Mixed reports on how bad Joel Embiid's back injury is -- how this could impact the Celtics

As the NBA draft fast approaches, it has been assumed that Kansas center Joel Embiid would be the number one overall pick to Cleveland, with one caveat: that the back injury he suffered last season checks out in a physical.

Today, the Cavs gave him that physical, and it either went really well..or really poorly, depending on what report you believe.

The good, from Sam Amico:

The bad, via ESPN Cleveland:

Ok, so we really haven't learned anything. But at the very least, there is a report saying that the physical went poorly, and there has been enough talk about the big man's back (back injuries generally scare the shit out of NBA teams..see Jared Sullinger dropping from consensus top-five guy to #21 for proof) for us to ask this question: what if Cleveland is truly scared of taking Embiid #1?

Obviously this isn't a Cavs blog, but this could impact the Celtics in a few ways. Again, the key word is could.

#1. There have already been whispers that maybe the Cavs would be interested in dealing the pick. But could the Celtics give them what they want? With Kyrie Irving a year away from free agency (restricted..but still), Cleveland seemingly wants NBA ready talent. Unfortunately, the Celtics best player in Rajon Rondo plays the same position as Irving, making that an unlikely swap. But if the Cavs wanted picks, Boston could offer up the 6th and 17th picks this season, plus a future first to move up to number one and take either Embiid, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. This is a long shot, but Ainge could at least give them a call.

#2. What if the Cavs now take Wiggins? That would open the door for Milwaukee to take Embiid (if the injuries don't scare them off), meaning Parker is still on the board at #3. Reportedly, Philly is really high on Embiid and Wiggins, and less so on Parker. Could the Celtics offer up #6 and #17 for #3 and bring in the best scorer in the draft? Wouldn't be shocked to see this happen -- but there's one issue: The Jazz would love nothing more than to get their hands on Parker (a mormon who fills their biggest need at SF), and they could offer up the 5th and 23rd picks to the Sixers. What's a better deal, 6/17 or 5/23? Chances are the Sixers would take the deal with the 5th pick just because there's a better chance they get whoever they want in that spot. Stupid coin flip loss to the Jazz.

#3. And what if Embiid's back injury is extra scary, and every team in the top-five passes on him? Sure, this seems very unlikely, but teams are terrified of blowing a top-five pick on a guy who may not be able to physically hold up. It's the type of thing that costs a GM his job, and with a lot of top-end talent available, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility (this doesn't mean it's likely). If it does happen though, Ainge must take the chance. Unless Embiid's projected to be wheelchair bound by the age of 25, you need to risk the chance of getting Greg Oden Part II because of Embiid's potential. Unlike GMs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philly, Orlando and Utah, Ainge has already built a champion, and has some of the strongest job security in basketball. He can afford to take a massive risk with the chance that it turns into a massive reward.

So to sum this article up: it's a whole bunch of projection at this point. Amico could be right, and Embiid could be A-ok. If that's the case, he'll be a Cav next season (option #2 could still happen though if the Bucks take Wiggins and Parker is there at #3..but Philly could also decide to take Dante Exum with the third pick). But if the red flags are legitimate, there could be a ripple down effect for Ainge and the Cs. Again, back injuries to big men are terrifying for NBA teams. You can overcome a knee or achilles injury in a year, but a bad enough back injury never truly goes away.

So it's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

P.S. Hypothetical: Three first rounders for the #1 pick (let's say both picks this year and the Cs pick next year) or Sully + 3 firsts for Love? Which deal would you rather make?

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