Let’s think about this for a second.
Last year at this time, Joel Embiid was a virtual unknown. And now, he’s the projected top pick in the NBA Draft – at least he was until Thursday, when it was announced that Embiid has a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot. The bone is located at the top of the foot, just above the arch, and is critical for all basketball-related movement, especially running and jumping.
And let’s not forget that Embiid missed time this past season with a back injury.
At this point, Embiid is no longer a lock for the top pick. In fact, some people are projecting he could fall out of the top 10.
“If you’re a big guy, a 7-footer, I think those are probably the last two injuries you want to have,” Jayhawks IMG Radio Network analyst Josh Klinger said on The Damon Amendolara Show, referring to the foot and back. “I can understand why teams would be absolutely freaked out to take a chance on a guy (when) they don’t know how healthy he’s going to be.”
Then again, you can also understand why they’re still so enamored.
“A year ago at this time, (Emiid) was a virtual unknown on the national stage and people were stalking his teammate, Andrew Wiggins,” Klinger said. “When (Wiggins) moved to campus, there were autograph seekers all over the place, probably an agent or two milling around – it was a total circus.”
“And I was told by one of the assistant coaches at this time last summer, ‘Hey, Wiggins is going to get a lot of attention, but watch out for Embiid. This guy has got all the makings.’”
Klinger was skeptical – until he saw Embiid play.
“They were right,” Klinger said. “(He’s) a guy that hasn’t played a lot of basketball, that’s got a lot of raw ability and certainly a lot of physical ability. And really the only question marks are really big question marks: the back injury, which sidelined him for seven games to end the season, and obviously this foot injury that’s cropped up now.”
While some have Embiid outside of the top 10, others have him dropping merely to No. 4 or 5.
“I do find it funny that this could be a really bad injury, and it costs you three spots in the draft,” Klinger said. “If you like somebody, you like somebody.”
But it’s amazing to think that Embiid didn’t even start for Kansas at the beginning of last season. He was a reserve who came off the bench – and he made the most of his minutes.
“Every time he came in, you kind of saw flashes and you’re like, ‘Wow, this kid’s got something,’” Klinger said. “He’d flash a move here and there. He talked at one point about watching some tape of another player and emulating a move. It was almost like he had that ability to sit down and learn something and then go straight to the court with it.”
“He’s got a ton of upside. He’s a guy that I think could be molded into a really good player with some coaching as well. He just hasn’t played a lot of basketball, and we didn’t get to see a complete season out of him. Certainly he would’ve been helped by coming back next year, but I think you can make that case for a lot of different players.”