Detroit Pistons #DraftDreams: Joel Embiid



  • Measurables: 7-foot-0, 250 lbs, freshman center from Kansas
  • Key Stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game, 63 FG% and 69 FT%
  • Projected: Top three

Matters to No One But Me …

I know there are injury red flags. I know he doesn’t fill a need. But watch this Dream Shake and tell me you wouldn’t be all in on an Embiid-Drummond-Monroe frontcourt rotation:

Also worth loving: according to his Twitter page, his name is actually Joel-Hans Embiid. You’re telling me you wouldn’t love rooting for a guy named Joel-Hans?

Fits with the Pistons because …

Positionally speaking, he doesn’t. Until a new regime tells us otherwise, the Pistons appear committed to Drummond and Monroe as their two building blocks, which doesn’t leave an immediate opening for Embiid.

But Embiid does do something that neither current promising young big does — he defends. He was the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year, a great shot blocker and, most importantly, he has great footwork, timing and instincts. The Pistons hope Drummond, who is already arguably the league’s best rebounder and among the best shot blockers, becomes a game-changing defensive presence. But as we’ve seen this season, Drummond lacks the awareness and instincts on that end of the floor (as evidenced by his tendency to never meet a pump fake he won’t bite on). Those things should come to Drummond, who has proven to be hard-working and coachable.

Monroe doesn’t have the upside on defense that Drummond does, and he compounds the issue by also clearly lacking the timing, strength and footwork to excel as a one-on-one defender. He’s also had a longer period of time in the league to develop those skills with little improvement as a defender. Embiid is already clearly further along than both, and if the Pistons land in the top three and are truly committed to building a dominant defensive team, he’d merit consideration.

There are many other positives for Embiid — his per-minute rebounding and shot-blocking numbers were fantastic, his attitude and work ethic were praised at Kansas, he has a midrange game (which Monroe and Drummond also lack) and he can handle the ball well for a big (something Monroe has gotten better at and a skill that Drummond hasn’t shown that much). Despite getting on the NBA radar a little later than players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, Embiid has every bit the upside (if not more) than either of those more established prospects.

Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …

Along with positional fit question specific to the Pistons, the big red flag with Embiid is injury concerns. He didn’t play late in the season for Kansas due to a back injury. Deadpsin’s Regressing site took an in-depth look at Embiid’s injury if you’re interested in that sort of thing. If you’d like the condensed version: teams are understandably leery of young, possibly still growing, bigs who have injury problems because very team is terrified of being the next to use a top pick on the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden while the next Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant goes shortly after (sorry, Portland fans … I would dig for better examples, but yours are too illustrative to not use).

A team drafting Embiid first overall would have to be relatively secure feeling that, 1. his injury concerns aren’t going to be a long-term issue, and 2. that his upside is greater than that of Wiggins or Parker, the two other players most discussed as potential No. 1 picks.

Aside from the injury, Embiid does have to get much stronger to contend with NBA bigs. Oh, and the last time the Pistons picked a young center in the top three who struggled to drive a car, that did not turn out so well.

From the Experts

Chad Ford:

"However, a recent spate of back injuries has put his draft status in question. We won’t really know how it affects his draft stock until NBA doctors get a look at him during the pre-draft camp in Chicago in May.As a prospect, however, Embiid has so much going for him. He has elite NBA size, is a fluid athlete and has shown major improvements on the offensive end. He projects to be a big man who can score both with his back to the basket and on the perimeter. He’s also an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. The only real knock against him this season has been his relative inexperience and his back issues.If he gets a clean bill of health, Embiid will be back in the discussion as the No. 1 pick. If it’s a minor issue, he’s still probably a top-three pick. If it’s something more serious with longer ramifications, then his stock might slide out of the lottery."


"Embiid looks the part of a NBA center. Very new to the game of basketball, the Kansas commit has a limited feel for how to make his presence felt consistently, and doesn’t always know his limitations, but flashed some intriguing tools on both ends of the floor, even though he wasn’t at 100%. Knocking down a 20-foot jump shot, making a nifty move to score a left handed hook shot in the post, and putting in some impressive efforts on the offensive glass, Embiid has some unique skills for a player only beginning to pick up the nuances of the game.On the defensive end, Embiid is a talented shot-blocker who has the tools to become an excellent defender on the ball and rotating over from the weak-side down the road. The Basketball Without Borders product is a bit foul prone and could stand to be more aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim, but his timing was impeccable at certain moments in practice."