Last week's news that former University of Kansas center Joel Embiid had suffered a stress fracture in his right foot has thrown the top of the 2014 NBA draft into upheaval. With the player considered by many to be the Cleveland Cavaliers' probable No. 1 overall pick now sidelined for four to six months, questions now about as to how far the 7-foot Cameroonian prospect might fall in this Thursday's draft, and whether one of the teams near the top of the board would be willing to look past his worrisome injuries and roll the dice in hopes of landing a No. 1-caliber big man capable of changing the game in the paint on both ends of the floor.
Well, if Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry is to be believed — and here's where we remind you that you should take every such report with a grain of salt in the days before the draft — the Bucks won't be the team to take that chance. From Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who was in attendance for Lasry's appearance at an event held by the Milwaukee Press Club and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee on Monday morning:
Lasry is ruling out Bucks taking Embiid. "Our decision got a lot easier, mainly because Embiid got hurt."— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) June 23, 2014
"It's hard to take Embiid," Lasry said. "We want somebody who is going to help us on Day 1."— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) June 23, 2014
It's a reasonable position to take for the newly minted co-owner of a franchise that scuffled to a league-worst 15-67 record last season and is in the midst of working on a deal that would enable the building of a new arena in Milwaukee — the moribund Bucks need help, and something to get excited about, sooner rather than later. Then again, it's also not the sort of position that a team's owner shares in a public forum four days before the draft, which is why we probably shouldn't set the Bucks' movement away from Embiid in stone just yet.
“@ericbuenning: Please do not misinterpret "help from day 1" as "win now."” Exactly. Thank you.— Alexander Lasry (@AlexanderLasry) June 23, 2014
... which is good, because no matter how good any of the top prospects in this year's draft wind up being, it's going to take a lot more than one No. 2 pick to turn the tide for a Bucks team that ranked 29th among 30 NBA teams in points allowed per possession and 26th out of 30 in points scored per possession last year, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
If the Bucks are indeed ruling out Embiid, it would seem that they will be content to take one of the draft's top two wing prospects — Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins or Duke forward Jabari Parker. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears both have Cleveland choosing the Canadian-born Wiggins first, with the Bucks landing Parker — born in Chicago, just an hour and a half or so away from Milwaukee — with the second pick. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, however, reported Saturday that the Cavs "are said to be leaning toward" Parker at No. 1 overall. (It's possible, of course, that the Cavaliers will still go with Embiid at No. 1 — this is, after all, the team that shocked the NBA world by taking Anthony Bennett at the top of the 2013 draft — but as Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday, it's "increasingly unlikely" that Embiid's still their man.)
Lasry said Monday that Wesley Edens, his partner in this spring's $550 million purchase of the Bucks from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, traveled to Milwaukee to watch Wiggins work out on Friday. Several members of the Bucks front office were in attendance to watch Parker, Embiid and several other top prospects work out in Santa Monica, Calif., last month, with team director of scouting Billy McKinney saying Parker "looked fantastic from a physical standpoint." Then again, ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman reports that the Bucks are "really intrigued" by Australian guard Dante Exum, who's been tabbed by many as the top prospect outside the Embiid-Wiggins-Parker trio and could be the biggest beneficiary of an injury-sparked Embiid slide.
The player the Bucks reportedly plan to pass on and the player many have Milwaukee mock-drafting met up this weekend, with a suited-and-booted Parker visiting Embiid in the hospital after his Friday surgery:
"Had to check up on my boy @joelembiid and give him his meds," Parker wrote in the caption of his Instagram photo. "He's in very good spirits."
(He might be feeling a bit less cheery after catching flak on Twitter for celebrating Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliant cross to set up the last-minute goal by Silvestre Varela that gave Portugal a 2-2 tie against the United States in the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Sunday.)
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