Tuck: Joel Embiid Worth The Risk For The Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are entering year 3 of their post-Dwight Howard rebuild.  There are still no expectations heading into the next season.  With that said, if Joel Embiid falls to the Orlando Magic with the #4 pick, he’ll be worth the risk.

I consider this draft to have 4 potentially elite prospects.  If you search around the internet I believe you’ll find I’m not alone. With the news that Kansas C Joel Embiid will have surgery today to fix his navicular stress fracture most seem to believe Cleveland won’t take him with the top selection as many thought they would. I can’t say I blame them.

The Cavs have the luxury to simply select one of the other elite prospects. As do the Bucks.  And the Sixers. Chances are the Magic will be the first team facing the dilemma: Draft Embiid in spite of the risk for the upside, or make the “safer” pick?

It is a scary injury. There are plenty examples of big men that have been crippled by this injury, and it has crippled their franchises. The Orlando Magic have been down the road of bringing in an injured Grant Hill before.  Rob Hennigan, the current GM, did not want to make trades involved either Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez when attempting to deal Dwight Howard suggesting he is injury-adverse.

Let me explain how this is different.

Embiid is a 7-footer who just turned 20 years old.  He has only been playing for 3 years yet has offensive skill and is a coveted rim-protector.  He could very easily become a franchise player strong enough to lead you to a title.  Those are the arguments for him.

And then I’ll add these four things.

1. He doesn’t have a 7-year contract that will cripple the franchise. If after his first two years he can’t recover, the Magic can cut bait or they can keep him for another couple of years, their choice, before doing that.

2. The Magic don’t plan to compete for a title, and probably not even a playoff spot in 2014, so even if it is a redshirt season for Embiid, who cares?

3. The other options are safer, but nobody is a lock.  Julius Randle has a foot injury too. Noah Vonleh couldn’t make the Hoosiers more than a mediocre 17-15. Marcus Smart had on-court maturity issues and his Cowboys embarrassingly got bounced in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament twice. Aaron Gordon might be all defense, and no offense. I’ll stop there.

4. Embiid is his own man. He isn’t Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, or Yao Ming.  And furthermore, he is much younger than those guys. And I’ll add this, from the medical article I listed above: With appropriate physiotherapy management, most patients with a stress fracture of the navicular can make a full recovery (return to sport or full activities) in a period of 3 – 9 months.  

This is a scary injury.  This is NOT a death sentence.

So if the first three picks are in some order Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Dante Exum I believe Orlando should draft Embiid.

I don’t think they will.  But I think they should.  He’s worth the roll of the dice.