Joel Embiid was projected by many to go as high as number one overall in the upcoming NBA Draft, but a foot injury he suffered which required surgery threw everything into a state of chaos.
Now, we have no idea where Embiid may be selected — his talent hasn’t diminished in the slightest, but he’s had too many injuries given his young age and low basketball mileage for there not to be significant red flags raised.
Embiid will likely fall on most teams’ draft boards; the question is, how far? If the latest report is to be believed, he won’t get past the Lakers at seven if the teams ahead of them decide that his injury history is too much of a risk.
The Lakers would consider selecting Embiid should he become available, according to a person familiar with the Lakers’ thinking. But such an idea would hinge on Embiid’s recovery.
The Lakers are mindful there would be risk in selecting Embiid considering his recent back injury and his current foot fracture. But they are also aware of Embiid’s upside with various draft experts likening him to Hall of Famer center Hakeem Olajuwon. It is unclear what information in Embiid’s medical report and progress the Lakers would need to see that would make them feel comfortable picking Embiid assuming he stays undrafted before the seventh pick.
Despite what Kobe Bryant may think, the Lakers don’t need to make a splash with an NBA-ready draft pick this season. In that regard, Embiid would be a fine choice, even if he ends up pulling a Nerlens Noel and sits out the entire season.
The Lakers don’t even have a starting five under contract for next season, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to piece together a playoff contender with the spare parts that are available on the open market. L.A. is targeting 2015 to make its move, when far more (and more impactful) free agents are likely to be available as realistic targets.
(And no, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James this summer are not realistic targets.)
Embiid’s talent is evident, but the injury concerns are real at the same time. The Lakers could afford to take the risk on him, given the money they’ll have to spend in free agency and the desirable market they play in that would make the signing of superstars potentially that much easier.
Other teams may not feel like the gamble is worth it, especially in what’s expected to be a very deep draft class. For those reasons, Embiid could fall to the Lakers, and it’s likely they’d select him if the opportunity presented itself.