Joel Embiid Is Sure-Fire Top-5 Choice in NBA Draft Regardless of Foot Injury

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 21, 2014

Kansas center Joel Embiid (21) pushes off West Virginia forward Devin Williams, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. Embiid scored 11 points in the game. Kansas defeated West Virginia 83-69. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Joel Embiid has questions surrounding him, but there's one certainty—he'll be a dominant force in the NBA when he's both experienced and healthy.

He might be neither of those things right now, but that doesn't mean the Kansas big man isn't worthy of a top-five pick. 

Of course, the latest saga surrounding Embiid is his broken foot, which he recently had surgery for. According to ESPN, he's slated to be out for four to six months. 

Once the most talked about name for the top overall pick and a sure-fire bet to come off the board within the top three selections, Embiid is now tumbling. Per Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, a Western Conference executive even said he wouldn't take him in the top 10. 

The Celtics are one of the teams worried about Embiid's situation—in fact, all 30 teams are, according to director of player personnel Austin Ainge:

It's normal for teams to be noticeably worried about a top player who suffers a serious injury a week before the draft. When you've been sifting over a prospect for months, and suddenly something new and dangerous appears, it significantly changes things.

Despite that, the public seems to be on board with Embiid staying in the top five, per ESPN SportsCenter:

But teams and scouts dug through Embiid's back problems throughout the predraft process, and nothing changed as far as his status at the top of the draft. Conventional wisdom is to drop Embiid after this latest hiccup, but teams will begin to see what they're missing out on.

Sure, Embiid's injury and later surgery may drop him beneath the Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins echelon that he once was accompanied by. Maybe even Dante Exum can sneak above him. 

After that, though, teams would be foolish to pass on Embiid.

ESPN Stats & Info showed what a healthy Embiid can do on the court:

It's understandable to pick Wiggins or Parker above Embiid. But after that, there's no player who screams All-Star and certainly no player who can become the next Hakeem Olajuwon—or anything close. 

A true 7-footer, Embiid has the athleticism to fit right in at the next level and the size to avoid getting pushed around as many youngsters do. His shot-blocking prowess affects the game in a way that can trickle down throughout the team. If Embiid becomes the Embiid that many expect, he could be a game-changing center on a championship team.

Does a serious foot injury and surgery just a week before the draft knock him back? Sure, it does—a couple of spots. 

But you don't draft players for their impact in year one. In the NBA as much as any league, it's about finding the youngest, most talented player who can turn a few years of development into a quick ascension.

If it's the guy who will average 10 points per game as a rookie and become a mid-level starter or the player who can't play in year one but becomes an All-Star down the road, give me the latter every time. 

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Assuming the Cavaliers and Bucks go with Wiggins and Parker—in whatever order—at the top, the Sixers would likely be quick to pass on Embiid. After all, they just drafted Nerlens Noel last season and haven't even played him yet. 

But at No. 4 to the Magic, Orlando needs to pull the trigger. Slowly but surely, the Magic have built a promising young roster, but there's no true big man to let their versatile power forwards off the hook with rim protection. Embiid could be that piece.

If somehow, some way, Embiid is available at No. 5, expect the trade offers to fly in left and right. They may be talking him down, but these scouts haven't been raving about Embiid for months just to disregard him because of a six-month injury.

If Embiid falls out of the top 10 like that Western Conference executive predicts, he'll spend his early years making those who passed up on him pay with emphatic shot-blocks and dominant rebounds. 


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