WALTHAM — Joel Embiid was never expected to be available by the Celtics’ sixth overall pick in the June 26 draft. They expected the Kansas center to be gone by then, likely taken No. 1, and certainly gone by No. 3.
Then Thursday it was learned that Embiid will have surgery Friday for a stress fracture in his right foot.
All of the sudden, the Celtics are in a curious position about a player who could fall in the draft, though it’s unclear how far.
“[Injuries] are always concerns, especially when it’s a player like [Embiid] that we won’t be able to have in [and] evaluate to really get the risks from our medical staff,” Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said after draft workouts on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but you’re always trying to weigh short term and long term. We try to think long term that, if a guy has to miss a couple months, that shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he’s going to be the best player long term.”
The Celtics have had two players slide to them in part because of injury concerns — Avery Bradley in 2010 and Jared Sullinger in 2012. Both panned out.
But league sources said that even with the injury, they didn’t expect Embiid to fall past the third overall pick. Still, his injury adds uncertainty at the top of the draft, which isn’t necessarily unusual.
“Even though we all feel like we all know what order it’s going to go in this time of year, no one had Anthony Bennett No. 1 last year,” Ainge said. “No team is going to tell us the truth. No agent is going to tell us the truth. We try to be prepared for any eventuality.”
That includes preparing for numerous scenarios.
“Not just draft board, but also trades,” Ainge said. “Because, what if there are a certain number of guys we really like and they’re all off the board? At that point, do we trade, and for whom? We go through all those exercises.”
League sources raised questions about Embiid’s injury, especially after he recently worked out for the Cavaliers, who have the No. 1 pick, and reportedly passed their medical tests.
“From my understanding, this kid just doesn’t want to work out anymore,” said one league source. “He doesn’t want to work out for Milwaukee or Philadelphia.”
Embiid was scheduled to work out for the Bucks, who have the No. 2 pick, later this week.
How does the Celtics’ draft board take shape? Through endless debates between members of their relatively small front office, which includes president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Austin Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, director of scouting Dave Lewin, and a couple of other staffers.
“I say we do lists, kind of informally, all the time throughout the year,” Austin Ainge said. “We’ll just be sitting there, saying, ‘Well, all right. Let’s put them in order.’ I think it’s easiest for us to do it right now by position. It’s hard to compare across positions. This week, as we get closer to the draft, we start [focusing on one overall ranking] because sometimes the fifth-best point guard is better than the second-best shooting guard. But it’s easier by position for us. I think it’s harder when you start doing a total list.”
The Celtics use various methods and models — “a million different things,” Ainge said.
He added, “But in the end, it’s Danny’s final call and we all offer opinions.”
Tuning it out
When asked how he responds to rumors this time of year, Austin Ainge said, “Ignore all of it. It’s all planted on purpose. Anyone who’s willing to talk, even off the record, this time of year has an agenda and is trying to accomplish something. We ignore absolutely all of it.” . . . The Celtics worked out Butler’s Khyle Marshall, who Brad Stevens coached in college. “He’s a good athlete, who has really gotten better,” Stevens said. “It was fun to have him through.”