Celtics Could Strike Gold with Embiid

WALTHAM, Mass. – The NBA Draft Lottery ruined any hope of the Celtics acquiring one of the star players in the Draft, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

That is, until Thursday.

That’s the day news broke that Embiid, widely considered to be a heavy favorite for the top overall pick, had suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot. His agent, Arn Tellum, announced that Embiid underwent surgery on Friday and that the procedure “went very well.”

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid's recent foot injury could leave the Celtics with the possibility of drafting him next Thursday.
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This injury, coupled with the fact that Embiid had also suffered a stress fracture in his back while playing at Kansas, is pushing many NBA teams away from the idea of selecting Embiid early in the first round. That’s a bad thing for Embiid and his camp, seeing as they will lose money with every draft slot that he slides past, but it could be a great thing for the Celtics.

Boston has struck gold twice in the last four Drafts by selecting injured players that other teams were too frightened to pick.

The Celtics selected Avery Bradley, who had injured his ankle leading up to the 2010 Draft, with the 19th pick. Bradley has gone on to become an NBA All-Defensive Second Team player and has shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range over four seasons.

Boston also chose Jared Sullinger, who had been red-flagged by many NBA teams due to concerns with his back, with the 21st pick in 2012. Sullinger was selected to the Rising Stars game during this past All-Star weekend and is considered by many to be one of the most promising young big men in the league.

These are high-risk, high-reward situations. Injured players may heal up and turn into stars down the road, but there is also potential that injuries could linger and the pick could go to waste.

The decision to take the risk or not typically comes down to the opinions of each team’s medical staff. Boston’s medical staff green-lighted the selections of Bradley and Sullinger, but it has also given the red light to a long list of players.

“There’s been many, many guys we’ve passed on,” Austin Ainge said on Saturday. “Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden. Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy… So there’s two (Bradley and Sullinger) we’ve taken chances on. There’s been many, many others we’ve not decided to chance on.”

The jury is still out on whether the Celtics medical staff will advise Danny Ainge and his group to consider selecting Embiid or to pass on him. That’s why the next five days will be absolutely critical.

Boston will do its best to acquire as much information as possible about Embiid’s foot and back as we lead up to the Draft. In the end, that information will likely decide whether or not the Celtics select the highly-touted big man with the sixth overall selection if he’s still available at that point.

One thing is for certain when it comes to the Celtics and Embiid: the team will not select him or pass on him based on his availability for next season. Boston will instead put a heavy emphasis on Embiid’s long-term prognosis.

“We try to focus on the long-term health more than the short term when you’re dealing with draft picks,” Ainge said. “Free agency you might be a little different, but when you’re drafting kids that are 19, 20, 21, it’s usually best to think, ‘Two years, five years down the road, will it be a concern?’”

The Celtics, and every other team for that matter, will try to answer that question over the next five days. If Boston is comfortable with the answer it comes up with, there is a very strong possibility that the player who has been compared to Hakeem Olajuwon may wind up wearing green and white.

That thought was a complete pipe dream prior to Thursday’s breaking news. Now the Celtics are staring down the possibility of striking gold yet again.