Entering Thursday’s NBA Draft, there were rumors that the Philadelphia 76ers would trade their first two picks – Nos. 3 and 10 – to Cleveland to move up to No. 1.
Was there any merit to that rumor?
“I think there’s lots of rumors out there,” 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Rumors are clickable and they’re good for Twitter and they’re good for everyone. They’re almost entirely rumors and not based in fact. We end up becoming a little numb to it.”
As it turned out, the 76ers did not trade their top two picks to Cleveland. Instead, they drafted an injured big man for the second year in a row. In 2013, Philadelphia took Nerlens Noel, who is yet to play a professional minute.
Embiid, meanwhile, is expected to miss five to eight months and could sit for the entire 2014-15 season. Hinkie, however, believes Embiid could be an impact player in the NBA.
“I think teams generally came away saying that the back was not problematic (or) something that was particularly worrisome,” Hinkie said. “Lots and lots of NBA players have had the back injury that he had. The foot is a more challenging one, which is rarer and you don’t see as much in basketball players. But you can immediately find a player or two to be worried about over history that’s had them.”
One such player was Yao Ming, someone whom Hinkie knew quite well. Hinkie was a Houston executive during Ming’s time with the Rockets.
“The players are different and the way they move is different and the way they heal is different,” Hinkie said. “Every injury isn’t exactly the same. We were very excited to have Joel.”
That’s good – because it certainly didn’t look like Joel was excited to have Philadelphia. After the 76ers announced their selection, Embiid sat emotionless in front of a television.
“Stoic under pressure,” Hinkie said, laughing. “He’s a man’s man already. We were impressed. I chose to see the positive.”
In reality, the footage of Embiid was on delay, and the 7-0 Cameroonian was extremely happy to be taken third overall.
Now, he just needs to get healthy.
“We need to sort of really get a chance to spend more time with him and ask more questions,” Hinkie said. “A lot of the investigations you have to do prior to the draft become a bit of sleuthing. Once the player is yours, everyone’s incentives become aligned, which is let’s make him as healthy as possible, as fast as possible, and give him the best chance he can to have a long career.”
To be sure, Embiid is a risk, but he’s a calculated risk. And if he stays healthy, he could wind up being a steal – even at No 3.
“It’s scarce for sure,” Hinkie said of a big man’s ideal skill set – and one he sees in Embiid. “It’s a hard job to be really athletic, to have great instincts, to be wiling to sacrifice for your teammates all the time and defend the rim and get a rebounds and outlet it and run the floor again. It’s a challenging role. It’s tough to be a low-post guy in the NBA. We think he has as good a chance as anybody has in awhile (of being that impact player).”