Until Joel Embiid injured his back, the Kansas center had become the favorite to go No. 1 in the 2014 NBA draft. With an incredible mix of size, agility and skills, he looked special – even in a draft class that also includes Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
Embiid could still go No. 1, but it will depend – more than anything else – on his back. His medical records aren’t exactly public, so we’ll take clues about his health wherever we can get them.
Embiid’s back is fine. I watched him work out last week.
Q: Wait … what? You watched Joel Embiid work out last week?
A: Yes — at a secret location in Santa Monica. He wasn’t playing against anyone, just going through a two-hour workout with Will Perdue. Here’s what I can tell you: He moves around as effortlessly as a 7-foot Serge Ibaka; he’s such an athletic freak that he’s one of those “still going up as he’s finishing the dunk” guys; his freakish wingspan might make Jay Bilas pass out; he has been playing basketball for only four years (which seems impossible); he gave up a world-class volleyball career; he has 3-point range; he can shoot jump-hooks with both hands already; he couldn’t have seemed more coachable/agreeable/likable; he’s a hard worker with a goofy sense of humor; his voice is just a touch Mutombo-y (deep with a heavy African accent); and his friends call him “Jo-Jo.” And again — his back seemed totally fine.
It’s encouraging Embiid looked so good to Simmons, but key questions remain.
How would Embiid’s back respond to actual competition? How likely is Embiid to suffer more back injuries?
The Cavaliers must learn a lot more about Embiid and his back before drafting him No. 1. The Bucks and 76ers must do their due diligence too before drafting him at No. 2 or No. 3.
Embiid working out without issue is a nice start to that process, but it’s only a start.