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Basketball / Sports

Unable to move up in draft, 76ers take a chance with Joel Embiid

NEW YORK -- Sam Hinkie is a gambling man.

The 76ers general manager selected former Kansas center Joel Embiid with the third pick in Thursday night's NBA draft at the Barclays Center. The Sixers made the pick after their proposed trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top overall selection fell through.

The Sixers wanted to move up two spots to select Embiid's Kansas teammate, Andrew Wiggins. Embiid was projected to go first before he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot last week.

The 7-footer, who had surgery on June 20, is expected to be sidelined up to six months.

The Sixers aren't afraid of acquiring centers with ailments. In last year's draft, they got rookie center Nerlens Noel and a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday. Noel missed the entire Sixers season while recovering from knee surgery.

The Sixers don't expect to be competitive for at least another two seasons. They could sit Embiid before bringing him along slowly.

There's a chance that this injury hinders his career the way it has for other 7-footers. Like Embiid, Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in 2008 and again in 2009. Yao eventually was forced to retire in 2011 because of the injury.

In what was his third year of basketball, Embiid began last season in a reserve role for the Jayhawks. He rapidly improved and eventually shared the national spotlight with fellow freshman phenom Wiggins.

Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks at Kansas. At season's end, he was regarded as college basketball's best big man.

"He has a huge upside," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He's got an upside that you would think would be like (Akeem) Olajuwon, 7-foot tall, long athlete, (good) feet, skilled, timing, toughness. He's got it all."

The Sixers vigorously pursued a deal with the Cavaliers.

A source confirmed that they offered the Cavs their third, 10th and 32d picks for the top spot and were turned down. There were reports that Cleveland also wanted an additional second-round pick.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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