Here we go. With a week left before the NBA draft, a report about the presumptive first overall pick has created even more uncertainty.
According to ESPN, Kansas center Joel Embiid -- considered the favorite to be the first selection next Thursday -- has “suffered a foot injury.” Embiid and his agent, Arn Tellem, were not quoted in the piece. Luc Mbah a Moute -- a Timberwolves forward who is close to Embiid -- told ESPN that he heard Embiid was indeed hurt, though he didn’t know the extent of the injury. One source, however, told ESPN that Embiid “may have broken it.”
(UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: It's a stress fracture.)
If true, that is staggering stuff that could very well create chaos at the top of the draft. The problem is that it’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s not without getting confirmation from Embiid or his agent. Misinformation and purposefully misleading reports are common in the run-up to the draft. Teams, agents, and people close to various players often leak information in an attempt to benefit their disparate interests. And this isn’t the first time there’s been a damning story about Embiid that might affect his draft status.
Recently, there was a report that Embiid’s physical in Cleveland “did not go well” and that it “raised red flags.” That story was quickly refuted, leaving people wondering about Embiid’s health. He had a stress fracture in his back that kept him from playing in the NCAA tournament. Since then, Embiid has staged various workouts, one of which was held in California. He looked good enough to convince certain smart basketball observers that he was in good shape and worthy of the first overall pick.
The foot issue is something new, though. If the Cavaliers are worried about the back and foot issues and equate that with Embiid being fragile or injury prone, it might be enough for them to pass on him with the first overall pick. That could, in turn, mean drafting one of the top two wings: Andrew Wiggins from Kansas or even Jabari Parker from Duke. If that happened, all the conventional wisdom about how the draft is likely to unfold -- Embiid first, followed by Wiggins or Parker second -- would immediately combust. The potential ripple effects here are significant.