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Foot injury sends Joel Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts


Thursday's news that former KU center Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and would have surgery today and miss out on attending next week's NBA Draft in New York was one of the biggest pieces of pre-draft news in recent memory.

Most years, the mock drafts that come out this late generally have a pretty good feel for what's going to happen in the draft and that certainly was the case this year before Embiid's injury popped up.

Now, all bets are off and everyone seems to be scrambling to figure out what his injury means and how far the 7-footer from Cameroon may fall next Thursday.

As has been the case during the past four years, I'll be out in the Big Apple again this year to cover the event. Until yesterday, I had some pretty big things planned for following Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as they officially transition into NBA players, but now I'll have to stick tight with Wiggins and bring you whatever I'm hearing from out there about Embiid, which, undoubtedly, figures to be quite a bit.

I'll have much more on the draft next week — live blogs, audio, video and sights and sounds from the big city and draft night — but, while we wait, let's take a quick look at what people around the NBA world are saying about Embiid and his injury.

First up, our own Tom Keegan, who has been in the Embiid should go No. 1 camp for six or seven months, says the Cleveland Cavaliers should be bold and stick with the big guy at the top of the draft.

ESPN Insider Chad Ford dropped Embiid ever so slightly in his latest mock draft, from No. 1 to Orlando at No. 4...

If Embiid falls to No. 4, he might be too tantalizing for them to pass up. Orlando is in desperate need of a rim protector and an athletic frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic. While drafting Embiid will be a risk, he might have too much upside for them to pass up, especially when they have another pick in the lottery. If the Magic are scared off by Embiid's injury, Noah Vonleh is also a possibility here.

CBS.com NBA writer Matt Moore dropped Embiid from No. 1 all the way to the Boston Celtics at No. 6 — boy, does that have a nice ring to it...

Danny Ainge disses the draft for six months and winds up with the best player in it. Typical Celtics. Remember, the Celtics took Jared Sullinger with a medical red flag, and they've been pleased with the results. They trust their training staff. Kelly Olynyk is not the future, nor is Vitor Faverani. And if you're looking to eventually deal a combination of assets for starpower, like they did in 2007, Embiid is the guy who in two years could net that kind of player, beyond any other available at this spot. Unbelievably, Embiid goes green.

Like Ford, CBS.com's Garry Parrish dropped Embiid from No. 1 to No. 4...

If you're Orlando, I guess, you're more nervous than thrilled here, but you're still kinda thrilled because you're getting the best talent in the draft with the fourth pick, and, man, if this turns out OK it really could be a boon for the franchise. On the other hand, if Embiid proves to be basically injured forever, then you'll forever be the franchise that wasted the fourth pick in a deep draft on a center with documented back and foot problems, and that would stink. Regardless, Orlando has another lottery pick in this draft, meaning the Magic are in a position to gamble, and I think a roll of the so-called dice on Embiid here is a bet worth making.

And then there's fellow-CBS.com NBA writer Zach Harper, who still believes the big fella belongs in the Top 3. He's got Embiid going No. 3 to Philadelphia, down two spots from his previous prediction of No. 1...

I don't think the foot injury scares off the Sixers at all. They're fine being bad for a couple years and we've already seen them wait a year with Nerlens Noel to make sure he recovers properly. They could do the same with Embiid and have a twin towers ready to deny anybody who wants to grab a rebound or take a shot inside against the Sixers. Assuming the foot injury isn't a long-term issue for Embiid, this is best-case scenario for the Sixers.

The guys at DraftExpress.com have Embiid going fourth to Orlando, NBADraft.net has him going No. 3 to Philly and MyNBADraft.com also has him going No. 4 to Orlando.

While dropping from No. 1 to No. 3, No. 4 or No. 6 certainly qualifies as big news — and big money — it looks as if Embiid's camp can feel confident Embiid won't fall farther than the Celtics at 6. That idea becomes especially interesting given that the rival Los Angeles Lakers pick right behind the Celtics at No. 7.

Here's Celtics director of player personnel Danny Ainge talking to Boston.com....

“Those are always concerns,” Ainge said of Embiid’s injuries, “especially when it’s a player like that we won’t be able to have in to evaluate, to really get the risks from our medical staff. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but you are always trying to weigh short-term and long-term. We try to think long-term that if a guy has to miss a couple months, it shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he is going to be the best player long-term. We’ve had some success with that with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. There can be some value there, but there’s always risk.”

Personally, I think Harper and NBADraft.net have got it right. I could very much see Embiid falling but I can't see him falling past Philly.

It makes sense, to me, for the Cavs to be concerned about Embiid's injuries mostly because of all of the pressure that goes into having the No. 1 pick. If you miss with No. 2, No. 5 or No. 9, it's not as big of a failure as missing with No. 1. So unless the Cavs are absolutely in love with him, I could see them going the safe route and picking Wiggins or Parker.

That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks to take whichever one of those two Cleveland doesn't grab and puts Philly in the enviable position of being able to snag Embiid without the pressure of putting a No. 1 pick on the line.

If he falls farther down the board than No. 3, I won't be shocked, but, if it were me making the decisions, I definitely wouldn't let him slip past that.

Should be fun to see how it plays out. Be sure to check back throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week for all kinds of tidbits from NYC.


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