PROSPECT PROFILE: JOEL EMBIID

by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer

PLAYER SUMMARY – No player in this year’s Draft process has ridden the rollercoaster like Cameroonian center Joel Embiid, who was the pundits’ presumptive No. 1 pick just one week ago. Despite concerns about his back, he’d surged ahead of two elite wing players to take the top spot in most mock drafts. But when it was discovered that he’d need surgery to repair the navicular bone in his broken right foot, his stock took a dip.

But a player with the size, talent and upside of Embiid won’t see his stock fall too far and he could easily still be among the first three or four players off the board on Thursday night. Quite simply, big men with his supposed skill-set don’t come along too often – and they’re highly coveted even as the league begins moving away from the traditional center position.

Embiid, if healthy, projects to be a monster on the defensive end as a pro. Growing up playing soccer and volleyball, he’s an exceptionally fluid athlete for a man his size. And his size is ideal for an NBA center – he’s a true seven-footer with a 7-5 wingspan and an already-muscular 250-lb. frame that can still handle more bulking up. And Embiid’s not timid about using his size, willing to put a body on opponents on the block, where he’s very difficult to move. An aggressive weakside defender, he covers a ton of ground with his length and long strides. Embiid may not block every shot on the defensive end, but alters almost everything that goes up in his space.

For a player who’s only been playing the game a few years, Embiid has very good scoring instincts and his offensive arsenal is still growing. He has excellent quickness and footwork and plays well both with his back to the basket and facing up. His offensive game already includes jump-hooks, drop-steps and turnaround jumpers. For a player his age (and with such limited experience) scouts are floored by his array of moves to get his shot, including ball and body fakes and even the renowned “Dream Shake.” Embiid also draws a ton of fouls and is a solid free throw shooter.

One problem for Embiid during his lone season in Lawrence was his ability to stay on the floor – due to either injury or personal foul problems. In 28 games at KU, he averaged 5.9 fouls per 40 minutes, played more than 20 minutes just 10 times and more than 30 on only three occasions. And of course, the major concerns are the pair of injuries that will keep him on the shelf (at least) through this season’s Training Camp.

Some team will overlook those injury concerns and tab Embiid early on Thursday night. There just aren’t freshman big men who can do the things he can do. He’s exceptionally fluid for a seven-footer and could one day be a two-way terror in the league. Embiid is the embodiment of high-risk/high-reward – now it’s just a matter of which team takes that gamble.

PLAYER SNAPSHOT

  • Height: 7-0
  • Weight: 250
  • Position: C
  • College: Kansas

VIEW SLIDESHOW

PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS – Embiid was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman – finishing second in the Big 12 in blocks and sixth in rebounding. He set a KU freshman record with 72 blocked shots and swatted at least one shot in each of his last 22 games at Kansas. He was named a USBWA Freshman All-American and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection.

PLAYER COMPARISON – The player comparisons for Embiid are pretty lofty. His footwork and moves in the post have drawn parallels with Hakeem Olajuwon and his soft touch have others seeing Tim Duncan. If he remotely approaches the greatness of those two, he’ll likely be seen as the steal of the 2014 Draft.

Related Stories