Nov 19, 2013; Lawrence, KS, USA; Iona Gaels guard A.J. English (5) shoots against Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid (21) and forward Perry Ellis (34) in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Cleveland Cavaliers should take Joel Embiid if they pick No. 1

In two out of the past three NBA Drafts, the Cleveland Cavaliers have beat the odds and won the lottery. This year, with just a 1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, odds are the Cavaliers won’t be picking first again. But if they do, whom would they take? Three RDE writers, who picked their player at random, will try to answer that question. In the third f three pieces, RDE’s Trevor Magnotti argues why Joel Embiid would be the right pick for the Cavaliers at number one. You can read Mike Schreiner argue in favor of Andrew Wiggins here and Chris Manning argue for Jabari Parker here.

In 2011, the Cavaliers passed on Jonas Valanciunas in order to draft Tristan Thompson fourth overall. In 2012, Cleveland passed on Andre Drummond in order to draft Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick. In 2013, the Cavaliers once again passed on a center with the top overall pick, drafting Anthony Bennett over Alex Len and Nerlens Noel. While not taking a center in each of these three drafts is defensible, you can’t neglect a position forever. The Cavs need a center, and if they received a top-three pick, they’d be faced with the opportunity to draft the top center available for the fourth straight year. This is certainly something that should be considered.

Joel Embiid, however, isn’t like the centers of drafts past. He’s a more finished product than Valanciunas or Drummond. He’s probably going to end up being the best two-way player of any center selected in the top ten in the past four years. [1]  And while there is some injury risk here with his back, his injury concerns are far less troublesome than Len’s ankles and Noel’s knee. While he’s a little raw still, a lot of what Embiid already excels at will be things that allow him to succeed at the NBA level while he works to refine his game. Embiid is an excellent rebounder on both ends, and has the quickness and agility to be an effective rim protector and pick-and-roll threat. He’s also developing some great range and post moves, with a gorgeous and quick spin move and improving hook shot. He’s a little turnover prone, and his decision-making isn’t quite there yet on either end, but Embiid will be able get there,[2] and can rely on his athleticism and raw skills to be quite effective at this level in the meantime.

For the Cavs, Embiid’s skill set fits exactly what they want to do on both ends. Defensively, Embiid should be able to defend well one-on-one in the post, and has great rim protection potential, a necessity given the issues the Cavs’ guards have. He would also help this conservative defense create a little bit of havoc in the form of blocks and steals, creating more transition opportunities. The Cavs love to keep opponents out of the paint, and someone like Embiid would be an excellent deterrent. Offensively, Embiid could develop into a strong pick-and-roll and transition finisher for the Cavs, and if they worked on developing his promising mid-range jumper, he could help space the floor for them as well. He would be a leak-stopper for this team, someone who can operate to fix the holes on this team that doomed them last season.

Embiid probably isn’t going to be a 20-point scorer or offensive machine at the NBA level. He is, however, a solid defensive prospect at the center position, and a defensive center is probably the Cavs’ biggest need. While Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker would be nice for their offensive firepower, a center that can play well on both ends would probably have a stronger impact on this team. Embiid is the pick that makes the most sense for the Cavs, and regardless of if the Cavs are picking first, second, or third, he’s the player I would want them to take.

[1]We’re not counting Anthony Davis as a center here, even though he plays a lot of five. He’s not a traditional center. He’s a mutant octopus/humanoid sent to destroy the NBA.

[2] Embiid has been playing basketball competitively for three years. Give him a little bit.

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