Big(s) Flaws

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The Inexact Science of Drafting Big Men

Today, the Philadelphia 76ers announced that centre Joel Embiid will be heading, once again, under the knife, needing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. After being drafted third overall just three seasons ago, Embiid only has 31-NBA games under his belt, for which he has earned approximately $13-million.

Can anyone affirm that Embiid will eventually be healthy? Has he given anyone the slightest glimpse of hope for sustained future health not only over the span of just a single season, but prolonged health and effectiveness?

Usually when players attack the rim and fall to the floor after absorbing contact, you expect them to get right back up and head to the free throw line, at least I do, because 95% of the time that is exactly the case. When Joel Embiid falls down, from personal experience of watching the guy play, my heart immediately tightens.

As a basketball fan, I cheer for the guys who put in the work to be the best in the world at the game they love. No one wants anyone to get seriously hurt, but yet when Embiid falls, I and I am sure many others have a far different feeling in their gut then when say a Cory Joseph or a Kemba Walker hits the deck.

The Philadelphia 76ers are in yet another jam.

A team filled with high upside prospects, but then again, that is exactly what they are – prospects. Can you afford to cut ties with Embiid after what he has done for the franchise in a small 31-game sample size this season? He has given the Sixers personality and the Sixers’ faithfuls hope. Business-wise, he sells the tickets for what would otherwise be a brutal team to watch.

In the MLB or the NHL, players can all develop in the minors. In the NBA, when you are a young team, you cannot send half your active roster to the D-League. You have to go through the trials and tribulations of developing your guys on a level of basketball where winning supersedes all.

Unfortunately, when a team begins the rebuilding phase, they must be very careful with who they draft, more so, when it comes to big men.

Fact is, the safe bet is always grabbing a top guard over a top big man. Why? Because little guards were not blessed with size so they had to compensate with an all-around skill set, explosiveness, and agility. Looking back at even the past decade of drafts, there is huge difference in success when comparing the first guard taken in a draft to the first big man picked.

Draft Picks by Size

While granted there have been great big man taken high, there have been far more bigs that didn’t quite pan out or just did not live up to their high pick status. Glance over to the guards and more often than not, guards find their niche in the league, with far less injury risk.

So did the Sixers go about their rebuilding process the wrong way? Picking high on the likes of Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, while not focusing on what the league really is centred around – shooters and explosive guards who can push the ball, orchestrate an offence and really put everything together.

This by no means is to say that the stock put into big men will drop, but when rebuilding teams, it may be time to realize what the NBA is really built around. What successful teams focus on first, Maybe the Embiid headache that the Sixers will never stop dealing with will make other teams think twice.

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