Celtics Rumors: Boston Cannot Pass Up on Joel Embiid with Sixth Overall Pick

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 26, 2014

Kansas center Joel Embiid dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Joel Embiid is falling down draft boards after the prized big man broke his foot more than a week before the draft, and the Boston Celtics will be lucky to have him fall in their laps at No. 6.

Although they may have a pick of a few prospects that they've been more realistically targeting, Boston can't give up the opportunity to add Embiid—one of the few players who can end up being the best in this class.

According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, it would be unlikely that he does pass the Celtics:

Embiid was once heralded as the top prospect in the draft, even seeming to jump Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker—the crown jewels of the 2014 class. He remained in that position amid concerns of back problems, but that changed in a heartbeat after he broke his foot and had surgery on it a week before the draft. 

Suddenly, Embiid was seeing his stock tank. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman dropped the Kansas big man to No. 4 overall to the Magic, while ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) put Embiid at No. 6—interestingly enough to the Celtics.

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The top tier of prospects—Wiggins, Parker, Dante Exum and realistically Embiid—is seemingly so far ahead of the second tier, which is filled with many high-risk, high-reward prospects. Obviously, Embiid's risk is there, but that was known before and he was still considered a sure thing as far as being top-tier goes.

That seems to still be the case, as teams are realizing that nursing a recovery from surgery may not be enough to pass on Embiid at the top. DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony noted that two teams in the top five could still take him:

Embiid could very well get past Philadelphia—which has Nerlens Noel. After that, all it takes is the Magic passing on him for him to likely fall to the C's, as the Jazz have the No. 5 pick and already have both Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors at center.

If that situation unfolds, it won't be one that the Celtics deemed possible up until a few days ago. But it's one that they need to take advantage of.

Embiid may not be a sure thing. The health problems are worrisome, and having to rehab from the same broken bone—the navicular bone—that plagued Yao Ming's career isn't encouraging. But neither were his back problems, and that didn't change anyone's mind.

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Plus, it was known all along that drafting Embiid would force that team to adopt a patient approach. Whether he's healthy or not, the Kansas one-and-done is raw and will need some developmental time anyway—which will come along with his rehab.

As for the Celtics, well, he couldn't match up much better.

In the frontcourt, Boston already has versatility and plenty of youngsters to play the 4 spot. Jared Sullinger is an up-and-coming player at the position, and Kelly Olynyk will get his chance. 

Draft Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon—three of the likeliest options after Embiid—and it will be obvious that those young power forwards aren't a part of the plan. But that would be counterproductive, as Sullinger is already way ahead of them and can be at an even higher level when Embiid is NBA-ready.

If the Celtics hold onto Rajon Rondo or even—gasp—make a move for Kevin Love, Embiid will fit in regardless. Having a true center is the rarity of all rarities in the NBA, and if he's able to bring his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess to the next level, he'll fit right in.

Or, as ESPN's Jeremy Lunblad imagined, they could just blow everything up and plan for the future:

The only realistic reason the Celtics would have not to draft Embiid is if they're sold on making a strong move geared toward contending in 2014-15. If they're able to get Love or another enticing option, they could be better off adding Marcus Smart or another fast-impact player in a position of need.

However, barring anything out of the ordinary, the Celtics will be aiming to improve their roster over the coming seasons. In that case, there is no better option than Embiid.

There's a chance he will be the best player in the draft, and that's something you just can't pass up at No. 6—not with the uncertainty surrounding some players in that position. Embiid isn't a sure pick, but he's the right one.


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