Nervous news for those of us at the top of the draft pile this June: Joel Embiid is, temporarily at least, damaged goods. Reports from ESPN's Jeff Goodman (since corroborated elsewhere) have Embiid suffering a foot injury sometime in the last few days, possibly breaking his foot in the process. The Kansas big man will thus be shut down and undergo no further workouts before draft night, a week from tonight. Given Embiid's injury history, this seems eye-rollingly predictable, but remember: It was his back that flared up and proved an issue at the end of his freshman year. Foot problems are a newer, and arguably even scarier issue for the seven-footer. Nets big man Brook Lopez has turned into one of the three or four best centers in the league, but his bad feet have caused him to miss the great majority of two of the last three NBA seasons, and Embiid could end up on a similar path if the problems become recurring. However, we don't know much about the specifics of the injury yet. It could be a break, but it could just be a sprain or a tweak or some other temporarily debilitating but not necessarily long-term handicapping issue. The results of tests should come out tomorrow and hopefully give us some further clarity on the issue. But if we are to assume the worst, what does that mean for the Sixers? Well, it could be good news or bad news. Embiid was looking more and more like he was poised to go to the Cavs with the #1 pick, which if Chad Ford's earlier reports about Andrew Wiggins being relatively low on the Bucks' big board were true, would mean that Wiggins - the Sixers' presumed target all along - would be available to us at #3. This obviously throws a wrench into that. If Embiid is looking like a scary bet at #1, that might mean the Cavs lean Wiggins (who reportedly had an impressive workout there this week, natch) up top, sending the Sixers into scramble mode a little. Then the Bucks, who have reportedly been targeting Jabari Parker for some time, could take Parker at #2, and the Sixers will have the difficult choice of nabbing Embiid and hoping for the best long-term, going with someone like Dante Exum instead, or even trading down and out of the pick. This is bad news because at this time of the year, we want as many good options at the top of the big board as possible, so that no matter who ends up going where, everybody ends up with one of the top guys. This is why we were so nervous before Jabari Parker officially declared, and it's why if Embiid ends up being too injured to be draftable that high, it hurts the Sixers' leverage. Now, if the Cavs know that the Sixers want Wiggins, and there's no practical way he ends up simply falling to them at #3, they can really take advantage of Philly's lust by demanding a higher price than they otherwise would have - perhaps including the #10 pick - for us to move up to #1 to take A-Dub. So how could this be good news, then? Well, for a couple reasons. One is that a devalued Embiid might not be the worst thing for the Sixers. Some, most notably our friends over at Liberty Ballers, had already begun to theorize that Embiid may have truly been the target for Hinkie all along, and that all the #WigginsWatch shenanigans of the last few days were just a smokescreen to hide Our Dark Lord's true intentions. That seems a little cloak-and-dagger to me, even by Hink standards, but I would not be surprised if the Sixers do value Embiid just as highly as they do Wiggins. The fit with he and Noel is not ideal but it's not a death knell, either, and if Embiid hits his full potential, I do believe his ceiling is higher than even that of Wiggins. If all this foot stuff means is that the top two teams get skittish about taking the guy who could very easily end up the most dominant, franchise-changing player in the draft, then you can bet Hinkie will be all good with shrugging and taking him #3. What's more, Embiid leaving the top-three picture does not necessarily take the Sixers out of the running for Wiggins, either. Cleveland could very easily end up going Jabari--the "safest bet" in the draft--at #1, and if so, Milwaukee has expressed just as much interest in Aussie combo guard Dante Exum as they have in Wiggins, as the Bucks need backcourt playmaking far more than they need wing defense and athleticism. Wiggins and Embiid could very possibly both be available to Philly at #3, allowing Hinke to choose whoever he's really wanted all along with the Sixers' pick. That'd be pretty cool. And really, I can trust in this all being good news because chaos in the NBA draft tends to favor the teams with a million backup plans and an ability to adapt to changing situations. I have to believe that there's not a scenario in this draft that Our Dark Lord has not considered, so this latest plot twist shouldn't take him off his game too much. If anything, now is the time that Hinkie sniffs out the desperation of other franchises, figures out where the angle is and plays it to perfection. He did it with the now-Pelicans last year, and you like his chances of doing it again this year. Bottom line: The Embiid stuff is scary, for sure, but the impact shouldn't be negative enough that we should start questioning our front office's ability to make the best of a compromised situation. All we had last year was the #11 pick in the worst draft in over a decade, and we still left the night with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. There are infinite ways this situation could still be played, and nearly all of them end up profiting the Sixers in some way. Chaos is not a pit, and you won't see Sam Hinkie moshing his way through it anytime soon.
Joel Embiid may have foot issues, Chaos is a ladder
June 19, 2014, 12:45 pm