BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics thought their chances of landing Joel Embiid in the 2014 NBA Draft came and went during the draft lottery back in May when it was revealed the team would have the sixth overall pick. Embiid had been projected to go in the top three picks of the draft.
The draft landscape has shifted considerably in the past few days with the revelation that the top-ranked Kansas prospect has a fractured right foot that could take up to six months to fully heal. Embiid underwent foot surgery Friday and had two pins placed in his right foot.
Now with long-term questions swirling around whether Embiid's 7-foot frame will be able to handle the wear and tear of an NBA career, the big man's stock is falling in a hurry. Multiple draft experts, including Chad Ford of ESPN.com, believe that Embiid could fall as low as No. 6 six in the draft, giving the Celtics an outside opportunity of landing a potential franchise building block.
If Embiid is available for Boston, the question about whether Danny Ainge will pull the trigger might not just come down to Embiid's talent though. Instead, the Celtics director of player personnel noted that the team's medical staff have to do their best to judge whether Embiid's long-term prognosis is worthy of the team using the sixth pick on him. Whether the team will receive Embiid's medical information, which the big man is not obligated to share with any team, is a complicating factor in the matter.
"I think we all want to know what it is," Ainge said Saturday of Embiid's medical information. "Even when you have a lot of information, sometimes it's still just a best guess. I'm not sure what the conclusions will be by [our doctors]. As it was with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger when we drafted them, the medical staffs all had different opinions for every team. It's hard to predict."
Bradley was battling an ankle injury when he was drafted and that injury forced him to miss part of his rookie season. Sullinger had well-documented back woes before the 2012 NBA Draft and those ailments caused him to miss the final 30 games of his rookie year for surgery. Ainge spoke about how the team decided to select those guys despite the risks they presented.
"Those two guys we were able to have [information]," Ainge said. Avery we had in (to workout). With Jared we (didn't have him in). We were emailed and sent (medical reports.) It's different. You just do the best you can."
The Celtics medical staff hasn't always been so optimistic about the future health of college stars, as Ainge pointed out some key players the team elected to stay away from.
"It's case by case," Ainge explained. "There has been many, many guys we've passed on. Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden. Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy. He ended up having some very good years. That may or may not have been the right decision, it ended up costing them a lot of money in the end, but he did give them a great few years. There's a few we have taken a chance on, there have been many, many others we've decided not to (take) a chance on."
So will Boston pull the trigger on Embiid, even if the team doesn't have all the information they need on the big man?
"It's quite a gamble. I don't know. We'll see," Ainge said.
Past history shows that Danny Ainge isn't afraid to take a chance. We'll find out Thursday whether the team's medical staff will caution him against rolling the dice on the Kansas center.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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