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Embiid worth the risk for Cavs
Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Yao Ming, Greg Oden. The bigger the body, the more susceptible it is to injury, particularly when put through the ringer of ridiculously long NBA seasons.
Walton won an NBA championship, one of the things that sets him apart from the others mentioned, but he also missed three entire seasons and averaged 47 games in the 10 he played.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to talk themselves out of selecting Joel Embiid with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft, they have no shortage of historical data to support that decision. And they'll be cowards destined to spend most of their existence in dank, dreary cellar of the Eastern Conference's Central Division.
Passing on Embiid in the wake of a stress fracture of the back followed by a stress fracture of the right foot certainly represents the safe path for the Cavs to take, but since when is greatness achieved by letting caution overrule courage?
If Embiid falls faster on draft day than Kansas University's national-title hopes did when the smart and talented center suffered his back injury, either the Celtics (sixth) or Lakers (seventh) will do what they do best, walk away with another draft-day steal.
A junior at Indiana State, Larry Bird was chosen sixth in the 1978 draft by Red Auerbach, who paid enough attention to the rules to know that Bird was eligible for selection because he was four years out of high school. Bird originally enrolled at Indiana when Bob Knight was coach. He quickly returned home to French Lick, briefly spent time at a junior college, left and went to work at a city job, performing various duties, including driving a garbage truck. He enrolled at Indiana State and, as a senior, led the Sycamores to a national-title runner-up in 1979, the year Magic Johnson's Michigan State squad won it all.
The Lakers had the courage to think outside of prevailing NBA wisdom in directing the Charlotte Hornets to take Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft so that they could trade for him, back when high school picks were considered by most too risky.
Health concerns regarding Embiid certainly have legitimacy. But nobody is without risk. Is Jabari Parker, a very polished offensive player, quick enough to guard small forwards? Will ultra-quick, explosive Andrew Wiggins ever develop enough ball-handling and shooting skills to become a perennial All-Star? A healthy Embiid, armed with Hakeem Olajuwon footwork, stands way above the rest of the class.