Eye on the draft: Embiid to sit final 2 games, Madness upon us

March has arrived.

Which means many Celtics fan's focus is going to shift from a frustrating season, to the "madness" that comes with this month. But this year, we won't be watching just for the fun of it. We will all have an "eye on the draft" while watching tournament games, curious to form our own opinions on which stars the Celtics need to acquire.

Outside of the combine, this next month is going to showcase all of the top talent that has caused the tanking craze we have been covering all season. How will these kids perform when the ACC title is on the line? How will they react with the ball in their hands and a trip to the final-four in their hands? We are going to find all of this out, and Celtics Life is going to be covering it all throughout the conference tournaments and the big dance.

But before the madness begins, there is still a regular season to finish up. . . and the favorite to be the top overall pick in June won't be playing in it.

Joel Embiid (Kansas/Fr): Coach Bill Self recently told ESPN that Embiid is going to rest up for the
remainder of the regular season, most likely in hopes of preserving him for a title run.

 Here's more from Self on Embiid, courtesy of KU Sports:

"Rest did him good the last time he sat out," Self said. "We're told he can't injure it more, but the symptoms are that it's really stiff." Earlier Monday, on the Big 12 teleconference, Self said Embiid’s back injury would not affect the 7-footer’s availability for the postseason. “I think he’s OK for the long term, don’t get me wrong on that,” Self said. “I’m not really sure if in fact how long or if we’re going to need to rest him. It’s a similar thing as before, a lower back strain basically,” Self added of the injury that kept Embiid from playing in a Feb. 15 game against TCU.

The last time Embiid returned from resting his back, he notched a season-high 18 points - that's the positive news. The negative news is that he ended up needing to sit out again - something Kansas cannot afford to have happen once more if they are going to compete for a championship.

Embiid was solid in his last game, posting 13 points and 13 boards in 29 minutes. But it came in an upset loss to Oklahoma State in which Embiid was clearly bothered. How he returns this time around will certainly affect Kansas' season, and probably will determine his draft stock as well.

Other top prospects, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker have all been their usual selves lately. Randle continues to hustle his way into double-doubles, Wiggins has found some consistency and Parker remains the most NBA-ready player not in the league. March, however, will provide us with with a higher stage to examine them on, in front of a much larger audience. This is going to get good.

Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State/So): Smart has had a strong return since his suspension for pushing a fan. He has said all the right things, and he is really recovering well from a messy situation - saving his draft stock in the process.

Smart and the Cowboys enjoyed the high of their season on Saturday night, getting a win over Embiid and Wiggins' Kansas squad. Smart needs to improve his shooting, that's why he returned to school this season. But he has merely jumped from 40-percent in his freshman season to 41-percent from the field this year, and has remained a 29-percent three-point shooter.

Smart does continue to stuff the stat sheet though. He tallied 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, a block and four steals in the victory over Kansas. Maybe more importantly, Smart finished strong, attacking Embiid around the rim to close out the game. Smart's talent to always remain aggressive in all areas of the game will keep him as a top pick in this draft.

The regular season will wind down this week, but only to see the post-seasons heat up all month long. Stay tuned for much more often NBA draft updates when the tournaments begin.

Follow Julian on Twitter @julianedlow

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Source: KU Sports