NBA Position: C
General Information: 20 year old freshman, played at Kansas. From Yaounde, Cameroon
Measurables: 7'0", 250 lbs, 7'5" wingspan
2013-14 Season Statistics: 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, .9 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 2.4 TPG (23.1 Minutes per contest) - 62.6% FG, 68.5% FT, 65.5% TSP
Summary: Embiid undoubtedly has all the tools, physical gifts and basic skills that one wants in an elite big man. He stands a full seven feet with insane length (a 7'5 wingspan) and elite athleticism. Embiid's got amazing footwork, a rare treat for a big man, and has garnished compared to Hakeem Olajuwon due to his shot-blocking ability and offensive fundamentals. He has the highest ceiling in the class, and that includes Andrew Wiggins.
That said, he is still raw as a big man. I predict he will be considered a "disappointment" in his first seasons in the NBA due to overhyped instant expectations. It will be a few years before he hits his stride, but he should be one of the first two players selected.
Offensive Breakdown: For all his potential as a shotblocker, the most exciting thing about Embiid was his improvement in the post over the season. He developed a handful of nice moves with his back-to-the-basket, and went from being raw (even for the college game) to a dependable scorer on most nights. With his excellent footwork and athleticism, he has the fluidity to pull off many moves under the basket. He doesn't have a go-to move yet, and nothing in his offensive arsenal is NBA ready, but the potential is excellent.
He showed enough of a mid-range game to tease scouts; 30% of his shots were two-point jumpers, and he made 36% of them. Given a few years and the right coaching, he could become a capable shooter to help spread the floor. This would do wonders for his scoring ability; he's quick enough off his feet that if defenders had to stick with him on the perimeter, he'd be a beast at attacking the basket. We saw that mid-range development with Anthony Davis this season, and it turned Davis from a mostly back-to-the-basket scorer into a dual threat.
Embiid will not have instant success offensively in the NBA. He's well equipped for the future, and has shown improvement over the season. But he still has a lot of developing to do before he's a threat to score on NBA centers. He's leaving a college league where he was 3-4 inches taller most of his opponents; in the pros, he'll go up against guys his height on a nightly basis. He has fantastic potential, but he still very much an offensive project.
Defensive Breakdown: While he still needs to add more bulk to his frame, Embiid has great fundamentals for post defense. He keeps himself low enough on the block to keep from getting posted up, and he's tough enough to battle it out with strong opponents. His awareness in the post is excellent, and he reacts quickly as a help defender. Embiid will need to work on silly defensive fouls (he earned 3.4 fouls a contest), but he got better as the season went on.
His footspeed and length will help make him a good perimeter defender, and in a league where big men are roaming further and further from the basket, that's a great skill. That said, he is not a good perimeter defender yet. Against Baylor's Isaiah Austin, Embiid stuck to the post and didn't hone out on Austin, a more-than-capable three point shooter. His defensive awareness and decision making as a whole needs continued improvement, but he isn't as raw as some of the big men prospects (Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Jusuf Nurkic all lack his defense IQ).
Embiid's most exciting defensive skill is his shotblocking, and he finished with 2.6 blocks a contest and a block rate of 11.6% (second highest in the class behind Austin). He's got good timing and elite extension, but shot fakes constantly tricked him into jumping early. He's not afraid to attack an opponent when needed, and his 7'5 frame will always be a disruptive force, even if he doesn't block the shot.
Rebounding will be a key point for Embiid going forward. He's a capable rebounder and has good awareness of where the ball will end up, and his 27.3% defensive rebounding rate was the highest in the class (tied with Noah Vonleh). Things will be different when he's trying to rebound against NBA length. As he bulks up further and gets his timing down more, he'll become a great rebounder, but it will take time.
Intangibles: Embiid has all the tools to become a top NBA center, and given his improvement over the past season, it looks like he has the work ethic and determination needed as well. That said, I believe fans are expecting him to be far more polished in his rookie season then he will be. While his teammate Andrew Wiggins has been branded as a "project superstar", I think the title fits Embiid better. He has significant improvements that he'll need to make once he's playing against 6'11-7'0 opponents on every night.
A report on Embiid cannot be done without discussing his back injury, which kept him out of Kansas' final six games and all of their NCAA Tournament contests. It is likely that only Cleveland and Milwaukee will get to see any medical reports/perform examinations on Embiid. While back injuries are concerning, especially on a big man, I am not a doctor and can only make assumptions based on the reports. Until something comes out that says otherwise, his back injury is not a dealbreaker. On potential alone, he remains No. 2 on my draft board (behind Wiggins).
At the bottom of this article, DraftExpress has a wonderful new video breakdown of Embiid in his best individual matchups of the season; Isaiah Austin of Baylor, Patric Young of Florida, and Cameron Ridley of Texas. Make sure to check it out-he averaged 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 3.4 fouls in those games while shooting 44.1% from the field.
Fit with Sacramento: It's cruel to consider Embiid with Cousins at this point. Embiid would give the Kings a project center, but one who has the potential to be an elite shotblocker, a great defender and a skilled offensive weapon. Embiid is the best fit for Cousins who isn't named Anthony Davis or Serge Ibaka.
But unless Cleveland or Milwaukee find out Embiid's lower back bones are made of pretzels, and THEN release those reports to the other teams, Embiid has zero chance of becoming a King. There are other prospects in the class who'd fit well with Cousins-Aaron Gordon and Noah Vonleh chief among them-but an Embiid/Cousins duo is a heavenly match that the basketball gods decided was too intimidating to release on the universe.