Joel Embiid, 7-foot-1 center, Kansas
2013-14 stats: 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG, .626 FG%
A high-level recruit, though not considered elite out of high school after playing organized basketball for just three years, Embiid emerged as the consensus top prospect in the draft during his lone year at Kansas. Blessed with tremendous agility, advanced footwork, shot-blocking prowess, a nice shooting touch and fantastic potential as a whole, the protégé of fellow Cameroon native and current NBA player Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has elicited comparisons to some of the great centers in basketball history. However, a late-season back injury and more recently, foot surgery, have resulted in concerns over the former volleyball player’s long-term health.
[MORE NBA DRAFT: Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart]
Career highlights: As a freshman, Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game, while shooting a gaudy 62.6 percent from the field. The Big 12 defensive player of the year, a second team all-league selection, a member of the conference’s all-newcomer team and a second team All-American, some of his better performances included a 12-point, 12-rebound, five-block outing against San Diego State and a 13-point, 11-rebound, eight-block effort against Oklahoma State. But Embiid’s season was cut short due to the aforementioned back ailment prior to the conference tournament, a reoccurrence of an injury that happened in high school.
Strengths: Possessing terrific timing, length, quickness and athleticism, Embiid is an outstanding defensive presence, with the ability to cover a lot of ground in a hurry and a bit of an edge to him physically. He’s not a finished product offensively, but has better-than-expected shooting range, excellent low-post footwork, a soft touch and can run the floor in transition. While he could stand to bulk up more, Embiid already has a solid frame and doesn’t shy away from contact, which enhances his rebounding prowess and is encouraging because of how short of a time he’s been playing the sport.
[MORE NBA DRAFT: Kentucky's Julius Randle]
Weaknesses: Obviously the biggest downside to Embiid is his health situation, as his history of back injuries was already enough of a concern, but adding a fractured foot to the equation has left many observers believing that he could be an injury-prone player at this early stage of his career. As far as his actual ability, he has a tendency to foul unnecessarily, let emotions affect him on the court and will need to add more strength in order to battle in the paint at the next level. Offensively, he still can further polish his game, find a consistent go-to scoring move and be more of a consistent factor on that side of the ball.
Draft projection: Once slotted to be the top overall pick, nobody is quite sure how far Embiid will slide as a result of his foot injury, which will keep him out of action in summer league and at least a large portion of next season, if not all of it, but he could be drafted as early as third to Philadelphia and as late as the Lakers at No. 7. Assuming he can stay healthy, Embiid will immediately become an upper-echelon defensive presence and should be able to contribute as a scorer and rebounder. In time, if indications of his burgeoning shooting range and post-up game are accurate, he could also develop into a top-tier center offensively, making for a complete package that’s hard to fathom, but has the potential to be very special.