Embiid injury has major implications

ASSOCIATED PRESS Joel Embiid suffered stress fracture in his right foot.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Joel Embiid suffered stress fracture in his right foot.
Posted: June 20, 2014

AT FIRST glance, the injury to Joel Embiid appears to have thrown a curveball at the 76ers. And a spitball, a knuckler and splitter, too.

It was announced yesterday that Embiid, projected by many as the top pick in next Thursday's draft and at least one of the top three, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and will have surgery today. He was already a question mark going into the offseason after missing the last six games at Kansas with a stress fracture in his back, though he seemed to be healed from that injury, judging by recent workouts. The foot injury has major implications for the Sixers with the third pick, whether they were interested in taking the 7-foot, 250-pound center or not.

Before the news of Embiid's injury, the top three picks were just about rock solid among Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Now, who knows?

Earlier this week the Sixers had Wiggins in for 3 days for meetings and a workout. That is a significant amount of time to host a player, and speculation could be correct that he is their main target. When Embiid was healthy, many mock drafts had Wiggins still available to the Sixers at No. 3. But now with the center probably out for a good portion of the season, it wouldn't be a stretch to believe that Wiggins and Parker will go in the top two slots to Cleveland and Milwaukee. If the Sixers truly are enamored with Wiggins, they probably will have to do some dealing to ensure that they get him. That could mean moving the third pick and perhaps some other pieces to get a swap with either the Cavaliers or the Bucks. The Sixers, of course, also have the 10th pick and five second-rounders at their disposal, so if there is any team that is primed to move, it's them.

If the Sixers aren't able to move up and decide to stay at No. 3, would they dare go into a season yet again with a big man who is struggling with an injury? If so, that would make three straight seasons, piggybacking on the non-play of Andrew Bynum and Nerlens Noel.

"Foot injuries are always tough with big men," said an NBA scout. "Look at Brook Lopez and go back to Bill Walton and Yao Ming and many others. This is going to be hard for Embiid because he is so big already and he hasn't even filled out yet. Couple that with the back injury, and I think this is very serious. It's definitely a risk to take him now. He was a risk anyway, because the talk on him was about his potential. If he reached it, great. But you just don't know."

How things have changed in a little over a year for the Cameroon native. Embiid didn't start playing basketball until he was 16 years old and got a late look and finally an offer from Kansas coach Bill Self.

"The plan going into his freshman year was to redshirt him," said Self, before Embiid's most recent injury. "We really thought that would be the best thing for him. But we went ahead and played him. I always thought he would be a high draft pick, I just didn't think it would be this year."

Now the question is how high will he go? Do Cleveland or Milwaukee still like him enough to snatch him? What if he falls to the Sixers at three? What if he falls to the Sixers at 10?

"This is where the team doctors come in and give guidance and percentages and history of other players with a similar injury," said the scout. "In general, big guys that have operations and foot injuries, they seem to reoccur.

"Where does he fall? I don't know. I think now the two top teams have to go with Wiggins and Parker because they want to win sooner than later. Can Embiid play with Noel? I don't think so. Plus, I don't think Cleveland or Milwaukee now will want to trade out of their slots because they probably want to secure either Wiggins or Parker. That's what this injury does."

Thursday's draft was sure to be interesting for the Sixers. Embiid's injury made it even more so.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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