Joel Embiid will not be calling Milwaukee home next season.
Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry said Monday that Embiid, a 7-foot center from Cameroon who spent one standout season at Kansas, is not a candidate to be selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft. Milwaukee is ruling out Embiid, Lasry said, because he will be sidelined for months after foot surgery.
“I think it’s hard to take Embiid,” Lasry said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “He’s a phenomenal individual. But with the injury, and how severe and how long it will take him to recover, I think for us today we’re going to want someone who is going to help us on Day 1.”
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That candid, if somewhat unusual, public admission from ownership comes three days before Thursday’s draft, which will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Embiid was seen as perhaps the favorite to be the first player taken before his injury. Now, Kansas guard/forward Andrew Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker are believed to be the top candidates to go No. 1 to the Cavaliers.
Basketball-wise, Embiid was never an ideal fit with the Bucks’ roster. Milwaukee gave defensive-minded center Larry Sanders a four-year, $44 million contract extension last August, and 2012 lottery pick John Henson, a long-armed forward/center, is fighting for minutes. The Bucks also have veteran center Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Raduljica under contract for next season. Any team would welcome a talent like Embiid to its roster, but the 15-win Bucks have plenty of other holes to fill.
After paying a then-record $550 million to purchase the Bucks from Herb Kohl in April, Lasry and fellow co-owner Wesley Edens are surely looking to turn the page from a rough 2013-14 season as quickly as possible. Wiggins and Parker seem to possess All-Star potential, and both should be immediate contributors. Milwaukee is in position to give huge minutes and touches to either player next year.
“If it’s Parker, I think it would be great. If it’s Wiggins, it would be great. You’re not going to be disappointed either way,” Lasry said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “I think both players bring you different things. For us, I think it’s great. If we get Wiggins or Parker, I think for the team you’ll start seeing changes pretty quickly, because they are really great players.”
One oddsmaking service has installed Wiggins as the favorite to go No. 1 to the Cavaliers, which would leave Parker, a native of nearby Chicago, for the Bucks at No. 2.
The next question becomes: Where will Embiid land? The Celtics at No. 6 and the Lakers at No. 7 both have the need for a center should he slip. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford has Embiid going to Boston while DraftExpress.com’s mock draft sees the Magic selecting Embiid at No. 4.
Last season, Maryland center Alex Len went No. 5 to the Suns while Kentucky center Nerlens Noel went No. 6 to the Sixers despite injury concerns.
Wiggins, 19, averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 32.8 minutes per game last season, earning Big 12 Freshman of the Year and second-team All-America honors.
Parker, 19, averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 30.7 minutes for the Blue Devils, earning First Team All-American, All-ACC and ACC Freshman of the Year honors.
Embiid, 20, averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 23.1 minutes for the Jayhawks as a freshman. He was shut down in early March due to a stress fracture in his lower back.