A seven-footer with a soft touch, butter-smooth footwork, natural defensive ability, and a sweet jumper is not the stuff of dreams, it’s what Joel Embiid proved skeptics he already is in his 2014 NBA Draft Workout. With doubts on his health cast aside, the big man put the No. 1 pick in his crosshairs. Something that now has him in the crosshairs of most NBA executives.
Embiid was one of many participants in a Clippers-hosted workout that helped catapult the 20-year-old back to the top of wish lists. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was especially praiseworthy of the big man, saying, “Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.”
In a star-studded draft class, the Cameroonian isn’t a runaway favorite. Especially considering that he’s rough around the edges and lacks many fundamental abilities given that he’s been playing the game for only a handful of years. But his athleticism paired with his height makes him a highly valuable asset that can function in the modern NBA while manhandling teams like the Heat, who lack interior presence. As the saying goes, you can’t teach height. Better yet, teach athletic height.
Of course, a history of back injuries has at least the Cleveland Cavaliers–once again holders of the No.1 pick–hesitant about his future. The injury history hasn’t been enough to dampen Embiid’s rising shine as the top prospect but the Cavs are leaning more toward the potential and defensive grit Andrew Wiggins provides.
But the Cavs lack a young big man that can anchor their defense for years to come. Spencer Hawes is about to hit free agency, Anderson Varejao can’t seem to stay healthy, and Tyler Zeller isn’t going to help them climb out of obscurity. Described as Serge Ibaka at worst, Embiid seems more worth of a gamble than No. 1 Draft Pick Anthony Bennett was last year. At Kansas, Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in just 23 minutes of game time. With NBA coaches to help him work out the wrinkles in his game, Embiid can rightly be a 20-10-3 guy in a handful of years.
The only thing working in Cleveland’s favor is that you might not be able to do wrong going with any of the top-3 prospects. So, even if they whiff on the center, their pick of Wiggins or Jabari Parker will also very likely pay off dividends.
Now, if only they could find a draft pick that could also fix their coaching woes.