Everything and Also Nothing: What the Joel Embiid news changes about the Sixers' draft plans

Everything and Also Nothing: What the Joel Embiid news changes about the Sixers' draft plans
June 19, 2014, 4:45 pm
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It's amazing the swings a team like the Sixers can go through during the draft process while not actualy doing anything themselves. A couple days ago, Sam Hinkie's crew seemed like they were sitting pretty with the #3 pick, in position to potentially get the guy they wanted (Andrew Wiggins) with their own pick and the potential to move around as they saw fit with the knowledge that no matter what, they were gonna be able to get one of the guys they wanted. Today the news came out that projected #1 overall pick had recently suffered a previously undisclosed foot injury. A few hours later, we found out that it was a stress fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot--read here to find out more of what that actually means--and that he's already scheduled for surgery on it. He'll skip his remaining workouts as well as the draft, and we'll see him when we see him. This is terrible news, for Embiid more than anyone, who could lose untold millions as a result of his falling draft position, not to mention the consequences it will have for his NBA career if the issues turn out to be chronic. With a combination of back and foot concerns, it now seems like the term "injury-prone" will become a permanent fixture of Embiid's player profile, and any team that drafts him will have to spend the next several years (if not far longer) holding their breath over health concerns. But of course, we want to know how this affects the Sixers, and the answer is this: It affects them tremendously, and it also doesn't affect them at all. It affects them tremendously because there's now one fewer player at the top of this draft that teams would consider using a top pick on, which means the Sixers' options themselves are now limited as a result at #3. If not Embiid at #1 to the Cavaliers as previously projected by many, it should be Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, and then Milwaukee will be set to take the other one at #2. We thought there were at least three can't-miss dudes at the very top of this draft and at #3 we would be ensured one of them, and now there may be only two. That blows. But this line of thinking assumes a lot that, at this point, isn't really assumable. We assume that the Cavs and Bucks will take Parker and Wiggins between them, but we don't know that. Aussie point Dante Exum could be in play--the Cavs are even planning on working him out ASAP--for either team, leaving Parker or Wiggins to drop. Hell, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart could make a late rise up draft boards, or measurement marvel Noah Vonleh of Indinaa could become a consideration. We don't know. We also assume that the Sixers definitely want Wiggins, or at the very least Parker, to be there for them at #3. Maybe, maybe not. Exum has been as tied to Philly as much as anybody these last few weeks, and it's possible that he's been the target for them all along. Aaron Gordon could be in play. A trade up or down might have been in the cards all along. We don't know nearly as much as we think we do about the Hinkie's intentions, or his ongoing machinations. It also assumes that Embiid is now a 100% dead issue for all teams discussed. That, I truly believe, could not be much further from the truth. Foot injuries are severe and extremely concerning, but they are not a death sentence. Embiid could still end up being the best, most valuable player in this class, and trust me when I say that no team has or will completely write off the possibility of still taking him, regardless of draft position. And that's the Sixers least of all. You're going to see a lot of people over the next week saying things like "The Sixers can't take a guy who might not ever be healthy at #3." They're going to mention names like Greg Oden and (of course) Andrew Bynum. They're going to insist that the Sixers need to get something out of this pick, out of this draft, and that the fanbase won't stand for drafting a player who, like Nerlens Noel this year, probably won't end up playing a second his rookie season. Sam Hinkie will read these statements, and he will laugh. Actually, that's a lie--he won't be reading them at all. He'll be busy doing risk analysis, watching video, consulting medical experts, putting spy cameras in hospital rooms, figuring out what the f--- this team is gonna do if Joel Embiid is available for drafting at #3. He will not be considering the fans' patience in this. He will not be considering how it might look if the Sixers take an injury-prone big man after getting burned so badly by another one two seasons ago. He will not just be shrugging off a guy with Hall-of-Fame potential because "nah, don't wanna risk it." He'll make a decision based on what he sees as best for the long-term health of this franchise, and whatever it ends up, we are just gonna have to deal. Will it be a bummer if, again, we land a high-upside big man in the draft and have to wait another year to actually watch him play? Of course, but it won't be a tragedy. We'll still have MCW, the first year of Noel, whoever we get at #10, and lord even knows who else--Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that the Sixers are looking to add a third lottery pick, surprise surprise. We'll live. If Joel Embiid ends up being half as good as he could end up being, we'll live. We're not definitely going to draft Embiid. We're not definitely not going to draft Embiid. Embiid won't definitely fall to us. As much as things appear to have changed in this draft in the last 24 hours, the central tenet remains true: Nobody knows f---ing anything. All we can do is wait until next Thursday, have our brains blown by the proceedings, and spend the four months until the season starts again trying to piece together what the hell happened.

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