Dec 21, 2013; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates after scoring during the second half of the game against the Georgetown Hoyas at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 86-64. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Could Joel Embiid's Injury Be Cleveland's Loss, Boston's Gain?

When Joel Embiid suffered a fracture in the navicular bone of his right foot the other day, did he happen to notice a grinning little leprechaun sprinting away from the scene of the crime?

Because as it turns out, Embiid’s injury could wind up being the sort of “luck o’ the Irish” that the Boston Celtics have been waiting for leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers and other teams in the draft’s top five apparently unwilling to use a pick on a player with a history of injuries, reports have surfaced that the Boston Celtics may be the beneficiaries of Embiid’s injury:

The news of Joel Embiid’s foot injury Thursday was devastating, first and foremost, for Embiid himself. The stress fracture to the navicular bone in the 20-year-old’s right foot could cost him several months off the court, not to mention a fall in his draft stock.

Yet while other teams run away and hide from the injury-plagued big man, the Boston Celtics might be taking a closer look.

The Celtics will give “serious thought” to trading up from their No. 6 slot to select Embiid in the 2014 NBA draft next week, A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE reports, citing sources. The possibility that Embiid now could be available beyond the top three picks adds considerable intrigue to the Celtics’ draft-night plans.

There can be little doubt that the Cavs’ will pass on Embiid, having skipped over the University of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel last season because he was still recovering from a knee injury.  And with one NBA GM telling the Sporting News, “You can’t use a Top 5 pick. I think there are too many other good options there to think about using the pick on one who has these injury problems,” it stands to reason that the Boston Celtics will have a tough decision on their hands come draft night.

 Boston needs a rim-protector, and there is no doubt that a healthy Joel Embiid could give the Celtics their best center since Robert Parish.  Should Danny Ainge take what would be considered by many to be a serious gamble on the Cameroonian big man?

 According to Chris Mannix over at, statistics suggest that Embiid will be able to recover from the surgery . . . but the timetable for his return is less than optimal:


Of course, it should be noted that both Yao Ming and Bill Walton suffered fractures of the navicular bone, and in both of their cases these injuries factored into their reitrements.  (Cleveland’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas also experienced such a fracture, but it was early in his career and did not result in any long-term negative effects.)

From what I have read, this sort of injury is not a death-sentence for a player as young as Embiid.  The bone should heal completely, and if anyone can afford to wait 9-12 months for a player with Embiid’s skill set to recover, it is the rebuilding Boston Celtics.

Still, there were already some red flags about Embiid’s back injury that caused him to miss both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Doesn’t it seem like a team would have to be extremely desperate to use a top-ten pick on this kid?

It sure does to me.   There are other holes the Boston Celtics need to fill, and besides, as I have already shown in my Boston Celtics Center Solutions series, there are experienced big men for sale who would provide a nice upgrade at the center position.  Boston should not consider Embiid’s injury and subsequent downgrade in his stock the luck of the Irish; instead, it’s Fool’s Gold, buyer beware.  Not do not buy this move, Danny Ainge!

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Tags: Boston Celtics Joel Embiid NBA Draft

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