Potential No. 1 pick Joel Embiid makes it official, will enter NBA Draft

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Joel Embiid made official what everyone expected on Wednesday:

Embiid announced he is entering the NBA Draft. He said so at a press conference at Kansas University, with Jayhawks coach Bill Self next to him. Here is what he said, via the Topeka Capital-Journal:

“Looking at different scenarios and gathering info of what was best for me … either way was best for me,” Embiid said. “Talking to my mentor, it was best the choice.”

While Embiid had publicly flirted with the idea of staying another year at KU, when you are a potential No. 1 pick (and really not lower than No 2 on anybody’s draft board) you should come out. You can still go back and get your degree, but that is millions of guaranteed dollars (and starting the clock later on future earnings) you are leaving on the table.

Embiid as a prospect wowed NBA scouts — he’s an athletic, mobile, a 7-foot center who averaged 11.2 points (shooting 63 percent), 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game for the Jayhawks tis season. And he’s only been playing the game a handful of years, his potential is higher than anyone’s in this draft, even Andrew Wiggins (because of his size).

PBT’s NBA Draft expert, Ed Isaacson of NBAdraftblog.com and Rotoworld, confirmed that Embiid is likely a top two pick, a good rim protector whose offensive game developed quickly, a good sign. The potential is there. However, to quote Isaacson speaking to PBT, “He likely needs a lot more all-around development than people realize.”

Then there is the back question.

Embiid missed the last six games of the season including the NCAA Tournament with a stress fracture in his lower back. That has raised the eyebrows of NBA teams — depending on where it is on the spine and on that individual vertebra it could have long-term implications. Self and Kansas played it down, but NBA teams will want their doctors to get a good look at this before investing in him.

It could be nothing — Andre Drummond had a stress fracture in his lower back that healed and shows no signs of impacting him now — but it could be something. NBA teams are cautious that way after having watched other highly drafted big men have their bodies betray them.

If Embiid gets a clean bill of health he may well be the No. 1 pick. If it’s not, it’s because whoever wins the lottery likes Wiggins’ potential better. But Embiid would go No. 2. (It’s hard to make any kind of legitimate mock draft before the NBA Draft lottery.)

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.

O.G. Anunoby invited to NBA draft, Harry Giles declines

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.

The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.

Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.

Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?

Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?

I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).

Report: Knicks’ asking price for Kristaps Porzingis ‘massive’

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What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.

At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.

Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.

Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.

But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.

There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.

Lonzo Ball recruits LeBron James to Lakers (video)

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Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.

But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.

The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.

Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?

Ball on ESPN:

LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.

Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.

Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.