Should the Lakers gamble on Joel Embiid?


News broke Thursday morning that possible No. 1 pick Joel Embiid needed surgery on his right foot to repair a stress fracture, putting his status as a top prospect in jeopardy.

Though the former Kansas Jayhawk is doing his best to keep a positive attitude, this isn’t the ‘break’ Embiid needs and it may cause him to fall out of the top three. This news may be just what the Lakers front office wants to hear, but not what the fans want to see. With a successful history of big men, the Lakers may feel inclined to select Embiid if he is there at No. 7, but should they take this gamble?

Teams are now reluctant to take on a big man with injury histoy after seeing what the  Portland Trail Blazers went through with Greg Oden for a number of years. For the Lakers, the thought of Embiid sitting there at No. 7 is worth drooling over, but can also derail any chance of building a team due to his list of injuries. Embiid may be a game changer, but his body is already showing signs that it may not let him live up to that hype.

That is not what the Lakers need at this point. They need someone who will come in and make an immediate impact.

The question now is should the Lakers take him if he’s there. If the Lakers are smart and actually want to bounce back, they should stay clear of Embiid and select another player who will be effective right away; someone like Marcus Smart ,Noah Vonleh, or Julius Randle. On the flip side, taking Embiid and being patient with his recovery from surgery could pay off in the long run. He may prove everyone wrong and have a great career. That is the key in deciding whether Embiid is the right choice for the Lakers, at this point.

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The Lakers have to get this pick right. If they truly want to be competitive in the next two years, taking Embiid would be a mistake at this point with his already-long list of injuries. Sure he has the talent and the potential to be a dominating big man and the face of the franchise, but the history of big men coming out of college with injuries is staring him in the face. It’s sad that he’s being compared to Greg Oden, but that’s the clear reality of the situation.

If the Lakers do in fact take Embiid, they are gambling on his ability to stay healthy. In the last two years, the Lakers haven’t been the healthiest of teams. A guy like Embiid could keep them in that frustrating situation.

The chances of Joel Embiid staying healthy for the duration of his NBA career as of now are pretty slim. He’s starting off with foot surgery! Big men who injure their feet, ankles, back, and knees are never going to be dominating game changers. Sure they can still be effective, but not dominating.

Andrew Bynum has spent most of the last two seasons in street clothes, despite getting paid millions by the 76ers, Cavs and Pacers. Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers gambled on Andrew Bynum the last time they were in the lottery. Despite winning two titles with the team, Bynum’s body broke down and he’s now just bouncing around the league. Bynum played only one full 82-game season with the Lakers, and was a hop, skip, and a jump from a devastating injury every year.  In retrospect, Bynum and Embiid are completely different players, but the Lakers would be risking a repeat of countless injuries to their big man again if they tab Embiid as their guy.

Gambling is what the Lakers have always been known for, but this potential gamble could really hurt them for a long time. They are in no position to gamble this 7th pick because it’s the only asset they have right now. It’s safe to say that the Lakers could take someone else, and who knows, maybe Embiid doesn’t slip past the top 6.

Draft day will be an interesting one for every team involved, and will have every NBA fan watching. The draft is meant to help struggling teams with youthful talent and promise, and the Lakers front office must realize that. This is a critical draft for the Lakers, and taking gamble on a promising, but injured talent is too risky for a team with no clear direction or coach.

The Lakers should not take Joel Embiid, but then again this is the Lakers, a franchise that loves to gamble even when the chips are down with nowhere else to go. It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.