Joel Embiid Headed to the NBA: What Does Kansas Do Next?

Posted by Taylor Erickson on April 9th, 2014

Joel Embiid officially declared his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Embiid is projected as a top three pick in the upcoming draft despite missing seven games at the end of this season because of a stress fracture in his lower back. Given how rare it is for big men to come along with a demonstrated ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, it should come as no shock that the seven-footer from Cameroon has decided to leave Kansas after just one abbreviated season.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

The most optimistic Kansas fans, however, were holding out hope that Embiid’s comments to ESPN earlier this year would convince him to stick around in Lawrence for another season. In that January article, Embiid talked about studying other talented big men and cited how many years they stayed in school as a contributing factor to become the best at his position one day. But make no mistake about it, the game isn’t the same as when Olajuwon, Duncan, and Shaq were dominating college campuses. Players now more than ever are drafted on potential, and in Embiid’s case, he has it in spades. In the end, this announcement comes down to making a sensible business decision, and capitalizing on the opportunity to make life-changing money — something that could be significantly hindered if he were to return to campus and experience another year of back problems.

Time will tell as to just how good Embiid will become. He oozes so much outstanding potential, but he’s got a long way to go to eventually merit mention with the likes of the all-time greats in the post. If there’s one complaint to be had regarding Embiid’s decision, it should be that as college basketball fans we didn’t get a full season because of the untimely injury that kept him out of the lineup down the stretch. It leaves us with the obvious and impossible-to-answer question of what if? How would his presence have impacted the rest of college basketball in March? Would Kansas have made a run deeper into the NCAA Tournament, or would suspect guard play have eventually ended their run? These are all questions to which we’ll never know the answers.

Where Embiid will be drafted in June will depend on team needs as well as long-term evaluations of his health, but in the meantime, the question for Kansas now becomes whether Bill Self will be able to sign another player to fill the void. The Jayhawks certainly won’t be hurting inside with returning forward Perry Ellis along with the addition of top-five recruit Cliff Alexander, but the top remaining prospect available, Bedford, Texas center Myles Turner, would fit nicely into Self’s scheme. Turner has the ability to act as a rim protector, and he can stretch the floor with an ability to make shots away from the basket. Many recruiting pundits believe that Kansas is near the top of Turner’s list, and some have speculated that his delay in making a formal decision was related to Embiid’s announcement. Recent momentum, however, seemed to indicate that Turner may opt to stay close to home and play for Rick Barnes in Austin next season. While no formal announcement for Turner has been set, a decision should be coming in the next few weeks.

This is the life in the one-and-done era of college basketball. As Kansas fans reflect back on Joel Embiid and his abbreviated tenure as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks, the water cooler conversation will shift to, “Hey, have you heard about that Myles Turner kid?”

Taylor Erickson (54 Posts)

Taylor Erickson is a Big 12 contributor for RTC. You can follow him on Twitter @tc_erickson.

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