Joel Embiid’s back injury is obviously a concern, but nonetheless I have been surprised that many 2014 NBA mock drafts now have Andrew Wiggins and/or Jabari Parker being drafted ahead of Embiid.
This is a blatant overreaction to an injury we know little about.
Yes, any type of back injury is serious, but Matt McCarthy did a good job putting Embiid’s injury in context and pointing out that just because past big men have seen back injuries hamper their careers does not mean the same thing is destined to happen to Embiid.
Andre Drummond recovered nicely from a similar back issue last year, and nobody seems overly concerned about his NBA future. Embiid probably has an even higher upside than Drummond, and that means he should be the first pick in June - unless a legitimate red flag is raised by NBA doctors. Hopefully this does not happen.
The current Embiid situation, of course, brings back images of Nerlens Noel falling all the way down to the sixth pick in the 2013 Draft. At the time, frankly, most of us were so shocked to see Noel drop that far that we just kind of acknowledged the insanity of it and quickly moved on. But Noel’s fall to 6th – when he should have been taken 1st - was truly stunning.
Noel’s momentous drop looks more horrible today than it did on draft night – even though Noel still has not played a game. The players taken before Noel, with the exception of Victor Oladipo, are worse than we thought.
Meanwhile, despite his injury, Noel still is probably going to be an excellent NBA player. We will give Orlando a pass – for now - but the other four teams that bypassed Noel at the top of the 2013 Draft clearly made drafting mistakes. Let’s look at the players, besides Oladipo, that were embarrassingly taken ahead of Noel:
-Anthony Bennett has been bombarded endlessly for his futile rookie season, and the criticism is warranted. Number one picks cannot have a single digit PER. It’s inexcusable. Bennett certainly may become a useful NBA player, but when you are drafted that high you need to turn into a star. Otherwise you are a bust. Barring an unprecedented turnaround in production, Bennett is a bust.
-Many people, including myself, were high on Otto Porter before the draft. I thought he would make an All-Star game or two. And while I firmly believed the Wizards should have selected Noel at #3, I at least saw where Washington was coming from when they took Porter.
But Porter’s rookie season has been a disaster. He was injured at the start of the season, and when he returned Randy Wittman never gave him consistent playing time. Wittman is a lousy coach, and certainly should have played Porter much more than he has, but nonetheless Porter has looked overmatched when he has been on the floor. His PER is lower than Bennett’s. He might bounce back next year if he gets more playing time, but it’s highly doubtful he will ever make an All-Star game appearance.
-Charlotte drafting Cody Zeller at #4 over Noel seemed like a cruel joke when it happened, and it still does. Zeller is not bad, but he will probably never be very good, either. His talent level is significantly inferior to Noel’s. This was an inexcusable pick by the Bobcats.
-The same thing can be said about Phoenix’s selection of Alex Len at #5 over Noel. I’m sorry, but you cannot give Ryan McDonough executive of the year when he decides to select Len over Noel. Len also has a single digit PER, and if you are wondering why I am stressing PER so much it’s because it is the most important stat to gauge a rookie player’s future chances at stardom.
So Nerlens Noel, still likely to be a future NBA All-Star, was passed over five times. Four of the players picked before him appear to be on their way to bustdom. And New Orleans, the team that drafted Noel sixth, immediately traded him and a future first rounder for Jrue Holiday in the misguided hopes of making the playoffs (that was another absolutely terrible move.)
The top of the 2013 NBA Draft proved once again that most NBA front offices know nothing special about drafting. Nerlens Noel never - never - should have fallen out of the top three. His drop to 6th was part of some of the craziest, and most incompetent, drafting in recent history.