If you’ve been on Twitter at all today, chances are someone you follow has talked about Joel Embiid. The favorite to go No. 1 in next Thursday’s NBA Draft was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot that will require surgery.
As Lowe says, the news obviously throws a wrench into the plans of teams at the top of the lottery. The Cavaliers have been linked to virtually all of the top prospects at one point or another, but Embiid was widely believed to be the frontrunner for the number one pick. And while the stress fracture may not even keep Embiid out for all of next season – more will be known on that front after Friday’s surgery – the injury, coupled with his previous back concerns will likely be enough for the Cavs to go with someone else at No. 1.
Who, exactly, that player will be is the big question for the Milwaukee Bucks. Like Cleveland (and pretty much every team in the lottery), the Bucks have been linked to a number of prospects – namely Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum. With Cleveland likely taking one of those three – probably Parker or Wiggins – Milwaukee’s options are suddenly a bit more limited. And the way things are transpiring, the Bucks’ options may remain a mystery until draft night.
The other ongoing mystery is just how far Embiid will fall down draft boards. Unless additional medical issues are revealed, it’s highly unlikely he drops out of the lottery, let alone the top 10. A player once considered the top overall pick can only fall so far, and teams will have to weigh the injury risk against the potential value he can provide when healthy.
Once Parker, Wiggins and Exum are off the board (the projected, but BY NO MEANS definite, top three), Embiid will be up against the likes of Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh - very good, but not great, prospects. It’s in that range that teams will have to consider the risks in drafting an extremely talented, injury-prone big man versus a less-talented (and much safer) prospect.
After the Embiid news broke, writers began speculating what Cleveland might do if the big man is no longer an option. There wasn’t much of a consensus.
Another report, courtesy of Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico, indicated Cleveland won’t make a final call on Embiid until after Friday’s surgery.
Long story short, it’s anyone’s guess what happens on draft night. There have even been some rumblings that Cleveland could now trade down, possibly in a deal with the Sixers or Jazz.
All we know at this point is, so long as they stay put at No. 2, the Bucks will have their choice of at least two of the top three prospects in the draft.