76ers’ fans had to wait two years, but the wait was more than worth it.
Joel Embiid entered the 2014 NBA Draft after his freshman campaign at the University of Kansas as raw a talent as you can find. A 7-foot center with the ability to score from the post, shoot from the outside, anchor any defense and impact a game in a multitude of ways.
For the Philadelphia 76ers, he was the logical pick at number three for a team clearly rebuilding and being widely accused of tanking seasons in order to guarantee themselves a top pick in the upcoming draft of a given year. Their recent motto “Trust the Process” was also widely seen as sign and acknowledgment from the front office themselves of tanking in order to position themselves to get the top young talent and form a team around it that will eventually be dominant.
Joel Embiid was and still is the exemplum of what this “Trust the Process” slogan really stood for, being more concerned about the future than the present. This was clear when Embiid had to miss his first two seasons of his career after accumulating multiple injuries and needing multiple surgeries. Sticking with their motto, the Sixers had to trust that their future was bigger than their present and that eventually, this pick and this overall rebuilding phase was going to work out in the long run.
With Embiid’s official return to the court this season, it looks like they were right.
Although the team is only 6-18 so far, Embiid has clearly not only brought a rejuvenation in what has been a dormant franchise the past few years, but also a rejuvenation in a city where the game of basketball is beloved. Embiid’s return this season, along with the pick of Ben Simmons in this past NBA Draft, paid immediate dividends for the franchise and how they were looked at locally and nationally. People now want to see them play and see this accumulation of young talent come together. This was made evident when their first game of the season was broadcasted on ESPN’s primetime Wednesday night slot and the Wells Fargo Center was sold out for the same game.
This pure excitement built around this team is in large part due to how Embiid has looked this season, displaying every facet of his game that we knew he had and more.
Being placed on a minutes restriction so far this season hasn’t stopped the seven-footer from putting up some big numbers during his time he does get on the floor. This season, he is averaging 17.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.5 blocks per game. Additionally, he has been a real threat from beyond the arc as well as he is averaging 1.2 threes per game and shooting 43 percent from downtown. Mind you, these totals are all being put up within the 22.1 minutes he’s averaging per game.
The minutes number is what truly stands out because it really makes you think of what he could possibly do if he was given the regular amount of minutes for any go-to guy on any given team. Putting it in that perspective, his numbers are historic. If Embiid were to play 36 minutes per game, he would be averaging 29.3 points per game, which would be the most in NBA history for players who have played a minimum of 100 minutes.
Although these numbers would obviously be hypothetical, it goes to show how truly remarkable he has played this year for a team who has been the laughing stock of the NBA the past three seasons. In those past seasons, their record clearly displayed who they were and they played every bit of it. This season, despite only having six wins so far, they have been in many of the contests and were one or two defensive stops and bad fouls away from beating some of the better teams in this league. The threat of Embiid has allowed other young players like Nik Stauskas and Robert Covington to improve their play and has allowed the team to stay in most games because of his presence defensively. He is the reason that teams are actually forming real game plans against the Sixers and why they have to go hard for 48 minutes to really beat them.
Embiid marks the beginning of where this “Trust the Process” plan is ultimately heading. With the debut of Ben Simmons coming and other young talent finding themselves around Embiid, teams know that it is only a matter of time before Philly is back on the NBA map.
Do you think Joel Embiid will continue this success rate throughout the season? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.