Inside the Sixers: Sixers shouldn't choose Embiid: Here's why

Posted: May 25, 2014

Here's a prediction: The 76ers will pick a big man with their third overall draft selection if Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are gone.

Except, this prediction is that it won't be Joel Embiid. It will be Julius Randle or Noah Vonleh.

Embiid has a huge upside. The 7-footer from Kansas one day may develop into the best player in this draft.

But that's only if the native of Cameroon stays healthy.

An excellent shot-blocker and rebounder with three-point shooting range, the freshman was seen as the draft's top prospect until a reported stress fracture in his lower back kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. Embiid said at Tuesday's NBA draft lottery that his back is 100 percent healthy.

"I don't know what the medical reports say, but if it's a stress fracture, that as an adult can be very painful," said Alexander Vaccaro, a spine specialist and vice chairman of orthopedics at Rothman Institute. "It can really prevent people from competing on a professional level in competitive sports."

Vaccaro pointed out that most people with stress fractures have no symptoms at all. That's because they usually develop between birth and a couple of years of age. It doesn't usually hurt people when they become adults.

But if the back does hurt and becomes symptomatic, it's often difficult to make better, and the pain tends to recur.

As a result, Vaccaro believes Embiid's back injury will go one of two ways.

"He's going to get better and this is not going to be a problem," Vaccaro said. "Or it can be a recurring problem with him, because he could exacerbate the stress fracture. You cool it down. You cool it down. He feels better and goes back.

"Only he is going to define his natural history."

Embiid initially hurt his back Feb. 8 against West Virginia. Then, after returning to action, he aggravated the injury March 1 at Oklahoma State.

Vaccaro believes it would be better if Embiid had suffered a real fracture instead of a stress fracture.

"If it's a real fracture, like he fell down and broke something, that should heal in six to eight weeks," the doctor said. "He should have no problems absolutely at all."

The Sixers will have to check out his medical records to see exactly what it is for themselves.

But don't be surprised if the Bucks, in desperate need of a center, gamble and take the 20-year-old with the second pick.

Wiggins, a 6-foot-8 swingman from Kansas, is expected to go first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. So that would be a no-brainer for the Sixers to take Parker with the third pick.

While Wiggins and Embiid have the most hype and measurables, Parker might just be the best player in the draft.

It's easy to compare the Duke swingman and Embiid to Kevin Durant and Greg Oden from the 2007 NBA draft.

Like the 6-9 small forward Durant, the 6-8 Parker has the better body of work. Like the 7-foot center Oden, Embiid seemingly has the bigger upside because of his size and athleticism.

But fast-forward to this season, Durant is the league's most valuable player, while Oden, because of knee injuries, is one of the league's all-time busts.

Parker was the highest-scoring freshman in Blue Devils history. The 235-pounder became the first freshman to lead Duke in scoring and rebounding. The Chicago native was the first freshman selected as team MVP since Johnny Dawkins in 1983.

But if Wiggins and Parker are already drafted - and Embiid is there dangling like low-hanging fruit - the Sixers would be better off selecting Randle or Vonleh.

The Sixers don't need another center, healthy or not. They appear to be invested in Nerlens Noel at the center spot. The 6-11 rookie missed this past season while recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his left knee after his lone season at Kentucky.

Before the injury, the Everett, Mass., native was regarded as a lock to go first overall in the 2013 NBA draft. He ended up going sixth to the New Orleans Pelicans, who shipped him and their 2014 first-round pick to the Sixers in exchange for Jrue Holiday.

So coming off a 19-63 record with a bunch of needs, the Sixers shouldn't use the third overall pick to establish the 2014 version of the twin towers.

If Parker isn't available, they must draft a true power forward instead of force-feeding Noel or Embiid into that position.

At 6-9, 250 pounds, Randle is being compared to Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph.

The Kentucky product finishes well around the rim and has a solid face-up game. Randle is also effective in pick-and-rolls and on pick-and-pops. The Texas native averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds and was an Associated Press all-American third-teamer as a freshman last season.

Meanwhile, the 6-10 Vonleh's stock is climbing steadily. Once considered a mid-round pick, Vonleh is regarded by some as the fifth-best player available behind Wiggins, Embiid, Parker, and Australia's Dante Exum.

The 18-year-old Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds as a freshman at Indiana. Like Embiid, he has an ability to stretch the floor. And he plays bigger than his size with a 7-4 wing span.

Vonleh would also add to the Sixers' Boston connection. Noel and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams are from that area, and coach Brett Brown played at Boston University.

If available, Embiid is going to be considered the popular pick. But don't be surprised if the Sixers choose Randle or Vonleh instead.


Inside the Sixers:

Twin Towers

Here's a list of the NBA's notable towering front lines.

Tim Duncan (6-foot-11) and David Robinson (7-1) As teammates, the two led the San Antonio Spurs to NBA titles in 1999 and 2003. Duncan went on to win two more crowns (2005 and 2007) after Robinson retired following the 2002-03 season. Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Duncan is considered a future Hall of Famer.

Hakeem Olajuwan (7-0) and Ralph Sampson (7-4)

Sampson, then Olajuwan were drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in 1983 and 1984. As teammates, the Hall of Famers advanced to the 1986 NBA Finals. Sampson, who battled knee injuries, was traded to the Golden State Warriors during the 1986-87 season. Olajuwan went on to lead the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995.

Andrew Bynum (7-0) and Pau Gasol (7-0)

Bynum and Gasol were Los Angeles Lakers teammates from 2008 to 2012. They helped the Lakers win consecutive NBA crowns in 2009 and 2010. Bynum was traded to the Sixers as part of a four-team deal in August 2012 and never played for the franchise. He played in 26 games combined this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers. Gasol remains with the Lakers.

- Keith Pompey


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

inquirer.com/deepsixer

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