Kansas 7-footer Joel Embiid, one of the top prospects in the NBA Draft, had successful surgery Friday to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, with two screws being inserted into the navicular bone.
According to multiple reports, Embiid will miss 4-6 months to fully recover, meaning he will miss summer league and training camp.
Yet there are mixed feelings around the league about how Embiid’s health will affect his draft stock. Once thought to be a potential No. 1 pick, there’s a legitimate chance that Embiid could slide considerably, perhaps falling out of the top 10 or even the lottery.
“It’s a serious concern,” said one league source.
The Celtics, who have the sixth overall pick, are in an interesting position. Previously, it might have seemed Embiid wouldn’t be available by that point, but he easily could be now.
Because Embiid didn’t work out for the Celtics, their team doctors weren’t able to examine him, so they will need to gather more medical information, as will other teams in the coming days.
It’s important to point out that the Celtics have selected players before who had health concerns entering the draft, such as guard Avery Bradley in 2010 and forward Jared Sullinger in 2012.
League sources said there are multiple factors as to why Embiid might fall in the draft, including the fact that he has already suffered a stress fracture in his back that forced him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
Back issues have a tendency to be a lingering problem for NBA big men, as do foot injuries.
But another factor, the sources said, is the specific nature of his foot injury, which was discovered by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ doctors during a recent workout there.
The navicular bone, which is located at the top of the foot, is crucial for running and jumping, and injuries to that bone have hindered several notable NBA centers.
Yao Ming fractured that bone and it ultimately led to a forced retirement. Bill Walton also played sparingly for several seasons because of fractures to that bone.
Once teams, including the Celtics, gather more medical information on Embiid, their opinions could change. However, league sources said Cleveland, which has the top overall pick, is now leaning toward drafting either Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins, with Wiggins having an edge.
Still, some league sources pointed out that some teams might still draft Embiid in the top 10, even in the top five, because quality big men are simply hard to find.
“Someone will take him top 10,” said one league source. “The prognosis for a full recovery would really have to be in question for him not to be taken.”
One league source doubted that Embiid would fall out of the top 10. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” the source said.
Another league source said that because the draft is especially topheavy, featuring several quality players in the top 10 who are potential All-Star players, it just isn’t worth the risk to draft a young 7-footer who already has multiple injuries in areas that are known to be historically problematic for centers.