Remember when the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid third overall in 2014? Well, they’re still trusting the process and have held onto Embiid through his foot injury and multiple surgeries.
The seven-footer from Cameroon is making tremendous strides to play this upcoming year, and even went as far to tell reporters that “I feel 100 percent.” His game looks much improved, as showcased on Drew Hanlen’s Instagram, and Embiid appears to be in tremendous shape.
Although he’s looking like he’s ready to make an impact, what can we really expect out of the former Kansas standout? The Sixers frontcourt is already crowded with Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Ben Simmons, despite rumors of Philly wanting to move either Noel or Okafor. Adding Embiid to the rotation–slowly–would add another low-post player to the mix and clog up the lane for Simmons and other ballhandlers; that’s only if Philly is unable to move Okafor and elect to play them together.
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Since those two have such a similar game, it’s feasible that Brett Brown brings Embiid off the bench after he’s fully acclimated to playing in the NBA. Embiid could get used to that sixth man role and could thrive being the focal point of a second-unit that will, most likely, lack a go-to guy. His post game is noticeably improved, but where I’m most intrigued to see Embiid is on defense.
Coming out of KU, he was revered for his shot blocking ability and his potential to alter the game on the defensive end. At Kansas, his 2.6 blocks per game were second in the Big 12, and his 90.9 defensive rating led, and it seems like he’s retained most of his athleticism–plus, his body is more matured, so there’s a good chance it improved. In the new NBA, effective bigs need to be athletic enough to defend guards out of the pick-and-roll. If they can’t, they’re almost entirely useless, e.g. Andrew Bogut.
Embiid is more mobile, coordinated, and athletic than Bogut, but he has yet to play in an NBA game and has seldom even practiced against his contemporaries. The lack of experience means there will be a grace period for him to get up to speed with how fast the games are played in the NBA. Fortunately, for Sixers fans, playing in the point guard renaissance will accelerate that process, as Embiid will regularly switch onto some of the league’s premier floor generals–Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, and Kemba Walker, just to name a few.
Sam Hinkie wanted you guys to trust the process, and you must continue it with Embiid. He won’t play at an outrageously high level this year, but it’s a stepping stone. And should he stay healthy, the Sixers young core looks fantastic.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference
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