Although the writing had already been on the wall for the past two or three months, Kansas center Joel Embiid finally declared his intent to enter the 2014 NBA Draft early Wednesday afternoon.
Embiid held a press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse to inform the media (and the basketball world) that he was ready to take his talents to the next level.
"I just want to thank God first for giving me this opportunity to come to the (United States) and play ball," Embiid said per The Kansas City Star. "I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, the fans - everyone that's helped me through the journey. After thinking a lot, I've decided to declare for the NBA Draft."
As to be expected, the Cameroon native fielded questions regarding the back injury that prematurely put an end to his season, forcing him out of both Big 12 and NCAA Tournament play. When asked if the injury played any role in influencing his decision, Embiid quickly stated, "No, not at all. My back is fine. I'm close to being 100 percent."
Jayhawks head coach Bill Self, who sat alongside Embiid as he made his announcement, was also quick to dispel any concerns people might have about the seven footer's back.
"The one thing about his back that some people failed to acknowledge is that his back was a situation that created a great discomfort on the early period after the injury occurred," said Self. "It would never be something that would require any surgery. It would basically be something he would have to deal with in the short term but should provide actually zero problems moving forward with his basketball career."
Of course, to many NBA scouts and general managers, this is just the opinion of two men that have obvious knowledge of the injury. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the organizations themselves to decide on the severity of the injury and potential long-term effects it may or may not have. Embiid will surely be asked to complete a number of tests put together by team doctors leading up to draft night - similar to what Jared Sullinger was faced with when he was coming out of Ohio State a few years back. With that said, barring a major red flag, don't expect Embiid to fall out of the lottery the way Sullinger did as his size, length, and rapidly developing game is simply too much to ignore (11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game in 2013-14).
As far as the Celtics are concerned, the team is in obvious need of a legitimate center and Embiid is just that. But with just the fourth worst record in the NBA, Boston will need some lottery luck when the ping pong balls start being pulled and Brad Stevens knows that.
"I think certainly in an ideal situation what you're looking for is certain qualities of a team and I think a rim protector, whether it is a seven-footer or not is extremely important in this league," Stevens told Boston.com. "A guy that really protects the paint, dotted line and in."
Right now, it's anyone's guess where Embiid will land. One thing is for certain, though: everything will become a whole lot more interesting once the lottery order is set in stone.