Draft Roundtable: Is Joel Embiid worth the risk at number three for the Sixers?


Last Tuesday, when the NBA Gods decided to give the wonderful city of Cleveland the number one pick for the third time in four seasons, I felt like the Sixers were in a very unenviable position after obtaining the third pick. My expectation was that the Cavs would take Andrew Wiggins with the first pick, and the Bucks would follow with Duke’s Jabari Parker, rather than Joel Embiid, due to health concerns. I felt like the Sixers, only a couple years removed from the Andrew Bynum fiasco, would then be thrust into a position where they would have to either take a big man with immense talent, despite his back problems, or pass on a player who could very well turn out to be a superstar.

As the week went on, concerns about Embiid’s back were downplayed, which changed my course of thought.

In case you missed this nugget, Grantland Founder (and annoying ESPN talking head) Bill Simmons got a chance to see a private workout with Embiid sometime in the last ten days, and couldn’t say enough about the Kansas product.

"Q: Wait … what? You watched Joel Embiid work out last week?A: Yes — at a secret location in Santa Monica. He wasn’t playing against anyone, just going through a two-hour workout with Will Perdue. Here’s what I can tell you: He moves around as effortlessly as a 7-foot Serge Ibaka; he’s such an athletic freak that he’s one of those “still going up as he’s finishing the dunk” guys; his freakish wingspan might make Jay Bilas pass out; he has been playing basketball for only four years (which seems impossible); he gave up a world-class volleyball career; he has 3-point range; he can shoot jump-hooks with both hands already; he couldn’t have seemed more coachable/agreeable/likable; he’s a hard worker with a goofy sense of humor; his voice is just a touch Mutombo-y (deep with a heavy African accent); and his friends call him “Jo-Jo.” And again — his back seemed totally fine.News flash: As I said on TV before the lottery, Embiid was always going first. None of these teams was passing on him. Repeat: none of them. The amount of smokescreening going on in April and May was high comedy. We keep hearing his back is really screwed up, this could be another Oden situation … Just stop it. This was like sitting at a fantasy football auction next to someone who kept claiming that he wasn’t going to pay big money for a QB … and then, two hours later, he’s bidding $49 for Aaron Rodgers. The truth is, Wiggins and Parker never separated themselves enough this season to warrant anyone saying, “We’re passing on a potential franchise center with a good chance of becoming the 7-foot Serge Ibaka.”"

As much as I dislike Simmons as an analyst and think he comes off as a Celtics’ fanboy a majority of the time, he doesn’t have any vested interest in Embiid, so for him to speak this highly of the Cameroonian product suggests good things. Perhaps Embiid won’t even make it to three.

Slam Magazine apparently was also at the workout, and this video of Embiid, that they posted on their YouTube channel, makes him look as healthy as ever.

After initially being scared off by injury questions, and the fact that the Sixers already have another young big man in Nerlens Noel, I’ve come to the conclusion that if Embiid is sitting at number three, the Sixers need to take his talent. They are too much of a blank slate to worry about him conflicting with Noel, and have taken too many risks to get to this point, to take the easy way out and pass on a potential Superstar big man.

I decided to pull some of our staffers to see if they felt the same way about taking a risk on Embiid.

Somers Price: Co-Editor

I would take Embiid if he feel to the 3rd slot. The caliber of the top three of this draft is too strong to pass on any of them and, as long as Embiid’s back checks out, he might be the best prospect of the bunch. I find that, despite similarities with Noel, the Kansas product has some nuances to his game that make the possibility of the two of them on the floor at the same time an intriguing possibility. Trusting that the 76ers have as strong a medical staff as any team in the league, one would have to hope that they would have done enough homework to feel confident drafting a player with a ‘clean bill of health’, which apparently Embiid has. 

I think that trading the 3rd overall pick would be a mistake in this draft and a continuation of a pattern that could prevent the rooting of any sort of legitimate young core. Trading and moving around in the 1st round in the 2013 Draft was an effective method for resetting the franchise in a more promising direction. To do it for a second year in a row, a year in which the draft crop is decidedly stronger, is only delaying the requirement to make a difficult decision. A team cannot bide their time forever when trying to shape a contender and the 76ers positioned themselves to capitalize off a two-year injection of young talent. Unless they are blown away by a deal that somehow involves a rising young star, I would hold onto the pick and allow the chips to fall as they may.

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Mazer-Staff Writer

Sitting at the third pick, the Sixers have a number of different options.

In the case that Joel Embiid is available, I don’t think you can possibly pass on him. Even though the Sixers already have Nerlens Noel, Embiid has too much potential to pass up. The Sixers also have a second lottery pick as well, meaning they must go smaller if they take a center with their third pick. Noel and Embiid together sounds like a scary combination. I have no idea how it would work, but I am sure if the opportunity presents itself, Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown will find a way to make it work. When you are a team like the Sixers and you are in full rebuild mode, you simply do not pass on a kid like Joel Embiid at the third pick, assuming Wiggins and Parker go one-two.

Regardless of the outcome, Hinkie and the Sixers front office really need to hit on one, if not both of these lottery picks. This is crunch time for the Sixers organization and it seems like Hinkie could shadily be creating a powerhouse. Overall, this draft is the continuation of a multi-year plan to properly build a title contender, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Akiem Bailum-National Columnist 

It may have been disappointing for many Sixers fans to end up with the number three pick in the upcoming draft, but it is still a high pick.

As we know, this draft is one of the deeper ones in recent memory. With Nerlens Noel joining the Sixers roster starting next season, Philadelphia should have its big man.

I think in a perfect world the Cavaliers or Bucks take Joel Embiid, and the Sixers don’t have to make a difficult choice  on Embiid.  Embiid, as we know, is plagued with injury issues that notably caused him to miss this year’s NCAA tournament and dent any hopes Kansas had of making a Final Four berth.

It might be too much to ask for Embiid to be taken and Andrew Wiggins to drop to the third pick, so Jabari Parker coming to Philadelphia would be an ideal situation.

Between Embiid’s injury risks and Wiggins, the best choice would be Parker if he’s available. If he’s not, then the Sixers have to reevaluate their options between either Embiid, Julius Randle or Dante Exum, and pass on another potential health disaster in Embiid.

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