In the end, Joel Embiid did not have to wait long.
Just one week after Embiid underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot, the Philadelphia 76ers selected the former Kansas big man with the third overall pick, taking a calculated gamble on his long-term potential.
The injury came after Embiid battled back problems at Kansas, and many draft analysts predicted a steep slide. But Embiid, who was once projected to go No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers, came off the board just two picks after teammate Andrew Wiggins went No. 1 overall.
“I saw the doctors and they said I was going to be fine,” Embiid, who was in Los Angeles because of the back injury, said during a televised interview Thursday. “And unfortunately this foot injury happened a week before the Draft. But I believe in God and God knew what he was doing.”
Embiid is expected to be out four to six months and could miss part of the 2014-15 season. But the Sixers have a history of taking big men with injury issues and giving them time to recover. Last year, Philadelphia selected Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel and held him out the entire season as he recovered from a knee injury.
Now Embiid could potentially do something similar.
“It’s very possible he very easily could have been the No. 1 pick,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “So if he’s healthy, Philadelphia got a steal at three.”
Self also believes Embiid’s ability to step away from the basket could help him co-exist with Noel in the same frontcourt.
“You could have two rim protectors that could switch ball screens late in the (shot) clock, and do a lot of neat things like that,” Self said. “And then offensively, Joel can play away (from the basket).”
Wiggins, meanwhile, heads to a rebuilding Cavaliers franchise that features rising guard Kyrie Irving and Canadian big men Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. The Cavs are also said to be interested in reuniting with LeBron James, who opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat.
If LeBron is available, Wiggins said he’d welcome the opportunity to play with him in Cleveland.
“I want to win,” Wiggins said. “If he wants to win, we’d be good together.”
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/rustindodd.