Fantasy Player Profile: Joel Embiid PF/C

The NBA draft is quickly approaching and one of the top prospects is Joel Embiid. The seven foot center played at Kansas last year, but missed the last six games of the season because of a stress fracture in his back. Embiid eventually required surgery  on his back, which could lead to some teams at the top of the draft to pass on him come draft day, while causing many fantasy
owners left questioning whether they should as well. The freshman center averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks with a 62.6 FG% on 23 minutes per game last season for the Jayhawks. Those are solid numbers for versatile center, but how does that translate to the NBA level and what kind of production can fantasy owners expect?

First, let’s take a look at some previous top draft picks that compare to Embiid:

Pelicans Anthony Davis, PF/C:

Freshman Year at Kentucky: 32 MPG, 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and an astronomical 4.7 blocks per game

NBA Rookie Season: 29 MPG, 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks with a 51.6 FG% in 64 GP.

“The Guardian” (for the way he guards the paint and rim) had a solid rookie season, but was also one of the best college freshman in a long time. His 4.7 blocks per game at the college level did not translate during his rookie season because it took him some time to learn the NBA game. Now he has developed into the best shot blocker in the NBA.  Embiid is nowhere near the same kind of shot blocker A.D. is and is nowhere near the same kind of talent. Embiid is a project that has massive potential, something we hear a lot about players that never make it in the NBA, but doesn’t have the same kind of shot blocking ability The Guardian has. Davis has dealt with multiple injuries throughout his short NBA career(a badly sprained ankle and broken bone in the wrist), but those injuries don’t derail a players career like multiple back injuries does and thats what scares me the most about Embiid. Back injuries have a way of repeating themselves. However, he does have a decent shot that will improve with more in time in the NBA, but he is no guardian of the rim and his shot blocking numbers will hover around one for his rookie season. After two seasons in the NBA, Anthony Davis has proven he could be a top 5 overall fantasy players, something I do not see happening with Embiid.

Pistons Andre Drummond, C:

Freshman Year at Connecticut: 54 FG%, 10 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks, 28 MPG

Rookie Season: 61 FG%, 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds,1 steal, 1.6 blocks, 21 MPG, 60 GP

Those freshman numbers are very similar to Embiid's, but Drummond is also a terrible shooter who relies on his points close to the basket and can’t hit a free throw if his life depended on it. On the other hand, Embiid can shoot the ball (shot 69% from the free throw line) and has better all around offensive game than Drummond. Embiid is not as physical as Drummond and will not match his ridiculous rebounding numbers (in his second season as a pro), but will score more points and offers higher upside on the offensive end of the court. This will lead to him scoring close to the same amount of points per game in his rookie season, but his rebounding numbers will take a hit. A concern that fantasy owners didn’t take into account with Drummond was the fact he was going to be stuck behind Jason Maxiel (that is not an exaggeration, Maxiel started all but 11 games for the Pistons that season) for his rookie season. The same thing can happen to Embiid as the Cavaliers, who have the #1 overall pick, have power forward Tristan Thompson, another project in center Tyler Zeller, and a team option for the oft-injured, stud rebounding center, Anderson Varejao that they will likely pickup. The Bucks have invested a lot in PF/C’s John Henson and Larry Sanders, so there would be little opportunity for Embiid to get significant playing time. Philadelphia traded for Nerlens Noel and have Thaddeus Young, so I don’t believe they would draft Embiid. Orlando seems like the logical choice as they could play him next to Nikola Vucevic and don’t plan on winning next season. No matter where he is selected, Embiid will have to battle a more proven player for playing time.

Heat Greg Oden, C:

Freshman Year at Ohio State: 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds,3.3 blocks 61.1 FG%, 32 GP

Rookie Season: nine points, seven rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 56.4 FG%, 61 GP

Oden dominated college basketball during his freshman year by leading the Buckeyes to the final game of the NCAA Championship. He also had red flags going into the draft and we all know how that turned out. Embiid has the same type of red flags, but looks to be 100% healthy headed into the season and teams have learned to be extra cautious with players they invest a lot in. Embiid will play more games than Oden in his rookie season, but will have limited minutes per game.

Final Fantasy Forecast:

These big fellas take time to develop and are not always guaranteed playing time. They get into foul trouble, get overpowered, and don’t score a lot of points right of the bat. Also, Embiid is going to be selected by a bad team that could potentially make the playoffs, but that is about it. So they are going to be extremely cautious with him by not allowing him to play big minutes and will sit him anytime he gets a minor injury.

Overall, I do not see Joel Embiid being a major fantasy contributor this upcoming season and will be over drafted in all non-dynasty leagues. I predict he will average 10 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1 block per game next season and will only play 50-60 games. Those numbers would be close to what Amir Johnson, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Hill produced. All three of those players were fringe fantasy players that did not crack the top 100 overall rankings at the end of the season. Expect him to breakout in his second year as pro, just like some of the other names I mentioned above, but he will struggle throughout his rookie season. Dynasty owners looking to win this season should pass on Embiid as their #1 overall rookie player, but have no problem taking him that high if I was rebuilding for the future and wanted the best rebounder in the draft. With that said, he is also has the greatest risk for failure because of his injury concerns. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Marcus Smart, could be starters in the NBA, not just in the long term, but this season as well. Embiid is a high risk/high reward player that will have a mediocre rookie season that will bloom into a solid career as long as he can stay healthy. Dynasty owners should invest in him, but pass on him in redraft leagues because his draft value will be high and will not return value.

Make sure to checkout the mock draft Michael Pichan (@FantasyNomad) and I put together for the NBA draft.