The 2014 NBA Draft had a distinct top 3: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid. Wiggins and Parker were considered the leading candidates for the no.1 position at the begging of the season, but then Joel Embiid stepped on to the stage. He stole the spotlight from his Kansas teammate Wiggins and became the presumptive no.1 pick. It was considered a done deal until Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his back.
The no.1 pick belonged to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were still recovering from LeBron leaving for Miami. They had Kyrie Irving and not much else to show. This was their third no.1 in the last four years, and after Anthony Bennet fiasco, they needed a win. Their new GM, David Griffin, had only one question – did the back heal?
The Cavs had Vitaly Potapenko, a 6’10” assistant coach and former NBA player working out with Embiid. It was no surprise Embiid was quicker than the 39-year-old Potapenko, but when they saw Embiid throwing the 275-pound Potapenko “around like a rag doll,” it was all they needed to see. The workout ended with some shooting, and Embiid’s character came through.
“How could you not draft me No. 1?” he shouted at Griffin.via Yaron Weitzman, BR
He swished another.
“Look how good I am!”
Another ripped through the net.
“You need me, Griff!”
A fourth make.
“Come on, Griff, you gotta draft me!”
“I’m so good!”
“I gotta be No. 1!”
“How can you not take me?”
Everyone in the gym smiled. After the workout, the Cavs decision-makers had dinner with Embiid, in which he impressed them even more. They had their guy. The only thing left was the physical. Will the doctor approve that the back injury was in the past? As it turned out, the back wouldn’t be the issue.
A week before the workout, Bismarck Biyombo landed on Embiid’s foot in a workout. There was some pain, but nothing that would raise concerns. After his stellar day with the Cavs, Embiid woke up in pain. He couldn’t walk. The physical showed Embiid had a stress fracture in his foot. The Cavs couldn’t afford to wait for him and had to move on. They went with Andrew Wiggins.
Talk about revolving doors. If Biyombo doesn’t land on Embiid’s foot, he goes to Cleveland. Do the Cavs trade him for Love to get LeBron back that summer? Maybe not, and LeBron stays in Miami. If they do, Embiid is in Minessota, the 76ers draft Wiggins and who knows what happens next.