The most fascinating — and perhaps risky — option available to the Cavaliers with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft visited Cleveland Clinic Courts on Wednesday. Whether or not the Cavs use the top pick on Kansas center Joel Embiid might be determined by what team doctors find in his back.
Embiid arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday and met with Cavs officials on Wednesday, a league source confirmed. It’s unclear how long Embiid’s visit will last, but it appears possible it could stretch into today as well.
Embiid is believed to be the first of the three major candidates to meet with Cavs officials, and this one just might be the most important of any draft candidate.
Cavs doctors will get a look at Embiid after the freshman’s season ended prematurely with a stress fracture in his back. Of the three players under consideration to go No. 1 — Embiid, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins — Embiid might have the highest ceiling, yet be the farthest away from reaching it.
He only began taking basketball seriously about three years ago, but his athletic ability, footwork and potential has drawn comparisons to hall of famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
“To see the agility, the strength, the movements and the confidence, I see a very similar athlete to me,” Olajuwon told the New York Times in March. “He’s a big guy who plays like a small guy. His movement is graceful. He’s beautiful to watch — the timing, the rhythm and the footwork. His future is bright.”
Embiid did not attend the NBA’s predraft camp last month in Chicago, which prevented teams from getting to meet with him and look at his medical records. Since his season ended prematurely with the back injury, plenty of questions about his health have loomed since early March.
But Embiid competed in a private workout for NBA personnel late last month in Los Angeles. Three talent evaluators who watched the workout came away impressed. He moved fluidly and showed no ill-effects from the stress fracture, all three agreed, and declared him their top prospect in this draft.
One talent evaluator, who does not work for the Cavs, believed Embiid fits well alongside Cavs bigs Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett.
But he is raw, will take time to reach his immense ceiling and the back injury is certainly a concern.
Embiid grew up playing on soccer fields and volleyball courts in Cameroon. He didn’t take basketball seriously until he grew to 6 feet, 10 inches a few years ago.
He averaged 11.2 points, ranked second in the Big 12 in blocks and sixth in rebounds when the stress fracture ended his season on March 1.
“Having fun in Cleveland,” Embiid wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday night, while posting a picture of a Cavs T-shirt.
The Cavs are balancing their draft search with their coaching search. After visiting with Mark Price on Tuesday, the Cavs are bringing back Los Angeles Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry for a second interview on Friday, Yahoo Sports reported. This time, owner Dan Gilbert will be included in the interview process.
One source with knowledge of the Cavs’ search, speaking on condition of anonymity because they aren’t making the search public, estimated the team has contacted about 11 coaching candidates. Three are expected to return for second interviews. Gentry is the first, and fellow Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue is also expected to receive a second interview.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.