Drafted by: Philadelphia 76ers, No. 3 pick overall
Height/Weight: 7'0", 250 lbs
Age: 20 years old
Projected NBA Position: Center
Pro Comparison: Hakeem Olajuwon
Twitter Handle: @JoelEmbiid
Joel Embiid shot up recruiting ranks in high school as a junior and senior before shooting up draft boards as a freshman at Kansas.
The progress he's made from a year-to-year basis plays to his appeal as a long-term prospect. Embiid, who has only been playing organized basketball for three years, has seemingly gotten better by the month.
He emerged as arguably the top prospect in the country prior to going down with a stress fracture of his lower back early in March. Still, injury aside, there isn't a better talent in the field, given the promise he's shown at 20 years old and the All-Star potential he's flashed for down the road.
A dazzling post scorer and dominant rim-protector, we could be looking at the NBA's next breakout center if his health cooperates.
|Statistics at Kansas|
Listed at 250 pounds by Kansas, Embiid just measured in at 7'1" with a ridiculous 7'5.75" wingspan at a workout in Santa Monica, California. He takes up a ton of space in the paint, both in the air and on the ground.
Embiid blends overwhelming size and length with phenomenal foot speed and agility (he played soccer and volleyball before basketball) to cover the entire high- to low-post area. He's an above-average athlete, especially for a center. Embiid can elevate way above the rim for alley-oops, where he has the coordination to catch and finish over traffic or through it.
He also has a big-time motor. Embiid plays hard, and though he'll have to channel some of his urges, you have to admire his competitive edge.
He'll need to get stronger, but Embiid has the size, length, quickness and fire to physically dominate in the paint on both sides of the ball.
Advanced Post Game
We're not just talking about a raw 7-footer with potential.
At Kansas, Embiid posed as a go-to option for offense in the post, where he flashed an array of advanced moves with his back to the rim. From right- and left-handed jump hooks to up-and-unders and spin moves, Embiid showcased a deep bag of tricks and the fluidity to pull them off.
He even whipped out the "Dream Shake" against New Mexico's Alex Kirk:
Facing the basket, Embiid has shown he can put it on the floor for a dribble and swoop to the rim for a bucket. He even knocked down a handful of jumpers this season in the mid-range and one from behind the arc. He certainly has confidence in his shooting ability, and if you've ever seen him warm up, you know he can connect from outside.
With textbook footwork, a towering release point and soft, accurate touch, Embiid established himself as an unstoppable one-on-one cover (76.3 percent field-goal percentage at the rim, per Hoop-Math) at the college level.
Passing Out of the Post
Embiid eventually started commanding routine double-teams, and though he struggled with them at first, he adapted. He started anticipating the help-defender and ultimately sought out the teammate he left open. With his size, reach and hands, Embiid has the tools to ward off pressure and fire darts over the top of it.
By drawing the double-team and exposing it as a passer, he was able to create scoring opportunities for teammates who weren't capable of creating for themselves.
This really plays to his offensive upside—when Embiid is cooking in the post, there's no answer for him. You can play him straight up and take your chances against the mismatch he presents, or you can send the double-team and leave yourself vulnerable to getting beat on a kick-out.
Embiid blocked 2.6 shots in just 23.1 minutes per game, or 4.45 per 40.
Given his height, reaction time and length, Embiid can essentially shrink the size of the rim he's defending. And this is all off pure instincts and ability. He still has room to improve in terms of awareness and technique, which is scary when you consider his potential once he does expand his understanding of the game.
Physically, he can hold his ground defending the post, and he can keep up laterally against face-up big men.
Embiid's towering defensive upside is what really separates him from the pack, as there just isn't anyone else capable of making this level of two-way impact.
The biggest concern with Embiid will be his durability. There were a couple of times this year where he hit the floor and you didn't know if he'd get up.
And then this back injury happened. It's only natural to be concerned over a 7-footer with back trouble before his first NBA game.
From a developmental standpoint, Embiid just has to continue working on his conditioning, strength and defensive IQ.
Offensively, adding a regular jumper to his repertoire would ultimately put him over the top.
But all things considered, there aren't many weaknesses or flaws to pick apart. The only hole in his profile stems from his lack of reps and questionable durability.
Though Embiid still has plenty to learn, his high skill level and size should allow him to make an immediate impact on the floor. His presence alone should be able to give his defense some margin for error, given his ability to erase mistakes on the perimeter as a shot-blocker at the rim.
I'd imagine he'll get minutes right away, and we'll see his comfort level improve with each month—just like it did at Kansas. As long as his health holds up, he should be in the running to make the All-Rookie first team.
Nobody in the class offers more upside than Embiid, who appears to have centerpiece potential as an anchor in the middle. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski got a chance to see Embiid work out prior to the draft. "Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1," he tweeted.
The Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons started early this season. And though it's tough to take them seriously until he's got some NBA production to show for it, that's the type of potential his two-way game hints at.
When Embiid went down with an injury, Kansas went with him. The Jaykawks lost three of their six games, including one to West Virginia, which didn't make the NCAA tournament, and one to Stanford in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Embiid is a game-changer, and if it turns out this back injury is just an isolated incident, there won't be any questions in the future as to whom should have been the No. 1 pick in 2014.
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