When it comes to Joel Embiid, he’s pretty much been labeled as the “savior” of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Taking the team from 10-72 all the way to back-to-back 50 win seasons, his impact on the organization has been borderline unmeasurable.
The Sixers drafted Embiid with the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. They inherited a center who would go on to make three All-Star Games, two All-NBA Second Teams, two All-NBA Defensive Second Teams, and an All-NBA Rookie First Team.
Described as the team’s “crown jewel” by head coach Brett Brown during the 2019 season, Embiid has been one of those franchise-altering players that general managers dream about.
However, there was almost a very real scenario where Embiid actually never ends up in the city of brotherly love. Per a story by Noah Levick with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Embiid reportedly begged the Cleveland Cavaliers to take him with the number one overall pick.
After having an all-time great workout with the Cavs, it appeared like GM David Griffin would, in fact, be selecting JoJo number one overall. However, the team backed out once it was revealed the center had a broken foot. The Cavs opted to select Andrew Wiggins instead, and the rest was history.
However, what if in this alternate timeline, the Cavs did select Embiid. How would this have shaped the 76ers rebuilding process?
For starters, the Cavaliers probably would have still traded Embiid off to Minnesota for Kevin Love. Cleveland had just got LeBron James back and they were looking to win now. They would not have the patience to help a rookie through foot rehab.
Milwaukee then most likely takes Wiggins with the number two overall pick, and the Sixers would be stuck looking at Jabari Parker or Aaron Gordon at the three spot.
Personally, I think Philly would have traded back, stocking up on assets and looking ahead to the following draft in 2015. With a plethora of draft picks acquired in the previous year, the Sixers could have been aggressive in trading up a measly two spots for their new franchise center… Karl Anthony-Towns.
Luckily, the Cavs got cold feet in 2014, leaving Embiid and all his greatness to the 76ers. However, it is quite crazy to think just how close we all were to a scenario where Embiid would be on the Timberwolves, and KAT would be the Sixers’ “franchise” center.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports