For over a year, we've been hearing about how loaded the 2014 draft class would be. And it does appear to be relatively deep, at least in the lottery picks. But there's no Lebron -- no surefire number one.
And that brings me to Joel Embiid, the 7-footer from Kansas who many are touting as the number one prospect in the draft. Although I am a college basketball fanatic, I can't say for sure if I've ever seen Embiid play (other than in highlights). He hurt his back late last year and missed the NCAA tournament, so he didn't get any time in the college basketball limelight. But he did get a bunch of hype mid-season as the best player in the game.
Still, he strikes me as a verrry risky pick, at least for a number one. First, there's the obvious: he's a big man with back problems at age 18. Second, looking at his stats he appears to be athletic but raw. In his season at Kansas, he was an elite rebounder at both ends, and a very efficient player on offense. But remember -- he was a seven-footer surrounded by the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, and Perry Ellis. In other words, he could not be the focus of a defense.
Despite this, in his 28 games at Kansas, Embiid never had a dominating performance. He never took more than nine shots in a game, and he never scored more 18 points in a game. Based on my research, every number one pick that played college basketball has had at least one 20-point game. (Most, of course, had many.)
And it isn't as though Embiid got off to a slow start and then performed at a consistently high level late in the season. In his last eight games before getting shut down, he had three games where he didn't reach double figures in scoring. He went 6-20 from the field in those three games, with just four offensive rebounds.
Finally, look at Embiid's numbers against elite competition. The Big 12 was a solid conference last year but other than Kansas there were no top-20 Kenpom teams. Kansas did play four top-20 teams in the non-conference schedule though, and here are Embiid's performances:
Not terrible, by any means, but also not numbers that make you think this guy would be the number one pick in the NBA draft. To be fair, Wiggins didn't set the world on fire in those games either: he scored 22, 10, 26, and 14, but took a lot of shots to get those points. Still, 26 points (on 15 shots) and 11 rebounds at Florida is a superstar kind of game.
So if he were drafted number one, Embiid would be breaking new ground, and would be an extreme example of the NBA's recent drive toward drafting on potential rather than polish. With guys like Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle around -- guys who I am very confident are ready to play in the NBA -- it would be tempting to trade down a few spots if other teams really are itching for Embiid.
What do you guys think -- should the Bucks take Embiid if Cleveland passes on him?