After he missed the last six games of the Kansas Jayhawks’ season with a back injury, news surfaced that center Joel Embiid had suffered a right foot fracture. Embiid, whose smooth post moves and deft footwork have drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon, has had his quick succession of injuries bring up sadder, more unfortunate comparisons — to Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, and Yao Ming. This is, obviously, not a great development for the player who would be a unanimous number one draft pick if he was 100 percent healthy.
With the nicks and knocks that Embiid, who hails from Cameroon and spent his sole year at Kansas stealing an awful lot of thunder from his highly touted teammates, Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Seldon, Jr., has sustained before reaching the NBA, questions have risen about about how he’ll hold up to the 82-game grind, and whether or not he’ll ever be an effective contributor on the floor.
Of course, if Embiid falls too far, say out of the top three, he becomes an even harder prospect to pass on. A franchise like Cleveland, with a shoddy draft history and a desperate desire to win now, could be forgiven for choosing someone else, or trading down. If he makes it all the way down to Boston (at pick six) or the LA Lakers (at pick seven), the questions become much more pressing. The talent is undeniable, but in a league that has seen the fortunes of almost every team irrevocably altered by big men who didn’t pan out after being picked before wings who did, the Embiid saga promises to be one of the most interesting subplots during Thursday’s broadcast of the draft.