Prospect Examination: Joel Embiid

“I think Embiid is the best player in the country,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. “He’s huge, great length, can shoot, has incredible footwork and has been playing the game for about two years.”

It’s very rare to see two possible No. 1 picks on the same team but something like that happened this past season at Kansas as they had Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Wiggins had all the hype and attention entering his freshmen season at Kansas while Embiid was supposed to he known as his sidekick but as the season progressed the Cameroonian center held his own and sometimes outplayed his teammate. Each game Embiid played, his draft stock would increase until his season ended due to a back injury.  The injury might have scared some scouts away but his talent makes him hard to pass up on regardless of health.

“I think Kansas could have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the draft with [Andrew] Wiggins and Embiid. [Embiid] does everything,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said before the college season started.

Before declaring for the draft on April 9th, Embiid strongly considering staying at KU for his sophomore season; he had meetings with the coaching staff along with Cameroonian native and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute (Mbah a Moute got Embiid started in basketball after he attended a camp at the age of 16). Embiid taking awhile to declare for the draft showed that he actually thought about it because most college athletes think about it for one day then declare the next.

“I was curious because I want to be great, I want to be the best at my position one day,” said Embiid. “I’m trying to learn everything and what other people did. All of the great big men went to college at least two or three years. I think it’s a big factor. I don’t know if it will always work, but I think it’s the best choice.”

“He’s a bright young man and he’s going to weigh his options,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s considering coming back and he’s obviously also considering leaving. He can’t make a bad decision.”

Wiggins and Embiid went back and forth this season which surprised some as the ’13-14 season went on, but this season benefited Embiid more than Wiggins with his draft stock. The former volleyball player is listed at 7’0″ 250-pound with a 7’5″ wingspan which obviously makes him a good shot-blocker.

Looking at his stats:
Embiid has great speed and can finish while on the fastbreak but when he’s in a half-court set he’s a good post player and if paired up with a good Point Guard, the pick-and-pop will be useful as he has shown that he can hit the mid-range shot. The background he has in volleyball and soccer has helped him gain the shot blocking and footwork needed for a traditional big-man.  His soccer skills has allowed him move like a guard which is tremendous for a center because it will allow him to have a bigger advantage over most at his position.

“His footwork is outstanding,” said one league executive. “He moves like a guard. He doesn’t back down. He’s making mistakes, but all ones that are very fixable. I love him.”

The 20-year old center has his weaknesses that haven’t been broken down as much as other prospects for unknown reasons. He will need to work on the speed of his post moves and make them identical to Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson. Overall his post game could improve and needs to become the defensive anchor that most dominant big-men are, meaning he will need to become more vocal and aggressive to gain the respect of his teammates and opponents.

Over the course of the season Embiid has gained the admiration of many and has improved vastly thought out the season after starting the season off as bench player for the first eight games. He has lots of potential for a guy that started playing basketball in 2011 and that’s why people in NBA front offices are in love with him because of the improvement he can make within a short period of time along with scouts as one recently called him the only “potential franchise player” in the draft-but the short time playing the game is also bad because as he could most likely struggle in the early stages of his career.

As stated earlier, Embiid has suffered a few injuries this season including his back and knee which could raise some red flags since the NBA is much more rougher than the NCAA and with his size he could possibly injury waiting to happen. But then when we look at someone like Andre Drummond who had injuries in the past and how he overcame them it gives Embiid hope to succeed. Keep in mind that Embiid has only played organized basketball in the United States for two years and since everything is new to him it’s also new to his body; most if not all players selected in the lottery will have AAU, 4-years of High School experience and a few seasons of collegiate basketball played which prepares them mentally and physically while Embiid is the complete opposite. The NBA will put more stress on his body and the D-league and summer league could be used to help him out as he progresses each game and practice. 

It’s quite clear that Embiid has the potential to become special as he takes in all the basketball knowledge from others and like Jared Sullinger his back probably isn’t a big problem as others are making it and unlike Sullinger, he won’t be slipping the draft as he will most likely be selected in the Top-5 barring any breaking news.

I see Joel Embiid becoming a 15-point game scorer in the NBA and playing more like Roy Hibbert and Andrew Bynum when he was with the Lakers. Embiid has gained comparisons to NBA legends Shaquille O’Neal Tim Duncan & Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon which is completely blasphemous to compare All-Time greats to a 20-year old, he may have similar characteristics but he is nowhere close or possibly will ever be on the level they were at. Back in 2012 New Orleans Pelicans C/F Anthony Davis gained comparisons to Kevin Garnett which raised some eyebrows but was a very accurate comparison if you watched him at Kentucky and in his sophomore season that comparison has come to life, maybe with Embiid he will become one of those legends but as of 2014 I don’t see that happening. 

NBA Comparisons: Roy Hibbert & Andrew Bynum

Best fits: Milwaukee Bucks,  Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers & Boston Celtics

Clevis Murray

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