NBA Draft Rumors: Despite Injury, Joel Embiid Emerging As Top Pick

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Joel Embiid

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, it’s almost unheard of for a prospect to skip the scouting combine and not partake in a Pro Day workout. It’s seemingly had zero impact for the top three NBA Draft prospects.

Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker all skipped last week’s pre-draft camp in Chicago. And despite injury and conditioning concerns, and rumors that the three were “hiding something,” it has had no bearing on the chances of them going 1, 2, and 3 next month.

Though there is no clear-cut No. 1 pick this year, the seven-foot Embiid is emerging as the “super prospect” of the class, according to Forbes.com.

“His ceiling is Hakeem Olajuwon,” one NBA general manager said. “His basement is Serge Ibaka.”

Embiid missed the NCAA Tournament with a stress fracture in his back, an injury he suffered back in high school as well. That injury plagued the careers of Bill Walton and Doug Collins, and the fact that the center skipped out on the camp certainly raises an eyebrow.

Embiid’s agent, Arn Tellem, may elect to hide his client’s medical records from teams, and still might not preclude him from going No. 1.

“You can hire the best back doctor in the country who gives him a clean bill of health,” one GM told Forbes. “Then you go to Chicago and 30 teams’ doctors poke and prod you. It only takes one to red-flag something and that becomes the story. That’s what happened to [Oklahoma City's] Perry Jones. He was supposed to go in the lottery in 2012 and he got red-flagged. He went No. 28 and hasn’t had a problem since.”)

But nobody wants to pass on the second coming of Hakeem, right?

Tellem, who also represents Parker, can theoretically manipulate Embiid’s spot in the lottery by choosing to withhold his medical records.

If a team such as the Milwaukee Bucks, which have the highest odds at landing the top lottery pick in Tuesday night’s drawing, can’t see Embiid’s records, they may have to take a look at Parker or Wiggins as a Plan B.

While there are concerns about Embiid’s back, there are equally pressing questions about Parker’s conditioning and Wiggins’ game. The choice: likely Parker, considered the more polished product at this point in his career.

The betting in Chicago was that would be the more accomplished Parker over Wiggins, an uber-athlete with an unter-game at this stage in his development.

Australian point guard Dante Exum has emerged as fourth-best prospect in recent weeks. Exum impressed in the pre-draft drills last week, but there is “widespread suspicion” his agent, Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe Bryant, wants Exum to only be a Laker.

Exum has been working out in Southern California and attending Lakers games, meeting the team and even calling them his “best option.”

Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.