Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bucks get Number Two: thoughts on Joel Embiid

I haven't really followed the NBA closely for many years, but it has come to my attention that the Bucks came in second in the NBA draft lottery last night.

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:

Opponent Score Min ORtg %Ps Pts 2PM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OR DR A TO Blk
Duke W, 94-83 20 102 21 2 1-3 0-1 0-2 4 3 5 1 1
Villanova L, 63-59 12 99 41 10 4-6 0-0 2-4 1 4 1 2 0
Florida L, 67-61 30 99 12 6 3-6 0-0 0-1 0 6 2 1 3
SDSU L, 61-57 26 117 26 12 3-5 0-0 6-7 5 7 3 3 5

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?


  1. I think the Bucks should draft Andrew Wiggins and have a fan section called the Dragon Army Zone.

  2. For many of the reasons you mentioned, I am happy the early word is that Cleveland has Embid at the top of their draft board. Hopefully they will take him and the Bucks won't have a chance. I have been hoping the Bucks would get #1 and take Wiggins, but if they could get him at #2, all the better.
    Embid is your prototypical upside NBA draft pick. He has every measureable you want in an NBA center, he is young, and he has only played basketball a short time. The last is what has NBA scouts drooling. He has come so far in such a short time he presumably has the smarts to keep getting better, and with his physical talents if he keeps getting better he will be great.
    That being said, if Wiggins goes #1, I would rather the Bucks take Embid or Parker than trade down. Vonleh, Randle, Smart, Exum and others all appear to have the chops to have long, productive NBA careers, but none have as good a chance as the top 3 to be special. In the NBA most special players go top 3, and you only get so many chances to draft someone special. The Bucks have only had 4 or 5 top 3 picks in 40+ years.
    If Wiggins goes #1, and the Bucks are left to choose between Parker and Embid, I don't care much which way they go. With Embid there is long term hope, but no hope they will be much better this year. With Parker they are instantly better, but maybe only good enough to get back to the end of the lottery/8th slot in the playoffs where they have been languishing for a while.

  3. 2013 will probably go down in history as one of the worst drafts ever. The top 10 picks were:
    1 CLEV Anthony Bennett
    2 ORL Victor Oladipo
    3 WAS Otto Porter
    4 CHA Cody Zeller
    5 PHO Alex Len
    6 NOH Nerlens Noel
    7 SAC Ben McLemore
    8 DET Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
    9 MIN Trey Burke
    10 POR C.J. McCollum
    The all NBA first team was:
    2013-14 All-Rookie First Team
    Player | Team | First (2 points) | Second (1 point) | Total points
    Michael Carter-Williams | Sixers | 125 | 250 total
    Victor Oladipo | Magic | 124 | -- | 248 total
    Trey Burke | Jazz | 108 | 14 | 230 total
    Mason Plumlee | Nets | 95 | 24 | 214 total
    Tim Hardaway Jr. | Knicks | 87 | 30 | 204 total
    2013-14 All-Rookie Second Team
    Player | Team | First (2 points) | Second (1 point) | Total points
    Kelly Olynyk | Celtics | 19 | 81 | 119 total
    Giannis Antetokounmpo | Bucks | 15 | 86 | 116 total
    Gorgui Dieng | Timberwolves | 21 | 54 | 96 total
    Cody Zeller | Hornets | 3 | 61 | 67 total
    Steven Adams | Thunder | 9 | 47 | 65 total
    That's right, 2 top 10s on the first team, and 1 on the 2nd team, and it's not like the other guys outside the top 10 were steals who blew the NBA away. Just lots of mediocre players.

  4. That is a nasty draft. I thought Porter would be better, especially with the skills he showed playing Point Forward at G'Town. That should have translated better. He didn't even play 10 minutes a game. Turns out Washington was kind of a good team, in an Eastern Conference sort of way... but still. On the draft question, it's no doubt Wiggins. Best fit for where are personel stands (and is headed). He plays D too. I like Parker, but don't see him meshing real well with Giannis. I thought you nailed the big question marks for Embiid, Bart. Scouts comments on Embiid seem to be quite fluffy on what he could become, whereas they seem to knock down Wiggins for what he hasn't yet become. For the record, I like Randle A LOT.