As great as Joel Embiid has been thus far in his career, he hasn’t exactly been an iron man of any sort during his time in the NBA. That didn’t stop the Philadelphia 76ers from cashing out the player that many think is the best center in the league, with a four-year, $196 million extension.
And with that move, the Sixers have assured themselves of coming up short of the ultimate goal, which, of course, is an NBA title. The franchise hasn’t won a championship since 1983. I understand their best, and seemingly only, option was to re-sign Embiid for the long term and cross their fingers. They would be crazy to let him walk away.
But Embiid hasn’t shown that he can stay healthy for an entire season. You can count on Embiid injuries the same way you can count on death and taxes — they’re going to happen.
Embiid has played more than 60 games just twice in five seasons. You’ll recall Embiid missed his first two entire seasons with foot injuries. Big man, bad feet: never a good combination. Joel ‘The Troll,’ as he’s known on Twitter, appeared in only 51 games in a Covid-19 shortened season (72 games) last year.
If the Sixers can keep him upright for long enough, they have the talent to go far in the postseason — but only so far. Embiid just finished a postseason where he dealt with yet another injury. He played with a torn meniscus. Yes, he’s a warrior and battled through the pain. But this is year after year after year.
He’s too good to move on from right now since he is in his prime. How much longer will Embiid be in his prime? That is the question Sixers management I am sure asked itself. Players that have this many injuries in the first few years of their careers don’t usually get healthier as they age. At age 27 now, 30 is right around the corner.
Most players at Embiid’s age would still be looking at a good five or six years of prime play left in the tank. Most star players, I should say. There isn’t any doubt that Embiid is a top 10 or 15 star in the NBA. He played at an MVP-level last season. Had he not been hampered with a bad knee, the Sixers likely move past the Atlanta Hawks and into the Eastern Conference Finals.
But when Philly needed him most, he couldn’t go like he usually does. And with the loss of confidence the Sixers’ second-best player dealt with in the playoffs, the Sixers couldn’t afford to have Embiid at much less than 100%.
The crown jewel of “The Process,” Embiid has become the man in the city of Philly. But if the franchise has any hope of bringing a championship home, they’ve got to figure out what to do about Embiid’s fragile health.
One of the hottest rumors around the league is the impending trade of Ben Simmons. The most high-profile name we’ve heard is Damian Lillard in exchange for him. But if you believe what your favorite NBA insider (pick one) says, the Sixers’ asking price for Simmons has been absolutely outrageous.
Lillard would certainly help Embiid carry the load offensively, but with the Sixers asking so much for Simmons, it may be a while before they find a trade partner.
Embiid changed his diet last year and got in better shape, which you could see on the court this past season. But he continues to deal with these nagging injuries, and it’s hurting not only himself, but the Sixers’ chances at competing for a championship as well.