Can you imagine Joel Embiid in Cleveland?
In his book Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports, Yaron Weitzman details just how close Embiid was to being taken first overall in the 2014 NBA draft.
Weitzman describes an Embiid pre-draft workout with the Cavs that showcased strength, skill and the big man’s signature bravado. Embiid implored then-Cavs GM David Griffin to take him No. 1 as he swished three-pointer after three-pointer, according to Weitzman.
Smiles swept across the faces of Griffin and the rest of the Cavaliers brain trust. Griffin would later tell people that it was the best workout he'd ever seen. "He was like the second coming of Hakeem," he'd say. His mind was made. "He told us there he was taking Joel No. 1," said Francois Nyam, one of Embiid's agents at the time.
The next morning, Embiid woke up with pain in his right foot, which was later revealed to be a fractured navicular bone.
The Cavs’ doctors “wouldn’t give [Griffin] the green light," and Cleveland ultimately went with Andrew Wiggins. As for the Bucks, who ended up selecting Jabari Parker at No. 2, Embiid was not interested.
Weitzman writes that Embiid told Nyam of Milwaukee, “That place is corny.”
Though Embiid wanted to fall to the Lakers at No. 7, Weitzman says he “bought in” to the Sixers, who took him at No. 3, waited two seasons for an injured Embiid and, with Sam Hinkie no longer in the picture, eventually watched him become a three-time All-Star.
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