Bilas' Best: Top 30 draft prospects
Joel Embiid sits at No. 1 on Jay Bilas' list of 2014 NBA draft's best players
Every year, The Bilastrator puts forth his earth-quaking, career-making, heartbreaking "Best Available List." The Bilastrator does not have a Big Board or a board of any kind. It seems that everybody who is anybody has a "Big Board" these days. No, The Bilastrator has an old-school, but incredibly cool, list. On a worn, well-traveled yellow legal pad, The Bilastrator keeps a list of the best players available, irrespective of team need or where they may be drafted. The list order is based upon The Bilastrator's own eyes and impeccable basketball judgment, gleaned from hours upon hours of attending practices, workouts, camps, games and film study, not to mention analytics and conversations with people he trusts.
The 2014 NBA draft is the best, deepest and most intriguing draft in almost a decade. There is real talent available, but also some real risk and question marks with regard to many of the available players. Before Thursday, June 26, we have already had two major injuries, to Kansas big man Joel Embiid and Baylor big man Isaiah Austin, which may change the draft. Embiid was expected to be the top overall selection (and still might be) before suffering a stress fracture in his foot, and Austin was expected to be a late first-round or second-round pick before a physical examination detected Marfan syndrome and effectively ended his NBA career on the spot. Our thoughts are with Austin and his family, and while it is heartbreaking news for his basketball career, the good news is the condition was discovered before there was a disastrous outcome that threatened Austin's life.
While there is risk with Embiid, the injury is not one that gives pause to any of the orthopedic surgeons I have spoken to about it. If properly corrected, the injury is not expected to be a big deal long-term. If Embiid's back and foot check out, there seems little reason not to take the Jayhawks big man who screams Hakeem Olajuwon potential. If he falls, it will be a windfall for any team that has the chance to draft him. This draft has good talent and capable players throughout the first round, and several players in the second round who can and will make rosters and have long and very good NBA careers. Thursday night should be a lot of fun, as long as everybody leaves all Big Boards at home.
1. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid just oozes potential, and when compared to Hakeem Olajuwon as a freshman at Houston, Embiid compares favorably. Long, athletic and skilled, Embiid has great hands and feet, and is a solid rim protector and rebounder. Each time you see him, he has added something new to his game, and despite the evolution of the game, he is still valuable as a true center in the NBA. Unless a team of doctors tells me not to, I'd still take Embiid No. 1 overall. If healthy, he will be special.
To read Jay Bilas' complete ranking of the 30 best prospects available for the 2014 NBA draft, you must be an ESPN Insider.