This wasn’t the year that Kansas had envisioned for themselves at the outset and it certainly wasn’t the season that Joel Embiid had hoped for. At least, it’s not how he wanted it to end. The 7-foot center saw his draft stock steadily rise throughout the year but the back injury he suffered earlier this year might eliminate him from contention for the first overall pick. Out of action since March 1st, the big man is now unsure of whether he will enter the June draft at all.
If Embiid decides to go pro, he’ll go through an medical exam that is stringent even by NBA Draft standards. He’ll also have to go in with absolute confidence in his ability to perform in workouts. Embiid could probably keep away from live competition and still land in the top three, but he’ll at least have to audition for teams and show that his mobility is still there.
In a season that was supposed to be all about teammate Andrew Wiggins, Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in 23.1 minutes per game. While the preordained No. 1 overall pick in the draft failed to display a killer instinct at crucial times throughout the year, Embiid likely made scouts drool with his athletic ability. He could probably stand to add some weight to his 250 pound frame, but the 7-footer boasts a 7’5″ wingspan that allows him to disrupt any offense he goes up against.
On the other side of the ball, Embiid’s agility allows him to move quite well in transition for easy buckets. Meanwhile, in the halfcourt set, Embiid probably offers more low post ability than your average college big man. He can also convert from mid-range, making him a tough assignment for any center.
For all of the praise that Embiid received throughout his freshman campaign, no one has accused him of being a polished product. The 20-year-old came off of the bench for the first eight games of the KU season and while he took off like a rocket ship from that point, it’s clear that he still has a long way to go. In any given draft, you’ll find that the top prospects available were veterans of the AAU circuit with an eye on the NBA dating back to middle school. In Embiid’s case, the Cameroonian has only been playing hoops since 2011. That should mean a high ceiling for the Jayhawk, but it could also signal some rough patches early on in his NBA career.
Will Embiid ultimately enter the draft? Back in January, he confessed that he wasn’t sure if he was quite ready to make the jump and he sounds just as conflicted today. However, as Marcus Smart has reminded all of us, staying in school can be a risky and somewhat regrettable move. Sometimes life offers us opportunities before we’re actually ready for them and, usually, you can’t put them on hold. Embiid may not feel like he’s ready, but the only logical choice for him is to dive into the deep end and become a top pick while it’s still a lock. Returning for his sophomore season may be the more comfortable option, but it’s not the wise one.