By RICK SOLEM
It’s official. Or isn’t. Who knows?
But the Milwaukee Bucks apparently don’t want draft prospect Joel Embiid.
That, according to co-owner Marc Lasry, who was speaking at an event Monday morning.
“It’s hard to take Embiid,” Lasry said. “We want somebody who is going to help us day one.”
Perhaps it’s strategy. Perhaps its idiocy. But that leaves the list likely down to Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins.
Whether stating publically your plan not to draft someone is smart, the comment itself is idiotic, because the Bucks don’t need help day one. They need a franchise player. A cornerstone. Someone to build a roster around.
And that player is Embiid.
He was the undoubted first pick before the stress fracture in his right foot. He had separated himself from Wiggins and Parker, the do-it-all center who could shoot the jumper, post up, block shots and bake a cake.
Now he has this scary foot injury that cost Yao Ming and Bill Walton their careers. Well, Walton’s came in the late 80s and Yao was a giant – six inches taller, 70 pounds heavier, six years older – who played year round in the NBA and for China for eight seasons.
The injury was a blessing in disguise, dropping Embiid right in the Bucks’ lap, because it will most likely cause Cleveland to take Wiggins or Parker No. 1. You know, because the Cavs are in ‘win-now mode.’
The Bucks shouldn’t be in win-now mode. Really, they should be in lose-now mode. Like Philadelphia did last year with Nerlens Noel, the Bucks should do the same with Embiid.
Noel was projected the No. 1 pick and he fell to the Sixers at No. 6 because of a torn ACL suffered at Kentucky, and they basically redshirted him last season.
The Bucks need the same type of gameplan, and they can “redshirt” Embiid the same way if need be.
Parker is the most “NBA ready” and wants to play for Milwaukee because it’s close to Chicago. Who cares?
He’s also the most un-athletic of the three with a low ceiling. Can’t wait to overpay him.
Or there’s Wiggins, his ridiculous athleticism and his lacking ability to effectively dribble or shoot a basketball. Yeah, the NBA is short those kind of players, better go grab him.
Whoever is picked, if they’re as good as advertised, in four years, the Bucks will be able to offer them more money than any team. In four years, if they’re as good as advertised, the team will be good, too, and they’ll want to stay.
If they’re not as good as advertised, they can leave, get overpaid elsewhere. But at least you shot for the moon with Embiid.
The pieces are in place in Milwaukee and Embiid would be the perfect fit – a great compliment to John Henson and supplement to Larry Sanders.
Henson is developing into a low-post threat that will command double teams. Embiid can take the pressure off those doubles with his shooting ability.
Sanders is a foul-happy, foul-mouthed center who sells out to block shots. He can’t stay on the court.
Embiid isn’t going to play a ton of minutes when he’s ready to get back on the court anyway. He can supplement Sanders when he’s in foul trouble, which is about every game. And eventually, Sanders can supplement Embiid when he takes that leap to the next level, which won’t take long.
There’s no reason for the Bucks to need help day one. They shouldn’t be afraid of taking the player that stood out above these other highly touted prospects. Embiid started playing basketball in 2011 and has come this far already.
They were the worst team in the league last year. Not by design at first, but that’s how it ended up.
May as well be again this year, and actually play their young to-be stars, because the roster is full of them – Brandon Knight (22), Henson (23) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (19). Even the rest of the core is fairly young: Ersan Ilyasova (27), O.J. Mayo (26) and Sanders (25).
All that’s needed is a centerpiece … a center. Or not.