Could injury drop Kansas center Joel Embiid to Lakers’ draft range?
The Lakers are destined to have a high pick in June’s NBA draft, but the franchise won’t know where it is picking until the draft lottery on May 20.
One of the top prospects in the draft, Kansas center Joel Embiid, received some disappointing news on Monday.
According to the Associated Press, Embiid has a stress fracture in his lower back, which will knock him out of the Big 12 tournament and could sideline him for the first week of the NCAA tournament.
Assuming he suffers no setbacks, the Jayhawks may need to survive a couple of rounds without their starting center.
Before the injury, Embiid projected to be a top three pick -- and possibly the No. 1 selection.
Will the injury inspire the freshman to stay another year at Kansas? Or rather will the scare inspire him to leave, looking to lock in guaranteed NBA money as quickly as he can?
Embiid’s draft stock might dip if teams are concerned about his back. If the Lakers don’t win the lottery, they still might be in range to draft Embiid if he drops behind players like Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Australian guard Dante Exum.
Recently, Embiid tweeted a fondness for Los Angeles.
I want to live in LA so bad #beautiful— Joel-Hans Embiid (@jojo_embiid) March 9, 2014
Through 28 appearances with the Jayhawks, Embiid has averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
At 7 feet, 250 pounds, Embiid is a true center. Although he’s still developing, Embiid has shown the makings of a versatile, low-post game. He was also named the Big 12’s defensive player of the year.
The Lakers have three free agent centers (Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill). Robert Sacre is under contract for next season, but the team could certainly use a young, franchise center.
Embiid may need some time to develop into a high-level NBA starter, but the Lakers had success taking a similar project in Andrew Bynum (10th overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft).
Based on vcitories, the Lakers (22-42) are tied with the Utah Jazz (22-42), Sacramento Kings (22-41) and Boston Celtics (22-41) in the fourth slot.
The Milwaukee Bucks (13-50), Philadelphia 76ers (15-48) and Orlando Magic (19-46) are likely to finish the season “ahead” of the Lakers, at least in terms of lottery seeding.
Where the Lakers will pick could range from the top pick, all the way down to 10th.
The final month of the season will present a clearer picture, but even a single win through the team’s final 18 games could hurt the Lakers’ lottery position.
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