You can find the first three editions at the following links:
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
10. 2016 Miami First Round Pick (Potential Swap with Golden State)
9. Joel Embiid
Contract: 1 guaranteed year at $4,626,960, two rookie scale team options at $4,826,160 and $6,100,266
This is a two ranking post. Illustratively, I felt the need to place the Miami pick and Embiid together, because the Miami pick (or something like it) is about what I'd expect to fetch for Embiid. A top-10 protected pick from a good, if not great, team is for many teams a worthy gamble on superstar talent. Even competitive teams would have to mull it over. Derek Bodner inadvertently made the same comparison yesterday on Twitter, but let me expand on the rationale behind Embiid's ranking.
1.) Embiid will miss his second consecutive full season after undergoing foot surgery for a navicular stress fracture. Stress fractures usually only require surgery whenever they're severe. The first surgery resulted in an abnormal healing. The second surgery will be a bone graft and will take a year to recover from.
That recovery time coincides with important early-career development time. Even though Embiid would still be a young player after missing two seasons, he'll have missed two crucial seasons. His projected ceiling almost certainly cannot be reached.
2.) Embiid also had back issues at Kansas before the foot problems cropped up in pre-draft workouts. The foot injuries are not the only cause for concern with Embiid's publicly chronicled medical history. Embiid had medical red flags before the foot injuries surfaced. That likely reduces his value.
3.) The Sixers always prioritize a player's long-term health. The team opted to forego Embiid playing on a painless but structurally unsound foot to give him a better chance at sustained success. At the very least, the Sixers are aiming for a full recovery with the procedures they and Embiid have agreed upon, even if they're not adhering to timelines that the team publicly set. Placing the priority on his long-term health, instead of rushing him back a la the Oklahoma City Thunder did with Kevin Durant, bodes well for his future and his value.
Cause for concern surrounding Embiid's willingness to undergo surgery have been well-chronicled here and elsewhere. CSN Philly's John Gonzalez was the first to finally obtain information on the deviation from the scheduled timeline earlier this week, saying that there was no rush given the recovery timetable and that it took time for Embiid to come to terms with the arrangement.
4.) But teams might not trust the Sixers and their injury disclosures after the reported Jrue Holiday injury settlement with the New Orleans Pelicans. We still have no idea how the $3 million settlement was decided. As reported around the time, the limit on the financial penalty imposed is $1 million. No one has answered whether or not the arbiter in this situation has the ability to impose punitive damages on the Sixers for intentionally being deceitful about Holiday's stress fractures.
The penalty amount may be wrong because it's literally not allowed under normal circumstances. Regardless of all this, the revelation that the Sixers were supposedly penalized for hiding medical information likely reduces the trade value of a publicly injured player.
5.) Embiid also drew the ire of the Sixers, and raised even more red flags, when he was reportedly fined by the Sixers for skipping rehab sessions after previously being sent home from a road trip after reportedly getting into an argument with a Sixers strength and conditioning coach. There were also apparent weight issues - which weren't evident after his rehab moved into the final stages. Granted, as a 21-year-old living in a country away from some of his family in Africa, enduring rehab and personal tragedy, sometimes things happen.
Everyone thinks highly of Joel the person, but you can wonder if he'll get discouraged or unmotivated after the first failure. Rehabilitation sucks to go through - the pain for months at a time and strenuous workouts just to get back to a familiar, normal feeling is torturous. Recovering to that painless state only to immediately go under the knife again makes you wonder if it's all worth it in the end. Will he stick to the rehab plan?
6.) On the plus side, Embiid grew two inches and is now 7'2". So now he's even bigger than he was when he was a consensus number one pick and compared to Hakeem Olajuwon. Some of that prodigious talent will still be there, most notably the skills. Foot surgery, and two years away from competitive basketball, will likely reduce his foot speed and overall athleticism.
Before the 2014 Draft, SB Nation NBA sister site Brew Hoop put together a summary of NBA players who suffered navicular stress fractures, the initial foot injury suffered by Embiid. The list includes some success stories and some failures, though all occurred a long time ago. In summary: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Kevin McHale recovered and were productive for extended periods of time, while the injury cut short the careers of Yao Ming and Bill Walton.
Embiid's time frame for suffering the injury nearly matches Ilgauskas'. Ilgauskas missed three seasons at the beginning of a decade-long career with foot issues stemming from a navicular fracture. The Sixers must hope that time and medical advances are on their side.
7.) Embiid's contract isn't hefty - a team could easily take on his salary in most circumstances. And if not, those teams would have to consider making room for him. Rookie scale contracts will only be cheaper comparatively as the salary cap increases. Though Embiid's contract requires that team options are exercised before each season, trading for him would be a long-term play anyway. It's a multi-year risk.
That years-long process may turn teams off. The Sixers organization and fans endured three waiting-game seasons on talented centers already in three years and only one healthy center among the three, and with Embiid in tow for a fourth season patience is predictably wearing thin. Stalling for time only seems to work in Philadelphia given the patience of our ownership group.
8.) A fair number of teams are willing to gamble in the middle of the draft on superstar talent. In the same draft that Joel Embiid went third overall, the Toronto Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo 20th overall out of Brazil. Caboclo was a relative unknown even for draft experts not named Fran Fraschilla, who memorably described Caboclo as being "two years away from being two years away." Toronto, a semi-competitive team at the time, gambled on high upside talent (like "the Brazilian Kevin Durant") in the middle of the first round.
Like the Caboclo example, teams are willing to gamble on talent with mid-first round picks. Doing so with Embiid is gambling on a more sure talent but with the unknown of health.
9.) The real question I've been trying to answer is not "would the Sixers or people with our general philosophy value Embiid this way" but rather "how would the average NBA team value Embiid?" I don't think every team would stretch as far as Toronto did for Caboclo. But the Sixers have a more sure talent, even if his injury status is up in the air. Teams have always gone out of their way to gamble on bigs. Embiid would be no different, even with his scattered medical history. Teams will certainly be cautious given this history and the accusations of withholding information previously.
Given all of the above, I believe this is the correct landing spot. It's reasonable that a team would gamble on Embiid with a mid-round pick. I can't say the same about a lottery selection, and thus around the Miami pick, but behind the assets still to come, is right about where he should be valued.