Tag Archives: Hakeem Olajuwon

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Joel Embiid

A lot has been circulating around the Cavs this past week, ranging from possible coaching hires to veterans they could be targeting via trade. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi had a busy day on Monday breaking somewhat (unsettling) Cavs news (that has since been refuted). But one thing remains constant: they still have to figure out who they will take number one in the draft later in the month.

Last week, I took a look at Duke freshman Jabari Parker as a possibility for the Cavs top choice. This week, I’ll be going over the first of two Kansas freshman: center Joel Embiid. I’m going to do things a little different this week, with more clips from actual games to highlight his strengths and weaknesses. With that said, let’s get into it.

Kansas center Joel Embiid
Kansas center Joel Embiid

2013-14 stat line: 23.1 Min., 63% FG, 20% (1-5) 3PT, 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 3.4 PFPG, 2.4 TOPG

The one thing that almost always came up when watching Kansas play last year was the story of how Joel Embiid came to play basketball.

Until about the 18 minute mark, you’ll hear ESPN’s crew talk about how Embiid was integrated into the sport of basketball.



The comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon have been constant ever since, and for good reason. Starting basketball at such a relatively old age, he’s been able to limit the amount of bad habits one could pick up from playing a lifetime of basketball since middle school. Here’s a big reason why Embiid draws some Olajuwon comparisons:

Hakeem Olajuwon explains his patented “Dream Shake” (goes until about the 1-minute mark)


Embiid fakes twice and gets his man to hesitate (watch the defender’s head turn every which way). Embiid finishes him with his smooth, quick feet and his length allows him to under the rim and finish on the other side. Another thing I noticed on this, and other plays, was Embiid’s awareness of the rim, no matter where he was at – which is crucial for someone who does his scoring in the paint. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good jumper, because he does.



He shot a respectable 69% from the free throw line, and could get better. He has a sweet stroke and showed off his soft touch wherever he shot from on the court – including the three-point line.

In the 4 games I delved into this past week (v. San Diego State, v. Oklahoma State, v. Baylor, and at Baylor), Embiid got doubled, if not most of the time, then every time. He usually did a good job of dribbling out of it and was able to show off his great court vision in distribution ability. Sometimes though he wasn’t convictive enough and would turn it over or get called for a foul.


Embiid gets doubled and dribbles to the outside to force one of the defenders to cover his original man. From there, he takes advantage of his quickness and destroys his man, drawing the foul.


This is downright impressive. Embiid gets doubled and as he dribbles out, he takes a peak across court to point guard #10 Naadir Tharpe. He takes another dribble to clear space and fires an accurate pass across court to set up Tharpe for the three and an assist for himself.


Embiid is too far outside to dribble any further, especially while being trapped in the corner like that. In this instance, he should’ve quickly passed it to #31 Jamari Traylor on the post but instead commits an offensive foul.


Embiid has to know with three guys on him to get the ball out. He had #1 Wayne Seldon next to him on the 3-point line or #34 Perry Ellis across the court from him – a difficult pass, yes, but one he’s made before. Instead, he tried to dribble out of it and gets it stripped.

Embiid committed a lot of turnovers even though he just averaged 23 minutes per game. Something that will help him is that if the Cavs were to pick him, he wouldn’t see as many doubles. Even still, at times he needs to be more decisive on what to do with the ball and utilize his great court vision.

Embiid is an athletic freak – not an understatement – for his position. He runs in transition exceptionally well and can dunk over just about anyone and catch just about anything.

Granted, this dunk is over 6’3 guard Marcus Smart, but it was heavily contested and he slams it home like there’s no one in front of him.



Embiid also has the potential to be a great defender as well as offensive player. His athletic ability alone enables him to do a lot of things that some big men struggle to do. This includes things like hedging on pick-and-rolls, recovering to his man, and leaping to block shots. While he still has some polish left to be done on this side of the court – i.e. better positioning, timing on blocks – his athletic ability is good enough to where at worst he’ll be a solid defender.


Embiid’s ball denial in the backcourt is astounding here. No matter where his man goes, Embiid is there to prevent him from getting the ball. He shows off his athleticism, quickness, and intensity.


Here’s Embiid covering ground on an inbounding play underneath the basket. As soon as he sees the guard cutting free to the basket, he’s right behind him and his able to use his length to block the shot. It’s an impressive play that Embiid makes look easy.


For all the great plays Embiid makes, he makes some fixable mistakes as well. A lot of his mistakes are due to either cheating inside the paint/on a hedge or jumping on a pump fake, allowing an easy bucket.


Embiid’s man fakes a screen and Embiid cheats to hedge Oklahoma State’s guard. Embiid’s man cuts to the basket and Embiid is caught out of position, giving his guy an open lane for a dunk.


Embiid comes off his man, who cuts to the post, to cover another Aztec cutting to the paint and getting the ball. Ellis comes to help, but Embiid jumps on #22 Josh Davis’s pump fake, leaving his original man open for a dunk.


Embiid is also a good rebounder. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that since he’s a 7-footer, but Ryan Hollins played for the Cavs so I feel like I should say it just to make sure. Sure, Embiid gets a lot of these rebounds because of his length, but he also puts effort into boxing out as well, something many NBA players don’t pay enough attention to.


Embiid is alone in the paint when the shot goes up. Some guys just feel around for the opposition when the shot goes up, but Embiid goes and searches for someone to put a body on. While he didn’t get the rebound, he prevented his man from possibly cutting into the paint and getting it.


Embiid powers through three San Diego State players to get the rebound and has the strength to go right back up and fish through contact to get the and-1.


Bottom line: One last thing I noticed about watching Embiid with Kansas is he set a lot of screens, both off the ball and on the ball. When he would set a screen for the ball handler, he would rarely be passed to.


Embiid is ready for the ball after he sets the pick, but Tharpe drives into 3 defenders and gets swatted.


The problem with Kansas’ offense was a lack of a consistent distributor. Tharpe was more interested in making a game-breaking play than setting up his teammates. This limited the amount of time Embiid got to see the ball, especially outside of the paint. With the Cavs, I would image whoever is brought in to coach would capitalize on Embiid athleticism and shooting promise, letting him star as a pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop player, along with being a lethal threat on the post. Embiid would also give the Cavs a legitimate rim protector, something they haven’t had in a long time.

If the Cavs pick him, the fan base will have to be patient with his progression. While he’s one of the more advanced big men to come out of the draft, it still takes time for his position to find their place in the league. Also, Embiid was in foul trouble quite a bit and will more than likely have to go through a growing period in this area. He only averaged a bit more than 23 minutes per game at KU, so don’t look for him to get more than that as a rookie.

The big issue with Embiid is his health. In early March, he suffered a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. There’s been huge speculation and argumentation about how serious this will be with Embiid in the future, but only the Cavs will truly know (insiders only) how serious or not serious it is. If they think it’s 100% sure it will be a problem going forward, then they can’t pick him. Anything less than that, he has to be heavily considered to be the pick for the Cavs at number one with Andrew Wiggins. Speaking of Wiggins, I will dive into why he could be the top pick next week.

NBA Historical Draft – 1985-2013

One of the easiest ways to engage a basketball fan in a spirited argument that may or may not eventually end in fisticuffs is to participate against him/her in a historical NBA draft.

I’ve had many “discussions” with “friends” trying to decide on the best 5 players of all time. As I read through Matt Kline‘s Face of the Franchise series, it seemed like such a good old-fashioned bar argument of a column that I wanted to write one of my own. With that in mind, I recruited an old friend of mine who has very recently become a first time father. I get someone to fight with, he gets to not think about feces and milk for a while, you get to see just how dumb 2 guys can be and tell us all about it in the comments section. Please give a cold, shivering welcome to a founding member of the masslive.com Fantasy 413, Dan Reynolds.

The rules for the NBA Historical Draft are as follows:

1.       It starts in 1985.  Because I think it’s garbage to draft players based solely on what others have written about them, and because historical NBA footage is mostly available to real NBA writers only, we’re going with what we’ve seen.  If you draft Bill Walton, you’re not getting 1978 Walton.  You’re getting the guy who played 6th man for the greatest team in history (1986 Celtics). I was born in ’77, Dan was born a few years earlier, so we can base decisions on guys we saw play the game.

2.       All other players you get at their peak.  You don’t have to choose which Jordan you get – if you take him, you get his best version night in and out.

3.       Attitudes don’t matter.  If you want to draft Allen Iverson, you don’t have to be afraid that he’s going to sulk coming off the bench.

4.       Styles of play matter.  If you want to assemble guys that will beat the hell out of small guards, go nuts.  If you want to assemble Loyola Marymount’s run/gun offense, have fun.  But make sure your players compliment that style.

Your team has to win the game against my team. That’s the question voters will be asked when deciding who wins.

5.       Dan won the first pick, I have back to back picks at #s 2 and 3, then again at 9 and 10, and Dan has back to backs at 11 and 12. I don’t know – some internet site told us that was the most fair way to do a 2 man draft.

We’ll do this over a few parts this summer. I’ll try and keep each column around 1000 words. We’ll go through the first 8 picks today.

Dan won the coin toss and the right to pick first:

1. SG – Michael Jordan – No single player did as much for what we now call the modern NBA game as Jordan. He remains the standard for which every player is measured. The greatest player of his or any other generation.

Easy enough first pick, I think. By the way, Dan’s words will be in purple (he’s a freaking Lakers fan). You probably would’ve picked that up eventually, but I figured I’d speed that process up.

I’ve got back to back picks:

2. SF – Larry Bird – The best part of back to backs here is that I can pretend Larry would have been the #2 overall pick. On any team with this much talent, you’re going to need guys who live to share the ball. Bird is the greatest passing forward of all time. There is only one person more perfect for a team like this:

3. PG – Magic Johnson – The reason the Dream Team was so successful was Magic’s attitude and style of play. The reason the Showtime Lakers were so successful was Magic’s attitude and style of play. The ultimate point guard and the ultimate team leader.

4. C – Shaquille O’Neal – The Big Aristotle, Shaq-Fu, Diesel. Nuff said. A giant among men, the unstoppable force. Shaq inside and MJ on the perimeter; this could be over before we even get to the next round.

5. SF – LeBron James – Just for the fun of it, let’s keep drafting.

While I realize that Shaq’s going to be tough to defend inside, I think there’s a guy or two left out there that just might take on that challenge.

So yeah, LeBron’s my pick.  He’s the 2nd most talented player in our pool of players, and I got him with the 5th pick. And not to get too stat-geeky, but PER is a very good judge of a player’s offensive prowess. I think there will be many, many better stats coming in the next few years, especially ones that incorporate off-ball work and defense, but for now it’s PER.

The top 10 PER seasons of all time have been had by 3 players – Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.  Jordan has #s 3, 5, 8, and 9.  James has #s 4, 7, and 10 (he also has #11). Now that there’s no question that he can step up to the stage and win the biggest of games, we’re looking at someone on track to be the 2nd best player in history (took me 20 minutes to write that sentence when you factor in the breaks for dry-heaving).

I’ve got James leading the 2nd unit right now, but I could always slot him at SF and move Bird to PF depending on how the draft shakes out.  Back to you for #6.

6. C – Hakeem Olajuwon – I think this is turning into a game of chess and you may have brought your drama-queen out a tad too early. I was truly torn between this pick and another, but I’ve decided to hand you a nightmare of Nigerian proportions. Enter Hakeem.

 Rebounding, defense and the ability to score at will. I see your PER and stomp all over it with my pair of 7 footers.

7. PF – Tim Duncan – Wow, passing up a chance to draft the greatest Power Forward of all time, just to draft a Center you already have?  Colossal failure.

Give me Timmy Duncan.  Not only will I be able to match your twin towers by playing my Center next to Duncan, but I’m Greatest Of All Time at 3 of the 5 starting positions.

8. SG – Kobe Bryant  Yes, I know I still have no PG  but there’s still A LOT of talent available. 

So now I’ll throw Jordan and Jordan Lite at you for 48 minutes. Plus he’s the closest thing, comparatively speaking, to #23. And yes I’m referring to Bryant as a thing because he’s a cold, calculating snake – but no one will ever question his unquenchable desire to win. And win he will vs. the zero defense in the middle you’re throwing at me. Best grab The Admiral with one of your back-to-backs.

Eight picks in, and we both think we’ve wrapped up the title. Here’s a snapshot of how our lineups look thus far. Please feel free to weigh in, and be as mean as possible. Especially to Dan – he’s still basking in that first child glow.

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