If Joel Embiid wasn’t dealing with a stress fracture in his back right now, this might not even be a debate. After entering the season without much hype, Embiid put together a monster season and won over NBA decision-makers.
He had a number of dominant performances this year, including 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and two steals in a win over Iowa State as well as 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks against Oklahoma State.
When Embiid entered the season, he was described as very raw since he had only been playing organized basketball since 2011. However, he has made huge strides in a short period of time and displayed a jaw-dropping package of versatility, athleticism and fundamentals.
Watching Embiid, it’s easy to see why executives love him: graceful movements, soft touch, exceptional footwork, incredible instincts, high basketball IQ, 7’5 wingspan, extraordinary athleticism and, of course, limitless potential.
Star centers are extremely hard to find, which makes Embiid even more valuable. If Embiid is able to realize his full potential, he may become the best center in the NBA – capable of dominating on both ends of the floor.
I recently talked with an NBA scout, who raved about Embiid.
“He has had the biggest impact on this draft so far,” the scout said of Embiid. “Entering the season, the conversation was about Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, and then scouts starting falling for Embiid. Scouts were falling in love with him and then looking over their shoulder hoping that no other teams were noticing how great he looked. Obviously, he kept improving and the secret got out.
“He’s able to do so many things at his size that nobody else can. He has amazing footwork, great athleticism, nice touch and a beautiful stroke on his shot. He may have the highest upside in the draft because he still has so much room to grow. … His footwork reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon and his power, outside shot and skills remind me a little of Patrick Ewing. He could be really, really good.”
If a team has a chance to land the next Olajuwon or Ewing, you don’t pass on him. There are a lot of great players in this draft class, but Embiid has the chance to be very special. Assuming his injury isn’t serious and the top pick doesn’t go to a team that already has a long-term answer at center (such as the Sacramento Kings), Embiid should go first overall.
- Alex Kennedy