Coming into the 2013-14 NCAA basketball season there was one freshman the media, scouts, and fans were enthralled with; Andrew Wiggins of Kansas.
Wiggins has had a productive season so far, but his Jayhawk big man Joel Embiid has taken over as the man the country is talking about.
Embiid can flat out be scary good. He is a 7’0″, 250 pound post player with moves that look like he has been doing them for years. He is both fluid and under control with every step he takes.
Another major thing about Embiid is he has only been playing the game seriously for two years… and he’s already doing this.
The catch, the footwork, the finish. All make you wonder what he will be able to do in two more years.
When he makes a clean catch on the offensive end, he will score on you every single time unless you constantly send a double team, which teams have started to do. On Monday, against eighth ranked Iowa State, Embiid showed his basketball iq is improving as well.
The Cyclones sent numerous double teams, and Embiid either went quick to the rim and finished strong or took two dribbles away from the double and passed to the open man. He showed the total package scoring 16 points to go with nine rebounds and five blocks.
On the defensive end, you can tell why GM’s absolutely are ready to spend their first round pick on the Cameroon native. He alters and blocks so many shots and his timing is precise. He moves his feet very well for a big man and waits for shooters to commit to going up with the ball for him to contest. On rebounds he keeps the ball high and makes the right outlet pass to get the Jayhawks out into the open court, where his teammates (like Wiggins) flourish. One of his best attributes are his hands. He has no problem offensively catching a bad pass, and on the defensive side he averages a little less than 1 steal per outing.
One thing Embiid needs to watch is his temper. It’s always good to have a big man who isn’t soft and wants to bang, but Embiid was recently tossed from a game against rival Kansas State for a flagrant-2 blow to the face. The next game against the Cyclones, he received a flagrant-1 foul, this time for getting tangled up.
Now we know that Embiid is a competitive guy, and if I am an NBA team I love this. You don’t want a player that is just going to coast through games, you want a winner. If Embiid can display his emotion in another way, maybe through dunking on his opponent instead of hitting them, you have your guy for the future.
Most big men at this level have a glaring weakness. Most can’t shoot the ball from distance, for example. Embiid hit a 3-pointer against the Wildcats, and an 18-footer. Cyclones coach Frank Hoiberg called Embiid, “…the best player in the nation.”
The rate he is improving at is something we have never seen before from a big man this young.
The Jayhawks have an important match-up this Saturday against Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State. You have three guys in this game that can/ will go top five; Embiid, Wiggins and Smart.
I will be covering the other two at a later date, but if the Lakers have the first pick come June… Embiid should be their guy.
If you missed our previous analysis of UCLA’s Zach LaVine, be sure to check that out too.
NBA Draft Profile: DANTE EXUM