In the wake of the news that the projected first-overall pick (or rather formerly the projected first-overall pick) in the 2014 NBA Draft, Joel Embiid, had a stress fracture in his foot that would require surgery, everything changed. Mock drafts were shaken up; teams began wondering if Embiid would fall to them; Greg Oden comparisons were being made. Most obviously, though, was that the Cleveland Cavaliers had to start looking elsewhere for the number one pick in the draft.
Depending on which updated mock draft that you look at, the Cavaliers are now projected to take either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. In theory—and also depending on what position you have Parker projected as in the NBA—neither would be a terrible decision for Cleveland to make considering their need at the small forward position in recent years. However, they would both be the wrong decision.
Embiid is out 4-6 months after surgery and it could be some time after that until he’s back and ready to play basketball at an NBA level. Even with that, he’s still the player that the Cavs have to take with the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Obviously the back injury and now the foot injury are major concerns for a big man. We’ve seen numerous injuries like that become chronic problems for big men, thus resulting in those players never realizing their full potential. When you couple that with the luck that Cleveland as a sports town has had, it’s more than mildly disconcerting.
However, there’s no player in this draft with the potential like Embiid and no player that perfectly fits the Cavaliers’ greatest need like Embiid does. While Anderson Varejao has been solid as the big man in Cleveland for some time, he’s not the game-changer that Embiid is and could develop into on both ends of the floor. Embiid would greatly improve a struggling Cavaliers’ defense as a rim-protector and could take the Kyrie Irving led offense to new heights.
The obvious drawback to all of this is the fact that the Cavs would be taking a player with the number one overall pick that wouldn’t be physically able to have an immediate impact on their team. However, this is team with a great crop of young talent and adding Embiid and possibly another lottery pick next year if Embiid misses most of next year would only ensure a bright future even more so.
While I would still take Embiid with the first pick regardless, another move the Cavs could look to do is to trade down in this draft to a point where they get another pick or asset and are still able to grab Embiid in the draft as well. In that way, the landscape of the draft is still changed by the Embiid injury.
However, what remains the same is that the Cavaliers should still be dead-set on taking Embiid. Wiggins and Parker have tremendous talent and potential at the NBA level, but they aren’t what the Cavs desperately need for their future and don’t have the ridiculous ceiling of Embiid. The big man’s injury complicates things, but it shouldn’t change Cleveland’s selection.