BOSTON — Of the five teams ahead of the Celtics in next week's draft, league sources believe only two - Orlando and Utah - appear to be major hurdles between them and the opportunity to draft Joel Embiid.
Once the consensus favorite to be drafted with the No. 1 overall pick, Embiid has a broken bone in his right foot that is expected to result in him falling a few spots in the draft this Thursday, and more significant, will keep him sidelined for months to start the season.
Yahoo Sports! reported on Friday that Embiid had two screws inserted in his navicular bone on his right foot, and will be sidelined for at least four months which puts his return at the earliest, at the start of the season.
Cleveland, which has the No. 1 overall pick for the second year in a row and third in the past four years, is eager to draft a player that can make an immediate impact and help get them to the playoffs for the first time in the post-LeBron James era.
Throw in the fact that Embiid's latest setback is similar to one that beset former Cavs all-star Zydrunas Illgauskas, and it becomes pretty clear that Cleveland isn't interested in a potential repeat.
For the Cavs, the safe bet at No. 1 - and that's assuming they keep the pick which they have been looking to part with for weeks - would be to draft Embiid's Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins.
"[Jabari] Parker's numbers will be better at the start, but Wiggins projects to be a slightly better player long-term," said an Eastern Conference scout.
At No. 2, the Milwaukee Bucks are desperate to add a high-impact player and were torn between Wiggins and Parker (although sources on Thursday said they were leaning more towards Wiggins than Parker).
That's because the Bucks have a rim-protecting big man in Larry Sanders, and another promising young big man in John Henson, along with the versatile Ersan Ilyasova.
But they need an impact player now, and it appears that player will be Parker.
With Embiid's injury, Australian guard Dante Exum should move into the top three of the draft.
Sixers coach Brett Brown spent more than a decade coaching in Australia, and is familiar with the 19-year-old's game.
And while Exum on the surface doesn't seem a natural fit with a Sixers backcourt that includes rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, together they would pose mismatch problems because of their length.
Things will get interesting when the Orlando Magic are on the clock at No. 4.
They could use some additional help in the frontcourt to go with center Nikola Vucevic, but they need the help now which Embiid likely won't be able to provide.
Orlando has other needs such as upgrading their point guard situation, although they may look to do that with their second, first-round pick (No. 12 overall).
More than likely, the Magic will turn to the player they believe has the most upside who can play some immediately.
That's where Haverhill, Mass., native and former Indiana forward/center Noah Vonleh comes in.
He has showcased a wider set of skills than expected which has led to his stock in the eyes of many teams, including Orlando, rising.
Vonleh and Kentucky's Julius Randle are the most likely targets for Orlando if they elect to pass on Embiid.
That leaves the Utah Jazz who like most teams in the lottery, have several areas in need of addressing.
They have a talented 1-2 frontcourt tandem of Derrick Favors and Enest Kanter in addition to 7-foot-3 center Rudy Gobert.
So, the need for them to add another center who won't play for months, doesn't help them address any of their immediate needs.
But Embiid is a special talent in the eyes of many. And with Utah hiring Quinn Snyder as their new head coach earlier this month, patience is something the Jazz will indeed be preaching with its players and fans.
However, an opportunity to land a player such as Randle, Aaron Gordon or Marcus Smart, who each could come in and contribute right away, will likely be too tempting for the Utah brass to pass on.
And that leaves the Celtics at No. 6, primed to potentially add the one player with the greatest amount of potential in this draft.
Even if Embiid had to miss most or all of this upcoming season, the Celtics aren't going to make enough moves this season to be a title contender anyway.
Embiid would position the Celtics going forward with a much-desired rim protector, something they have desperately wanted to add to their roster for years but have consistently failed to do so.
"This draft has some All-Stars, but Embiid has the potential be more than an All-Star, but a superstar for many years," a league executive told CSNNE.com. "There's only one player in this draft that you can look at now and say, talent-wise, he has the potential to be a franchise player. That's Joel Embiid."
Still, the back injury that forced him to miss the latter part of his freshman year at Kansas followed by his most recent setback with his right foot, makes him a bigger risk than any player in this draft.
But the same is true of the potential reward that a player of Embiid's caliber can bring to a team such as Boston, which is looking to avoid a repeat of last season's center-by-committee approach and even more important, move closer toward regaining a spot among the NBA's elite.