He landed with a 76ers organization that has perfected the craft of waiting out big men to recover.
The Sixers selected Embiid with the third pick of the NBA draft on Thursday night, even though he could miss up to a full season depending on how his rehab goes.
That's fine with the rebuilding Sixers, who are clearly willing to wait and this year had a record number of picks to play with. They acquired Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel on a draft-night deal last year and he never played a game as he recovered from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The year before, former center Andrew Bynum never played a second for the Sixers because of bad knees.
The versatile 7-foot Embiid had a fantastic freshman season with the Jayhawks, averaging 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds while blocking 72 shots to earn Big 12 defensive player of the year honors.
''Hello Philly!!!!'' he tweeted. ''Couldn't be happier to be a 76er!!!''
He was hurt during pre-draft workouts and had surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. Embiid already had some health questions, mostly regarding a balky back. Now he's had foot surgery and could be out for up to six months.
''Welcome to Philadelphia Joel,'' team CEO Scott O'Neil tweeted.
The Sixers held the No. 3 pick because of a 19-63 record last season out of a team full of D-League castoffs and stopgap players. They had the No. 10 pick because of general manager Sam Hinkie's stunning 2013 draft night deal that saw them trade All-Star Jrue Holiday for Noel and the pick.
The Sixers selected Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton with the 10th pick of the NBA draft. He didn't last long, traded to Orlando for Croatian forward Dario Saric and a pair of future draft picks. The 6-foot-10 Saric was named 2013 FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year and averaged 16.7 points per game in helping Cibona VIP to a league title.
The Sixers were busy in the second round, with five scheduled picks.
They selected Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels with the 32nd overall pick. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and was the ACC defensive player of the year.
Syracuse forward Jerami Grant was the 39th pick. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Orange, and comes from an accomplished basketball family that includes his uncle, four-time NBA champion Horace Grant.
They took Louisville guard Russ Smith at 47, Vasilije Micic was 52nd and fellow Serbian guard Nemanja Dangubic was 54th. There were reports that Smith had been traded to New Orleans for guard Pierre Jackson. And Dangubic was sent to San Antonio in exchange for the rights to Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (No. 58) and Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson (No. 60).
The Sixers' seven total picks were the most for any team in draft history and the five picks in the second were the most in one round in draft history, dating back to 1970, according to STATS.
Hinkie and the rest the front office had gone silent since the draft lottery in May. The Sixers refused to release names of prospects invited to workouts, and media was booted from their practice facility for trying to catch a word with eventual No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins during a secret workout.
The Sixers closed their practice facility to the media again Thursday night and did not make Hinkie or other team personnel available.
But they clearly like what they have in Embiid.
Embiid, who grew up playing soccer and volleyball, only decided to pursue basketball a few years ago. He started to blossom as a senior at The Rock School and ultimately chose to attend Kansas, where he arrived with less fanfare than fellow freshmen Wiggins and Wayne Selden.
Embiid hurt his back while landing awkwardly during a game late in the season, and missed the Jayhawks' final two regular-season games and the Big 12 tournament. He also missed a victory over Eastern Kentucky and a season-ending loss to Stanford in the NCAA tournament, after which he said that he would have been able to play had Kansas advanced to the second weekend.
''I think he'll fit great,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ''They already have another big guy in Nerlens Noel who hasn't played yet because of injury. I guarantee when they're both healthy, it won't be easy to score near the basket.''