Foot injuries with big men scares teams — these can be lingering, chronic things that limit players in some cases. The concerns about Joel Embiid with Philadelphia is just the latest in a long line of issues.
Which is why concerns about a foot issue with Kentucky big man Willie Cauley-Stein may have him sliding down draft boards, at least a few slots. Maybe even out of the Top 10 altogether.
Cauley-Stein suffered a stress fracture in his ankle on March 28th of 2014 in Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament victory over Louisville, and had a pin inserted via surgery to repair what Cauley-Stein described then as a “cracked bone or a stress fracture.”…
Five separate NBA teams we spoke with all indicated varying degrees of concern after consulting with their team doctors this week, with some saying it may cost the Kentucky big man a few spots on draft night. “There is some maintenance that needs to be done there, as it’s not completely clear whether the injury healed in a proper way. The pin that was inserted is supposed to be sitting at a 90 degree angle, but instead it’s at 45 degrees. That, plus some question marks about his background that came up could cause him to drop a few slots.”
Of course, his agent played down the issue with the foot. Cauley-Stein did come back to Kentucky after the surgery and played a full season not missing a game, being a defensive force for one of the nation’s top teams.
Yet, NBA teams are cautious when it comes to investing their money in a player. One of Cauley-Stein’s best assets is his athleticism, something that could be limited if this is a chronic foot issue. He’s being drafted in the lottery because of his defense — he’s a 7-footer who can show out off a pick and switch onto a guard without losing a beat. That is valuable in today’s NBA. His offense is raw, but he can find ways to score with hustle points while he develops a jumper.
He has been reported to be taken everywhere from the Magic at No. 5 — which now seems unlikely — to the Pacers at No. 11 (that Indiana would consider speaks to how things have deteriorated between the team and Roy Hibbert). It now looks like that late lottery slot may be the more likely landing spot, in part due to teams above that not looking to fill the role Cauley-Stein would play.