WALTHAM --- The projection skills of the Celtics medical staff will be put to test next week if an injured Joel Embiid falls to Boston at the no. 6 spot in the 2014 NBA Draft. As is the case with all of the team’s draft picks, team doctor Brian McKeon and the rest of his staff will advise the front office on whether the Celtics should avoid drafting a player due to health concerns.
Boston’s front office should have faith in whatever assessment McKeon and co. make on Embiid’s future given their strong track record of projecting high-risk players in the past.
While speaking after a draft workout Saturday in Waltham, Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge noted that the team’s medical staff has told the team to avoid drafting several players in the past, including Greg Oden in the 2007 NBA Draft, and guard Brandon Roy in the 2006 NBA Draft.
“There have been many, many guys we’ve passed on,” Ainge explained. “Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden. Our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy. Brandon ended up having some very good years. That may or may not have been the right decision, it ended up costing [Portland] a lot of money in the end, but he did give them a great few years. There’s a few we have taken a chance on, there have been many, many others we’ve decided not to [take] a chance on [in the draft.”
So was Ainge sure the Celtics would have taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in the 2007 NBA Draft?
“Oh yes. I personally wasn’t working [for the Celtics] at that time. I was in college and I was in the draft war room [that night] and they would have taken Durant. I did have some inside information there,” Ainge added with a smile.
Oden has been plagued by various knee and leg injuries that have caused him to miss the vast majority of an disappointing NBA career since Portland selected him with the no. 1 pick in 2007. Roy was an All-Star caliber player but battled a degenerative knee condition throughout his playing days that forced him retire prematurely from basketball in 2013 at age 28.
So what are Boston’s doctors saying now about Embiid’s status after the 20-year-old center underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot on Saturday? Ainge wouldn’t reveal his cards there, or whether the Celtics had even been given access to Embiid’s medical records.
“Probably best not to share all of that,” Ainge said. “I think we all want to know what exactly [Embiid's health status] is. Even when you have a lot of information, sometimes it’s still just a best guess. I’m not sure what the conclusions will be by [our doctors]...it's hard to predict.”
Would the Celtics even take Embiid without access to his medical records if he were available?
“It’s quite a gamble. I don’t know. We’ll see,” Ainge said.
With just five days to go before the draft, Boston’s medical staff could be just as busy as Boston’s front office determining whether Embiid is worth the risk.