With Andrew Wiggins’ and Dante Exum’s handlers announcing their clients first pre-draft workouts earlier this week, it was only a matter a time before the other shoe fell regarding the draft’s additional two elite prospects.
On Wednesday, we learned that former Kansas Jayhawk center Joel Embiid had arrived in Cleveland for his long awaited physical and workout in front of the Cavaliers’ personnel. Cleveland holds the No. 1 pick in the most anticipated NBA Draft in over a decade, and Embiid is widely speculated to be the odds on favorite to be the first player selected.
During his freshmen year at Kansas, Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, all the while experiencing a meteoric rise from simple lottery pick in October to the consensus first choice by January. This was thanks to his effortless play of the center position during much of the season, evoking comparisons to former Houston Rocker Hall-of-Fame center, and fellow African immigrant, Hakeem Olajuwon.
But Embiid’s coronation as 2014’s unquestioned top prospect took a detour due to a stress fracture in his back that he suffered during the waning weeks of the NCAA’s regular season. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the year, including the entire March Madness tournament (though rumors persist he could have returned should the Jayhawks had made it to the tournament’s second weekend), and left many NBA GM’s uneasy about his health heading toward the spring.
After all, the list of highly touted big men that have seen their careers derailed by injury is a long one. Bill Walton, Brad Daugherty and Ralph Sampson were all big men drafted No. 1, only to see their careers downgraded due to back ailments. Greg Oden, Sam Bowie and Yao Ming are other high draft picks who saw injuries corrupt their once vast potential. With the draft possessing fellow transcendent talents in Wiggins and Jabari Parker on the wings, the Cavs must weigh the risk vs. reward of selecting Embiid, which made his visit with the team on Wednesday paramount to exactly how the top of the draft will fall come June 26.
Late Wednesday night, Embiid cryptically tweeted that he “had fun in Cleveland” and that it was “On to the next one!!!!” Whether that means that the Cavs have made no promises to his camp of being the top pick, or whether that alludes to Embiid eventually working out for the Milwaukee Bucks, who hold the No. 2 selection, remains to be seen. The only thing we know for certain is that Cavs’ officials have undoubtedly already begun the process of combing through the new medical data that they have since received from his visitation.
While an Embiid Milwaukee pre-draft visit remains up in the air, the Bucks will get the chance to take a look at another of the draft’s potential franchise players in former Duke University star Jabari Parker.
Over the weekend, it was reported that Parker would have no qualms about playing in Milwaukee, and on Wednesday he backed that up with the announcement that he will work out for the Bucks next week. The same report from ESPNMilwaukee.com’s Steven Haywood also included the nugget that new owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens would be on hand to witness Parker’s workout. That ties in with earlier reports of the new owners potentially favoring Parker, and wanting to be very much involved in the decision making process regarding the No. 2 selection.