With questions about the health of Joel Embiid once again looming, is it time for the Sixers to move on and focus on Ben Simmons?
Ever since the Philadelphia 76ers took center Joel Embiid with the third overall pick in 2014, fans have been told what an amazing basketball player he will be one day. Phrases like “generational” and “once in a lifetime” were thrown around with abandon as every news bit about the 7-foot-2 center was gobbled up by anxious Sixers fans.
And after waiting two years due to injuries, it seemed like it might be true. Embiid had an incredible rookie season and indeed seemed like a superstar that the Sixers would rebuild their team around. Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, this despite playing with a minutes restriction and seeing his season end in March after just 31 games due to a torn meniscus in his left knee.
But now, The Process, as Embiid has dubbed himself, may be looking at more health problems.
With Sixers training camp set to open in just a week or so, Embiid has not been cleared to play 5-on-5 yet. Once again the team and their doctors are being very cautions with their star center, but early word is that there is a real possibility that Embiid may not be ready to start the 2017-18 season as planned.
What makes the situation worse is that Embiid is at the center of what is quickly becoming a contentious contract negotiation regarding an extension. Embiid and his agent want a max deal, while the Sixers and their GM Bryan Colangelo naturally want to wait to see if Embiid can stay healthy and play an entire NBA season without issue before paying him that kind of money.
Given all of this, it may be time for the Sixers to go with Plan B and put their focus on last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons.
After having to sit the 2016-17 season due to a broken foot suffered on the last day of training camp. Simmons is ready to go and show what he can do on the court. Paired with rookie Markelle Fultz, the Sixers’ 2017 first overall pick, the two could be the cornerstones of a team that wins multiple championships over the next decade.
With or without Joel Embiid.
Everything the Sixers have done the last few years has been to build a team around Embiid that will allow him to be the type of player he has shown he can be. The problem is that if the centerpiece of that lineup is riding the bench most of the season, it makes it difficult for the other parts of the puzzle to work.
It might be time to start putting the Sixers’ resources behind building a roster that can showcase what Simmons and Fultz can bring to the game. That way if Embiid is on the court, great, but if not it won’t mean yet another lost season and a trip to the NBA Draft Lottery.
Yes, Joel Embiid is a very, very good basketball player. If he stays healthy there is no question he could lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals. But he needs to actually be on the hardwood on a regular basis for any of that to actually happen.
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So far, Embiid has yet to prove he can do that. And the clock is ticking.
Plan B might not be such a bad idea.