There’s no specific playbook for the NBA Draft process. Teams watch hours of film, attend bigger workouts and hold exclusive ones, do background and personality checks, create unique statistical methods for evaluation, and so much more to assess which prospect is the right fit for their organization. And though they’d never admit it, teams even take everything they hear through the grapevine into account; the hard part is deciding which talk is real and which is calculated misdirection. The health of potential number one pick Joel Embiid is this draft’s biggest discrepancy, with differing reports emerging from the Cleveland Cavaliers on the status of his physical.
Embiid worked out for Cleveland last week, hoping to quell concerns about a back injury that caused him to miss the last six games of his freshman season at Kansas and convince the Cavaliers to select him first overall. Though the Cleveland brass was reportedly blown away by his workout, reports also surfaced that the Cavs red-flagged a physical he took with team doctors and thus was ruled out of contention for the draft’s top pick. But there was alternate noise, too, with some insisting that report was unjust and the Cavaliers had honed in on Embiid as their top choice.
Now, of course, comes a groundswell of support in that direction. In his latest mock (Insider only), ESPN draft guru Chad Ford says he has multiple sources insisting that Embiid’s physical raised no concerns.
Embiid’s workout and interview in Cleveland last week were major successes, according to sources close to the Cavs. Embiid did a full workout there in front of the Cavs’ front office and owner Dan Gilbert. Multiple sources said that the team was blown away with the workout. Embiid even ended one session by launching and nailing a series of 3s. Directly after the workout, two different sources told me that Embiid was the strong favorite to be drafted by the Cavs. Even Gilbert was on board.
However, there have been conflicting reports coming out of Cleveland about Embiid’s physical, with one report stating the Cavs found multiple red flags. That’s been strongly disputed by the sources I have, but getting accurate information this time of year is especially challenging. I don’t see the incentive for the Cavs to leak that the physical was bad. It lessens the value of the No. 1 pick, especially considering that they are still looking at multiple trade options.
Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently echoed Ford’s take.
I do know they were very impressed by Embiid’s workout, and they were blown away by Embiid, the physical specimen. He was measured at 7-foot-1 in shoes. His wingspan was 7-6, his reach was 9-5…
The big issue is his back. He had a thorough physical with the Cavs. There are some concerns, but apparently no red flags. They will continue to look at his medical history, etc.
Take all of this for what it’s worth. As Ford indicates, there’s no reason for Cleveland to leak injury news about Embiid unless they’re considering trading the pick and hoping they can convince other teams to pass on him.
The Philadelphia 76ers are known to covet Embiid’s college teammate Andrew Wiggins and have reportedly engaged the Cavs in trade talks to move up to number one to select him. If Cleveland General Manager David Griffin and company are merely considering that option at this point, why not float health concerns about Embiid? The Milwaukee Bucks hold the second pick and are said to have Embiid atop their board. If the Cavaliers trade the draft’s first selection to Philadelphia for the third and another asset or two while coaxing the Bucks into passing on Embiid, they could have their cake and eat it, too.
Whether Embiid is injured or not, Cleveland is in a fantastic position. Holding the first pick in any draft is a major boon, not just because a team has the full pool of prospects to choose from, but also because it affords them unmatched flexibility for any potential trades. In a draft as loaded as this one, all of that’s especially true.
Will Cleveland select Embiid with the number one pick?
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