Three years ago, a new plan had been put into place to bring the 76ers back to national relevance. That plan, put into place by general manager Sam Hinkie, spawned the infamous #winlessforwiggins.
By the time the 2014 NBA draft had rolled around, the Sixers ended up with the third pick, meaning there would be no Andrew Wiggins to turn the franchise around. Instead, Philadelphia landed a big man that had recently fractured his foot in a pre-draft workout, meaning he would miss the entire season. Then just as it looked like he would debut in 2015, he re-injured his foot, putting his entire career into question.
During this time, the City of Brothery Love had to endure watching their team win 28 out of 164 games and wonder if “The Process” had even been worth it. Then Joel Embiid happened.
His debut really could not have come at a better time, for both himself and the fan base. For the fans, they were a week removed from learning Ben Simmons would miss significant time with a foot injury. For Embiid, he had taken two years of not being able to play to develop his body, as well as his game. Coming out of Kansas, Embiid was elite defensively and had upside on offense, but not much offense outside of good footwork. Now, he has the ability to work from the three point line and take you into the post. That is something only Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMarcus Cousins say they can do.
Despite playing 24 minutes per game due to a minutes restriction, Embiid has been putting up 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Oh, and he is also shooting 44% from three at 7’2″ tall. Those block numbers are tops in the Eastern Conference. If only the team would decide to keep Nerlens Noel, and have one of them protecting the rim for 48 minutes a night, they would be a top 5 defense in the NBA in the future. But that is for a different post on a different day.
The individual numbers are astounding, but his overall team impact is what is greatest to me. When Joel Embiid is on the court, the 76ers opponents have an offensive rating of 103, which is good for top 10 in the NBA. When he is off the court, opponents have a 110 offensive rating which is dead last in the NBA. Now, I do think some of that has to do with Jahlil Okafor‘s ineptitude, but that kind of difference one rookie makes is unbelievable.
What Joel Embiid has brought this franchise is a game-changing player. A player that has the potential to be an MVP and defensive player of the year in the future. Combine Joel Embiid with Ben Simmons and you have the best young duo in the NBA. Add in Markelle Fultz, and you have a future dynasty. So maybe Ben Simmons being out for the start of this season will end up being a great thing considering they may get the top pick again. As I said in my Sixers posts of the past, Karl-Anthony Towns is the only player in the past four drafts that I would take over Joel Embiid. Maybe I would still take Towns, but it is a coin flip at this point.