per game last year at Kansas (4.1 per 36-minutes). More importantly, he alters many shots he does not get to, the true sign of a legitimate center.
He has the type of size/length (7', 240 pounds, 7'5" wingspan) that we just do not see very often anymore, and yet he moves fluidly, and is as athletic a 7-footer as you'll see. He's a well above average rebounder (12.6 per-36), and offensively he is far more polished than anyone expected coming into the college basketball season. His first step is quick, he can post up from either side, and he goes up and under defenders with a soft touch at the rim. It's also important to note that he has only been playing basketball for four years, yet is already by far the best big man prospect in the NBA draft, even without accounting for future improvements. If his health was not an issue, he would be a shoe-in for the first overall pick. But it's not, which leads us to..
Weaknesses: During his only season at Kansas Embiid suffered both knee and back injuries (the knee was a tendonitis issue, the back a stress fracture), the latter of which kept him out of the NCAA tournament. However, neither of those injuries are what set off the red flags during his physical with the Cavs. Instead it was another stress fracture, this one in the navicular bone in his foot. Today Embiid underwent foot surgery to have a screw placed into the bone to promote healing, a surgery that will cost him at least 4-6 months, and likely his entire rookie season.
It is obviously a very scary thing to talk about big men and injuries, especially foot injuries, and especially the slowest healing bone in the body. It's also alarming that Embiid, who has only been playing basketball for four years, and played only 650 minutes last season for Kansas, has already developed two stress fractures. These are not injuries to simply overlook, they are real, and they make him a huge risk.
On the floor, Embiid's major issue is simply staying out there. Not only because of the injuries, but also foul trouble. He averaged 3.4 fouls per game in only 23 minutes, an unsustainable rate for a NBA center. But in terms of his skill-set, there really isn't much not to like. He's one of the most talented centers we've seen in the last decade, it really is a matter of staying healthy.
Fit with the Celtics: Let's assume Embiid is sitting there at #6, do you take him? It really comes down to risk/reward (to be honest all draft picks, and really all life decisions come down to this, but in this case it's more obvious): is the risk of Embiid turning into Oden or Bowie worth the reward of grabbing a true franchise altering center with the sixth pick in the draft?
My answer: Unequivocally yes. Embiid's injuries are scary, but his skill-set is so complete, so dynamic with a chance to get even better, that he is worth the risk at #6. Would I trade more assets to get him? I don't think so. Would I take him over Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker? No. But I would absolutely grab him over Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon -- despite the fact that I think all three guys will be successful in the NBA. To use a baseball analogy, those guys are (almost) sure-fire singles/doubles, Embiid is a potential homerun. Yes, there's a better chance you strike out with Embiid than the others, but I'd rather take a 50% chance at a franchise altering big man than grab a guy who's ceiling is considerably lower. I know many will disagree, but Embiid's talent is rare, and getting him at #6 would be good value, injuries be damned.
Plus I have nightmares of the Celtics passing, the Lakers rolling the dice, and LA immediately finding their next big man. I don't want that to happen.
What do you think? If Embiid is sitting there at #6, do you take him?
And here's Embiid's Draft Express video scouting report for those who like awesome things:
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 6/20/2014 04:14:00 PM Tweet