The 2014 NBA Draft is set, and we’ve gone through an updated mock draft of the top 14 picks and where they’re likely to go. Today, by way of Grantland’s E-I-C Bill Simmons, comes word possible top pick Joel Embiid is a force to be reckoned with, and the back injury he sustained that kept him out of Conference and NCAA tournament play is healed. He’s reportedly moving around “as effortlessly as a 7-foot Serge Ibaka.”
Embiid sat out the last two games of the Jayhawks regular season, but everyone thought it was just a precaution. Then, fans watched him sit out the Big 12 Tournament after being assured he wouldn’t miss time in the Big Dance. Finally, he was again on the sidelines as Kansas was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament on the first weekend.
In Bill Simmons self-mailbag (seriously), he asks himself questions to answer because the mailbag format has become his format du jour these days, even if he’s not answering actual reader’s questions.
It seems the co-host for ESPN’s NBA Countdown got a private viewing of Embiid’s recent workout in Santa Monica. Here’s the important snippet of what Simmons saw:
By the way, 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.
News flash: As I said on TV before the lottery, Embiid was always going first. None of these teams was passing on him. Repeat: none of them. The amount of smokescreening going on in April and May was high comedy. We keep hearing his back is really screwed up, this could be another Oden situation … Just stop it. This was like sitting at a fantasy football auction next to someone who kept claiming that he wasn’t going to pay big money for a QB … and then, two hours later, he’s bidding $49 for Aaron Rodgers. The truth is, Wiggins and Parker never separated themselves enough this season to warrant anyone saying, “We’re passing on a potential franchise center with a good chance of becoming the 7-foot Serge Ibaka.”
This is all well and good, but a back injury isn’t anything to scoff about as no big deal. It’s a nuisance that can easily ripple out and trigger all sorts of other issues with the body. While it’s nice Embiid looked good in a two-hour workout with Will Perdue (!!!), actual competition could exacerbate the injury, however slight it might seem.
Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown and other draft hopefuls have looked incredible in pre-draft workouts, only to falter at the NBA level. GM’s have to hold back praise until they see a player perform against the actual grown men who compete in the Association.
Before Cleveland decides to pass on Jabari Parker, or Andrew Wiggins, they better do the proper amount of diligence to figure out just how healthy Embiid really is, and whether his 7-foot 240-pound frame can withstand the drudgery of banging in the NBA block.
Great news from Simmons that Embiid’s healthy against a chair and Will Perdue, but before Cleveland, Milwaukee or Philadelphia selects the Kansas big man, they better be sure he’s physically capable of handling the rigors of the NBA. Greg Oden was drafted seven years ago, but we still remember — hopefully the Cavs do too.
Will Embiid go No. 1?
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