Only two years ago, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the first pair of collegiate teammates to go first and second in the NBA Draft. This season, the Kansas tandem of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid could follow a similar path. After already taking a look at Wiggins, we now focus on what Embiid can bring to an organization.
Embiid was somewhat of a surprise as a freshman, partly because he entered the year with only three years of playing experience. The Cameroon native previously played volleyball and soccer before leaving his native country. It wasn’t shocking that Embiid improved as the season progressed, but the rate at which he improved gives him potential as the number one overall pick.
The 7-foot center averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game this past season. Those aren’t eye-popping stats, but his fluidity and movement for a true center are so rare to find that some have thrown out comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s a very good athlete who can run the floor and impact the game on both ends. Offensively, there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but Embiid has added more low post moves as the season progressed. He can score on hook shots over either shoulder although he can still work on his consistency. When he faces a double-team, Embiid has improved as a passer to create open looks for his teammates.
Defensively, Embiid has translated his volleyball background into the basketball game as an elite shot-blocker. He can still improve as a help defender and foul trouble can be an issue, but his lack of experience is likely the reason for these issues. If an NBA team is looking for a rim protector, similar to what Roy Hibbert provides in Indiana, Embiid can certainly fill that role.
Although it may be a tough comparison to live up to, Embiid does have some flashes that are eerily similar to Olajuwon. He oozes with upside and he’s shown that he’s extremely coachable this past season at Kansas.
As rare as it is to find a talented 7-footer, health concerns may be an issue for Embiid. He missed the final six games of the season due to a back injury that has apparently been an issue since high school. This could lead to an Andrew Bynum type of career because, although suffering from different injuries, it’s tough to help a team while injured.
Embiid has the potential to be selected as the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but recent injury concerns and the need for added development, he’s far from a sure thing. Then again, no player in this year’s draft is. However, if a team is willing to take a risk on a rare type of prospect despite injury concerns, Embiid could be the top player selected.
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