Kansas center Joel Embiid, the 7-foot Cameroonian prospect whom many had pegged to be the No. 1 pick in next Thursday's 2014 NBA draft, has suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot, an injury that could shake up the top of teams' draft boards in the week leading up to the annual selection.
Take it away, Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski:
ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman reported earlier Thursday that Embiid had suffered a foot injury, but the extent was not known at that time.
Following the injury news, the Cleveland Cavaliers — who won the 2014 NBA draft lottery to earn the No. 1 overall selection, and who were reportedly focusing on Embiid after a strong full workout in front of team brass, including owner Dan Gilbert — may be moving away from the big man. Wojnarowski reported earlier Thursday that the Cavs were interested in bringing in Dante Exum for a workout, with a possible eye toward elevating the 6-foot-6 Australian combo guard to the top of their board.
If Cleveland looks elsewhere at No. 1, the question then becomes where Embiid might wind up. In his most recent mock draft, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has Embiid dropping down to the Orlando Magic with the fourth overall pick, with the Cavs selecting Embiid's teammate, Canadian swingman Andrew Wiggins, at No. 1, the Milwaukee Bucks taking Duke scoring forward Jabari Parker at No. 2, and the Philadelphia 76ers selecting Exum at No. 3.
That said, Givony suggested pumping the brakes before we start thinking that Embiid's going to sink like a stone, offering a bit of recent perspective:
That said, news of a potential foot fracture could be especially concerning for teams because Embiid was already entering the draft process with one major red flag: the stress fracture he suffered to his lower back in early February, which kept him out of the entire Big 12 tournament and both of the Jayhawks' NCAA tournament games.
This is not the kind of situation in which you want to go two-for-two.
Then again, not all injuries are created equal, and not all injuries should necessarily send teams running for the hills, as the great Mark Deeks writes:
If you do trust your strength-and-conditioning and medical staffs, and they believe Embiid's injuries are more bad luck one-offs than indications of chronic issues, and you believe they can work their magic if given some time and space, then another franchise's skittishness could result in you getting the sort of prospect who combines prototypical size, athleticism, length (a 7-foot-5 wingspan), footwork and potential, and who could become an elite two-way player.
The same question now faces every team at the top of the draft: Just how much of an appetite do you have for risk? What transpires over the next seven days ought to offer some interesting answers.
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