The 76ers selected Joel Embiid with the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft on Thursday. Here’s a look at Embiid and how he fits with Philadelphia:
Bio: Kansas | Freshman | Center
Vitals: 7-0, 240 pounds
2013-14 stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 62.6 FG%
Strengths: Comparing Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon may be a stretch, but -- health permitting, of course -- there’s no denying Embiid’s potential to become a top-flight NBA center. The 20-year-old has been playing for only about three years, yet in his one season at Kansas he demonstrated a solid understanding of the game and good instincts. Embiid can maneuver past defenders on the low block with a variety of post moves, including drop steps and shoulder shakes -- the type of stuff that makes the Olajuwon talk seem a bit more realistic -- and step away from the basket to sink a jumper. Shot-blocking is Embiid’s calling card, as he turned back nearly 12 percent of opponents' attempts while on the floor. His mere presence deters ball handlers from driving into the lane. Embiid is also a terrific rebounder, particularly on the defensive end, where he corralled more than 27 percent of opponents’ misses, a top-12 rate nationally. Maybe the most alluring aspect of Embiid, though, is his potential for improvement: No one is quite sure how good he can be.
Weaknesses: Embiid is out for several months after having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Teams will also be wary of taking a big man who sustained a significant back injury that caused him to miss his final six college games. There are some flaws in Embiid’s game, too. He committed turnovers at an uncomfortably high rate (24.1 percent) and needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble.
Team Fit:True to form, Sam Hinkie's Sixers are making moves with the long game in mind. Last year, Philadelphia traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for two first-round picks -- the first of which was used to select Nerlens Noel, the high-ceiling big man who missed the 2013-14 season while recovering from knee surgery. Drafting Embiid follows the same strategic subscription. Many scouts project Embiid to be the top talent in this draft, provided that his foot injury resolves without reason for long-term concern. Teams in Philadelphia's position need not worry about redundancy or fit. Its roster is so empty that value matters above all, and no other incoming rookie can match Embiid's potential in that regard.