The, no pun intended, “center” of NBA Draft discussion across the nation has undoubtedly been Joel Embiid. Embiid has been the clear-cut favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, even with red flags raised regarding his prior back and knee injuries. The big man from Cameroon appears to have what it takes to become the next great center, but scouts are thinking otherwise as news broke yesterday stating Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot.
There’s no doubt in my mind Cleveland’s front office members’ hearts dropped when they heard this news because of how perfect he would have fit on that roster. This stress fracture is no joke as it will require surgery, causing Embiid to miss the NBA Draft completely, which is something I’m sure he’s not too upset about. We all witnessed a similar event take place last year when Nerlens Noel miserably dropped to New Orleans Pelicans at No. 6 when he was expected to be the first overall pick by Cleveland.
So, how far will Embiid drop now that his health status is in question? Nobody knows just yet. Depending on how the top 3 picks pan out, Embiid could remain within the top 5 or he may possibly end up falling to either the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams would certainly be interested in acquiring such a talented player, but the risk will always be present. For these two prolific franchises, a ton is riding on how impactful their respective draftees can become. Neither team can afford to strike out after suffering such a brutal season as they enter rebuilding mode.
Personally, I do not believe Boston would take the chance on Embiid simply due to the fact that they are in no rush to reach contending status unlike Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant is a main reason for this as he has gone on record multiple times voicing his displeasure with the team’s losing ways and how repeating such a season next year would be unacceptable. Taking a swing for the fences by selecting Embiid at No. 7 will be the team’s best option if he is in fact still on the draft board.
Embiid brings both size and versatility to a deflated Lakers’ frontcourt formerly led by Pau Gasol. Los Angeles has had much success in the past with centers, most notably Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is considered the greatest center of all time. In no way am I suggesting Embiid would have the expectations of an Abdul-Jabbar, but you get the point. Additionally, most recently the Lakers experienced tons of success with the frontcourt tandem of Gasol and Andrew Bynum, which was successful in capturing back-to-back titles just a few years ago.
Speaking of frontcourt tandems, a certain superstar player is expected to become a free agent next offseason and his name is Kevin Love. Pairing together Embiid and Love would create a dynamic duo to potentially be the faces of the franchise for years to come. Embiid offers rim protection as well as a post presence while Love is accustomed to playing further away from the basket. Any opportunity to draft Embiid would instantly cause Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak to ponder at the thought of creating such a powerful frontcourt.
Furthermore, based on a skill standpoint and potential to become a superstar, Embiid is totally worth the risk even with the injury concerns. At No. 7 Los Angeles is guaranteed nothing, so taking a risk that could possibly turn the franchise’s future around overnight is a must. Only time will tell Embiid’s future in the league; let’s just hope that future is as a member of the Lakers.