Joel Embiid may be the most interesting and fascinating player to keep an eye on during the 2017-2018 NBA season.
His health and production will be a key factor in determining the Eastern Conference Playoff picture. The question that remains is “Will Embiid ever be healthy enough to reach his potential greatness?”
A question that needs to be answered by the 76ers front office and a question that needs to be answered almost immediately.
Training camp for the 76ers opens up next week. There’s tons of excitement and hype building around the team.
There’s hype with or without Embiid. The 76ers are filled with a talented roster. Free agents J.J Reddick and Amir Johnson have been added to provide veteran mentor-ship and to provide quality and productive minutes.
Ben Simmons, the first overall selection in 2016 draft, is reportedly fully healthy and according to General Manager, Bryan Colangelo, Simmons is “dominating the Gym”.
Head coach Brett Brown is already committed to using Simmons as his starting point guard to run his offense.
Markelle Fultz, the 2017 first overall pick, will slide off the ball, a role he’s fully capable of playing until he’s ready to take over the offense himself.
All that’s left to complete the process is Embiid.
Embiid as we all know has only appeared in 31 games since he was drafted with the third overall selection in the 2014 draft.
What he did in those 31 games was unbelievable and historic. Embiid was clearly a top 2 NBA center when on the court. His numbers speak for themselves. In just 25.4 minutes a game, Embiid scored 20.2 points, grabbed 7.8 rebounds and dished out 2.1 assists.
Embiid’s shooting splits were extremely impressive shooting 46.6% from the field as the go to scoring option. Embiid proved to be an elite three point shooting big man as well. He drilled 36.7% of his three point attempts (36-for-98) and hit 78.3% of his free throws.
Add to the fact he was an dominant rim protector swatting away 2.5 blocks a game, there’s literally nothing Embiid can’t do on the court.
He is a once in a generation talent that has been held back by bad knees and foot injuries.
Keep in mind though, Embiid has yet to play more than 30 minutes in any NBA game.
Embiid is now entering year four and a contract year. Embiid is up for an extension and is more than likely to request a max deal.
This leaves Philadelphia in a difficult place to make a decision. Embiid has not suffered a setback from his season ending surgery on March 24th but has yet to be fully cleared to participate in 5-on-5 drills.
With the season only a month out, time is running out for Embiid to be healthy at the start of the year.
How much faith and trust can you put into a player that has appeared in only 31 of 246 possible games? Can you max him and hope the injuries stay away? Or do you try and negotiate a lesser deal money wise with Embiid?
The second option comes with risk as you do not want to have a bad relationship with a player that easily can be a franchise type talent when on the court.
Bryan Colangelo has been optimistic a deal for Embiid will be done and Embiid will return to the court soon enough, however, the 76ers will be cautious with Embiid as he progresses his way back
Here’s Colangelo’s statement about Embiid. The quote is courtesy of Dan Gelston of the associated press.
It’s really early in the process to determine exactly where Joel is in his progression back to playing. We have put him through a very hyper-conservative progression toward returning to basketball. It’s been very important for us to make it criterion based where he checks off certain boxes and he can move to the next step.”
“We’re excited really with where we see him from a physical standpoint. He looks like he’s in tremendous shape and conditioning. He has to get in better 5-on-5 condition. At this stage, he’s not there.”
The deadline for the 76ers to make a decision about Embiid is October 16th. If no deal is in place, Embiid will enter restricted free agency and the 76ers will have the right to match any offer.
The 76ers may be wise to let this happen. If Embiid is healthy, plays in let’s say 55 plus games and is able to give you 25-28 minutes a night of the same production, the 76ers will have no issues maxing Embiid out and matching a deal.
However, if the 76ers give him the max before the deadline and Embiid blows out his knee or foot again, it could seriously damage the 76ers future. You cannot have max money tied up to a guy who cannot play.
All of this results in Embiid being one of the more fascinating storylines in the NBA. If Embiid is healthy, the 76ers actually have the potential to be a top 5 team in the East. If he can’t play the 76ers will still contend for the final playoff spot but more than likely fall short.
Expectations are Embiid will be good to go by the time the season opens and he will be on a minutes restriction and that’s ok. Any minutes the 76ers receive out of him will result in a positive impact for them.
Embiid is not the only young asset the team has to build around for years to come but his upside is higher than Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. His health could determine if the 76ers are legitimate title contenders in the next 2-3 years or if they need to search for the third star to add to their already dynamic young core.
The 76ers still need to “Trust the Process” and hope the injuries will be a thing of the past.
Here’s hoping for the best for Embiid. I’ll be rooting for him to stay healthy, get the money his talent deserves, and be the franchise player he’s capable of.