The Cleveland Cavaliers will get first crack at Joel Embiid—and not just in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft.
According to Andy Katz of ESPN.com:
The 7-foot Cameroon native has been projected as a likely top choice throughout the season. That's why Embiid won't visit with Milwaukee or Philadelphia, which have the next two picks, until Cleveland has a chance to review his case for No. 1.
Embiid's representatives and the Cavs are working toward finding an appropriate date, time and even perhaps place to conduct the interview and physical. The possibility remains it could be in Cleveland but that has not been determined.
There has been no shortage of talk surrounding Embiid and his chances of going first overall to the Cavs. Some skeptics cited the back injury that ended his freshman year at Kansas with six games to go as a serious red flag:
Sounding as if Joel Embiid basically out of running for No. 1 pick. Sources say #Cavs' extremely leery of potential for longterm back issues— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) May 23, 2014
Then, logic (and a killer workout) swung opinions the other way:
Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 23, 2014
Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 23, 2014
Most likely, Embiid's visit and physical with the Cavs will ultimately determine where he goes in the draft, so meeting with Cleveland first makes a lot of sense. From Embiid's perspective, it'll give him a chance to prove he's the clear choice. If the Cavs are convinced, he can relax, quit making the rounds and wait until Adam Silver calls his name first on draft night.
And for the Cavs, finding out about Embiid's health now will give them as much time as possible to form a backup plan if they decide not to commit. Plus, Cleveland can keep his injury and any reservations it has about his health quiet in order to maintain trade leverage—something Cavaliers general manager David Griffin might find valuable:
David Griffin on poss of trading #1 pick: "I think we’re very open-minded to a lot of things. I’d trade me if it made us better." #Cavs— M.S. Boyer/J. Valade (@PDcavsinsider) May 21, 2014
Also, as the Cavaliers hunt for a new head coach, they'll probably want to inform any candidates of which way they're leaning. They certainly don't want to hire someone who feels Embiid is the wrong guy to take at No. 1, so it makes sense to vet Embiid as quickly as possible.
According to Katz, the Cavaliers are still deciding between Embiid, Duke's Jabari Parker and Embiid's Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins. But their decision to set up a meeting with the 7'1" big man before anybody else offers a pretty strong hint as to which way they're leaning.
If everything checks out, expect the Cavaliers to pair an exceptionally athletic and promising center with a tantalizing young core led by Kyrie Irving. Cleveland needs to make a splash in order to erase the bitter taste of the past three disappointing seasons, and lottery luck has given them a great chance to do that.
There may not have ever been much of a question about Embiid going first, but a positive meeting in Cleveland will set it in stone.