GM Says “You Can’t Use Top Five Pick” On Joel Embiid

Concerns related to a lingering back injury he suffered in February has kept Joel Embiid from being the consensus top prospect in a loaded draft class. Even so, recent reports had the Cleveland Cavaliers leaning toward choosing the Kansas center with the first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. However, after news broke earlier today that Embiid has a stress fracture in his right foot, one anonymous General Manager says that he isn’t worth a top five selection.

“I think there is a point at which you use a pick on him, where you’re hoping maybe these are just fluke things that are not going to be recurring,” the general manager told Sporting News. “But that point is not in the Top 5 or so. You can’t use a Top 5 pick. I think there are too many other good options there to think about using the pick on one who has these injury problems.”

These are the musings of a single front office executive, and it bears mentioning that all teams have incentive for floating rumors and misinformation at this time of year. This could all be smoke, basically.

Still, the quoted GM makes an important point in the distinction between ‘fluke’ and ‘recurring’ injuries. Until hurting his foot, there was no reason to believe that Embiid’s back issues were a harbinger of future health problems. After two relatively substantial skeletal injuries, though, some teams have surely red-flagged Embiid as ‘injury-prone.’ That’s a loaded label and whether or not it’s a fair one is another discussion. Still, the point remains that teams are likely even more weary of Embiid’s health than they were before.

But not taking a prospect of Embiid’s caliber in the top five? That seems knee-jerk. Teams drafting in those positions are there for many reasons, but chief among them is a lack of high-end talent. They’ve no guarantee there will be another chance to acquire a potential franchise player in the future. Injuries or not, we can all agree that Embiid’s ceiling is that type of player, arguably higher than those of every other prospect in the draft. Swinging for the fence at a belt-high fastball is a better approach than safely lining a single on the same pitch.

That’s the dilemma teams face with Embiid, and if he ultimately becomes the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden it won’t mean he was the wrong pick. There’s chance and luck involved in every draft choice; Embiid is no different, and teams choosing in the top five should act accordingly on draft night.

Would you draft Joel Embiid in the top five?

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