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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Sunday / June 23.
  • Bill Self Calls Embiid-Olajuwon Comparisons ‘Very Fair’

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    Embiid2By JOSH NEWMAN
    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    NEW YORK – Comparing Joel Embiid to Hakeem Olajuwon has been all the rage this year, and Kansas head coach Bill Self agrees with the notion.

    “They’re very fair, I said that all along and people thought I was nuts,” Self told a handful of reporters at Barclays Center on Thursday evening after the Philadelphia 76ers drafted the injured Jayhawks 7-footer third overall. “You watch him and watch his footwork and how effortlessly he moves, I think they’re very fair comparisons.”

    Owners of seven draft picks entering the night,, the Sixers kept that No. 3 pick following an afternoon of rumored activity. The biggest rumor had them shopping the third, 10th and 32nd overall picks to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the No. 1 pick. In the end, it all turned out to be conjecture.

    Where Embiid would be selected came under much scrutiny recently after it was announced on June 19 that he would have surgery to repair a fractured navicular bone in his right foot. Recovery time is expected to be 4-6 months following the surgery last week.

    Self said Embiid told him on Wednesday that the best he could hope for was being selected at No. 6 to the Boston Celtics. Self had conversations with the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings on Thursday and both felt Embiid would be around at seven or eight. With that, he was obviously going to be on the board at No. 3 to the Sixers.

    “He has unbelievable basketball IQ,” Self said. “He has a natural way he goes about it, he has 10 different ways to get into you every move, so one move is really 10 moves to him. He’s a very fluid player and that’s why people are so excited about him.”

    For the second year in a row, the Sixers are going to have to show some patience with an injured rookie big man. The franchise executed a draft night trade last June that brought them the draft rights to Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky star tore his ACL during his one and only season at Kentucky, then missed his entire rookie season while rehabbing.

    The question now is, can two guys who are viewed as defensive-minded and still budding offensively co-exist in the same frontcourt?

    “I don’t know Nerlens’ game well enough, but I know Jo’s game can step away from the basket,” Self said. “I’m sure they’ll play together a lot, but there’ll be times when one of them will be the anchor when the other is resting. What a great start to a rebuilding phase.”

    The Sixers used the 10th overall pick to select Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton, but immediately traded his rights to the Orlando Magic for the draft rights to Croatian sensation and No. 12 pick Dario Saric and a 2017 first-round pick.

    Saric, 20, has been in the news recently after signing a three-year deal with Turkish League power Anadolu Efes. The 6-foot-10 forward will not play in the NBA for two years, which means the Sixers have two top-12 draft picks and neither may play a minute this season.

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