Draft Prospect Breakdowns: Kansas' Joel Embiid

Draft Prospect Breakdowns: Kansas' Joel Embiid
June 26, 2014, 2:15 pm
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This is the 31st, and last, in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Joel Embiid

7-foot, 250 pounds

HIS STORY: Through the course of this season, Joel Embiid went from being a relatively unknown freshman with big potential playing alongside Andrew Wiggins, to unseating his teammate as the expected No. 1 pick. Embiid’s ascent was rapid; he really started to be discussed as the key to Kansas’ team at the turn of the new year. After that, he climbed to the top of almost every draft board as the projected top overall selection. But less than a week before the draft, Embiid underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot. This injury, coupled with the back problems that caused him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments, have raised red flags. It’s seems unlikely now that Embiid will go No. 1.

HIS STRENGTHS: What got Embiid to this position is his incredible upside and his consistent improvement through the season. Embiid has only played basketball for a few years, so when he came to Kansas it was assumed he would be a project for a couple seasons. But his ability to take instruction and improve was just amazing. His defensive prowess as a rim protector was never questioned. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game (19th-best in the nation) while grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game. People compare him to Hakeem Olajuwon. As I’ve said before I don’t like comparing players (especially to all-time greats), but this one does seem quite appropriate. For a big, he moves effortlessly and is very fluid running the floor and in the half court. He has great footwork around the basket but also can step off the block, face up and beat his defender. He also has good shooting range out to the 3-point line, but has a good touch around the rim reflected in his 62.6 percent success rate from the floor.

HIS WEAKNESSES: Injuries are the biggest issue. The last thing any team wants is the next Greg Oden. Foot and back problems for a 7-foot player are incredibly concerning for GMs. Also, given his relative inexperience as a basketball player, you’d want him working on his game as much as possible and not sidelined as he recuperates from surgery. But these injuries will set his development back and possibly limit the amount of extra work his body can handle going forward. His offensive game isn't ready for the NBA so you’re drafting on upside and banking on improvement. Those can be significantly affected by this injury and how he recovers.

IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? In the modern NBA, where a post player is an anomaly, Embiid would be a welcome addition to any team (if healthy). He may not go No. 1 now, but I still think someone in the top 5 will take him as the potential is so great that it’s tough to say no. He’s a rare combination of size, athleticism and skill that is just so hard to pass up. If Embiid somehow slips to No. 6, the Celtics should -- and will -- take him, in my opinion. I just don’t think enough people will be scared off by his injury history. Hopefully for Embiid, and for us as fans, he recovers and develops into the player it seems he can become.