Everyone would probably understand if the Cleveland Cavaliers took a pass on Joel Embiid. The Cavs own the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft and Embiid has a broken foot.
In fact, Embiid just underwent surgery on the foot Friday. The outcome: Two screws in the navicular bone and a likely waiting period of four-to-six months for the 7-footer from Kansas.
Embiid was among those being considered by the Cavs (along with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker), and may have been the frontrunner before the injury was discovered. But there is no way the Cavs can draft him now, right?
"Right," said a Western Conference executive. "It’s too big of a risk. Way too big."
The exec may have a point. Initial concerns about Embiid centered on a stress fracture in his back — an injury that caused him to miss the final several weeks of the college season, including the NCAA tournament.
"The back thing wouldn’t have bothered me as much, to be quite honest," the exec said. "But big men and bad feet are a bad combination. And big men with two injury concerns (back and foot) are a worse combination. No way (the Cavs) take him. It costs people money and jobs."
That simple? Not so fast, said a Western Conference coach.
"(Embiid) is a top-three overall talent," the coach said. "He’s the best big in the draft. I wouldn’t rule him out."
The coach said it’s all about being patient — that Embiid is the type of franchise-changing big man who could be worth the wait.
"Whichever NBA team drafts him will allow him to fully recover before he suits up," the coach said. "So what if it means him missing summer-league games and training camp? A dominant force is a dominant force."
But even if Embiid becomes that type of monster in the middle, the exec said the Cavs would never be faulted for passing on him.
"First, if you’re (Cavs general manager David) Griffin, you already have Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and Anthony Bennett, who have all been injured more than enough," the exec said. "Can you really go into the season and live with the fact you’re adding another injury-prone type to the list? That’d be a really tough sell."
Then there’s the whole matter of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins — two prospects who are expected to be darn good NBA players in their own right.
"How do you draft Embiid and his bad foot when you have two guys like (Parker and Wiggins) sitting there?" said the exec. "If you take an injury-prone big man to pass on a healthy and talented wing … you could really set the franchise back. The Cavs want to start winning. Draft the healthy guy."
The exec added he wouldn’t take Embiid before the sixth pick. "There’s too much talent in this draft to justify it," he said.
But the coach said he would still consider Embiid at No. 1. "If I think he’s the next David Robinson or Hakeem (Olajuwon), I’d take that chance," he said.
So what do the Cavs do?
"The decision is easy," the exec insisted. "No one can tell me they’d feel confident picking Embiid, and no one will fault them when they don’t."