Run. Duck. Hide. Save yourselves. The NBA draft is a week away and it’s spinning the hoops community into madness.
A report early Thursday morning cited a source that said Kansas center Joel Embiid -- regarded as the favorite to be the first overall pick -- injured his foot and may have broken it. (UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: It's a stress fracture.)
As I wrote, that could very well throw the top of the draft into complete disarray. On that front: Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Cavs now want to work out Australian point guard Dante Exum for the No. 1 spot.
This has suddenly become the basketball version of the butterfly effect: injure one foot here, and over there the rest of the draft spirals into uncertainty.
When news first broke about Embiid, reflexive thinking held that the Cavaliers might pivot and select one of the top available wings: Andrew Wiggins from Kansas or Jabari Parker from Duke. The Exum wrinkle was unexpected and interesting.
Exum is a highly regarded prospect (see story). He won’t turn 19 until July, but the majority of his basketball has been played overseas -- mainly in Australia. The 6-foot-6 point has a big wingspan and measured well at the pre-draft combine in Chicago. He has a quick first step, a good handle, and he’s a quality passer. He needs to work on his jumpshot, particularly from distance, as he admitted in an interview with DraftExpress.
How Exum would or wouldn’t fit with the current Cavaliers personnel is a serious question. Cleveland already has a standout point guard in Kyrie Irving. Would the Cavaliers pass on one of the wings that would ostensibly fill a need in favor of grabbing another player who has said he’d prefer to play the point? Doing so would mean experimenting with the two-point guard system that’s becoming a curiosity around the league. The Phoenix Suns -- who have Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe -- were perhaps the most successful team to employ the intriguing system.
It’s entirely possible that this could all be misdirection by Cleveland. The run-up to the draft is stew of falsified and leaked information cooked up by agents, players and teams in an attempt to further independent appetites. With the news about Embiid, might the Cavaliers be more willing to trade the first pick? And, if so, did they specifically leak the Exum report in an attempt to make another team that likes Exum -- say, the Orlando Magic -- call and offer a deal to move up?
All of this obviously impacts the Sixers. Prior to the Embiid injury, there were reports that the Sixers might want to trade up for the first pick. It’s also been reported that the Sixers are interested in Wiggins, who was in town this week to work out.
It’s hard to know whether the Embiid and Exum news helps or hurts the Sixers. Perhaps the Cavs are spooked and willing to do a deal for a lesser price. Or perhaps the Sixers can sit tight at three and have either Wiggins or Embiid fall to them. If Embiid falls because of this news, would it surprise anyone if the Sixers take him and sit him out until he’s healthy? Sam Hinkie has already demonstrated how patient he can be by letting Nerlens Noel miss an entire season to convalesce.
One week until the draft. It’s going to be a long and fascinating wait.