As we are rapidly approaching March Madness, as well as the conclusion of college basketball season, this is the time for NBA prospects to prove to teams that the franchise should select them. One of these prospects is Joel Embiid of the Kansas Jayhawks. Embiid has been projected as the No. 1 pick in the draft this year on more than one occasion. At the beginning of the season, it appeared as if Jabari Parker had that spot reserved, but Embiid has managed to steal the attention away from him.
Although Embiid is not the absolutely best player in college basketball at the moment, he certainly seems like the player with the biggest upside. Legitimate centers come sparingly today. One could literally count the number of elite centers in the league right now on one hand; that is how rare they are in today’s game. This is one of the main reasons why scouts are so high on Embiid. He is a pure 7-footer who enjoys playing near the basket. His season numbers do not jump out at you — 11 points per game and eight rebounds per game — and certainly not when compared to an Andrew Wiggins or Parker, for example. However, watching Embiid play is totally different. His mere presence alone impacts the game mainly due to the fact that he is such a large force.
Defense is always a main concern of prospects, but Embiid shatters any of those concerns with the potential that he has shown thus far on the defensive end. The reason I say potential is because his defense is not polished just yet since Embiid has only been playing basketball for about four years now. The majority of college basketball players have been playing for the entirety of their lives, so to put Embiid up there as the heavily-favored No. 1 pick says a lot. Rim protection is his biggest strength as he has come up with a multitude of impressive blocks this season. Any weaknesses in terms of defense are mainly fundamentals that can be taught upon his arrival to whichever team that drafts him. Again Embiid has been playing for such a short amount of time, he cannot be expected to pick up every minor detail that quickly.
Furthermore, on the offensive end, he has shown flashes of brilliance in the post, but also flashes of foolishness as well. Embiid tends to panic when he gets trapped in the paint, usually resulting in a turnover. This should not really be a cause for concern unless he consistently does this game after game. As for his post-game, Embiid is a very solid scorer from the block. His footwork is what is the most impressive, especially when he shows off his little dream shake once in a while. He appears to compare to that of Andre Drummond, who has the expectations of a superstar.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be on the prowl for a center this summer, and even more so if Pau Gasol decides to walk in free agency. Embiid would be the perfect fit in Los Angeles alongside Kobe Bryant, who is at his best with a productive center in the lane. Even after the Kobe era, it appears as if Embiid will be the top prospect to build a team around with players like Kevin Love hitting the free-agency market in the near future. With all of the cap space this summer, if the Lakers were to draft Embiid, the team could easily find players who compliment both him and Bryant for the upcoming years. If Los Angeles is not able to draft him, Mitch Kupchak must find a way to acquire him via trade. He will be a key for the Lakers moving forward if the team plans on competing.