The Cavaliers Should Draft Joel Embiid

Cleveland has won the lottery again. When the Cavs won it last year I felt it was clear they had to draft Nerlens Noel. They passed on my advice and went with Anthony Bennett. While I’m sure the Cavs would like to have that one back, drafting Bennett did set in motion a series of events that finds Cleveland atop the lottery again with another opportunity to draft a franchise center.

That Embiid tops the 2014 list of draft prospects shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s a rim-protecting center with a ton of potential on offense. As someone who has only started playing the game within the last 2 years his upside would seem limitless. Here are the freshmen centers who topped .600 2PP, 17.0 P40, 10.0 R40 and 4.0 B40 as Embiid did:

Freshman C Prospect








Hakeem Olajuwan








David Robinson








Patrick Ewing








Alonzo Mourning








Greg Oden








Joel Embiid









That’s 4 HOFers and one guy who just couldn’t stay healthy enough to have a chance to make it there. Prospects who become busts don’t post numbers like Joel Embiid did this past year. While there are flags that are varying degrees of red in the stats of the other top prospects, everything about Joel Embiid says he’ll be a dominant NBA player.

Robinson’s numbers are for only 372 minutes. As the last column shows he was very foul-prone as a freshman which may have been the reason his minutes were so low. This has been an issue for Embiid also.  Because his PF40 was lower than both Robinson and Olajuwon I don’t see this as a problem that can’t be corrected. More likely it is just growing pains that are typical of a young player who is still figuring out the game.

Embiid has been compared to Olajuwon frequently. That makes some sense. Both started playing the game later than most prospects, Hakeem at 15, Embiid at 16. Both have credited playing other sports while growing up with aiding in the development of basketball skills. For Olajuwon it was soccer while Embiid played volleyball. I’m wary about projecting a college freshman to be on the level of an all-time great. It puts a lot of pressure on the player and sets him up to become a punch line later in life should things not turn out so well. But the statistical comp and the background make the Olajuwon comp a reasonably realistic one. It also drives home the point that Joel Embiid has the potential to become the type of player who can lead his team to multiple titles and win a few MVPs should everything turn out right. That can’t be said of any other prospect in this draft.

Because I have to address the injury, I’ll reference this article from the blog Right Down Euclid that breaks it down pretty well. If you would prefer to skip all the long words and medical jargon, here is the important conclusion:

“This is an injury that more often than not, will not lead to any further issues if treated correctly. The small chance is there for it to bother him in the future, but with the way his situation has been handled, the possibility of Embiid becoming a Greg Oden redux is very low.”

So Joel Embiid’s injury situation is basically the same as it is with every prospect. That being the risk of injury is always present with any athlete at this level, but it shouldn’t become the driving force behind any draft decision.

Making Embiid more valuable is the dearth of great centers in the league right now. I mean we all love Joakim Noah, but him being voted first-string all-NBA center tells us all we need to know about the state of the position in today’s NBA. With that in mind it is likely Embiid will be the top center in the league within a few years if he has a good work ethic and can avoid the injuries.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans have had a rough go of it since LeBron dumped them. I have a lot of empathy for them. Being dumped really sucks. It can be devastating to your self-esteem, ego and life in general. We all get that and most of us want the Cavs to pull themselves out of the post-LeBron funk. The problem is some of their decisions leave little room for sympathy. Fate tossed them the top pick last year and they responded by drafting Anthony Bennett. Bennett was completely ineffective. He finished 17th among rookies in minutes played and accumulated negative win shares. The previous draft they dealt 3 draft picks for Tyler Zeller, who projects to an easily replaceable journeyman center at best. Their post-dump decision-making has been nothing short of brutal.

On the night of the 2014 draft lottery fate tossed the Cleveland Cavaliers another meaty bone in the form of the top overall pick. Lotteries and life can be funny like that. With this do-over, the Cavs have a chance to undo the mistakes of the past and draft the franchise center that’s sitting there waiting for them. If they learned their lesson from last year they’ll actually cash this winning ticket in and draft Joel Embiid.

1 comment for “The Cavaliers Should Draft Joel Embiid

  1. TC
    June 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    And cue the report that Embiid’s physical with Cleveland didn’t go well meaning the Cavs will now choose between Wiggins and Parker. If true I for one am not surprised, I have fully expected Cleveland to botch this pick the moment the ping pong results were announced.

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