Two years ago, if I would’ve told you that during the 2016-2017 season, Joel Embiid would be averaging more points than Al Horford, more rebounds than Serge Ibaka, and more blocks than Andre Drummond, you’d call me crazy. Heck, I would have thought I was crazy myself.
But now, it’s become a fascinating reality for all of us. Even the King thinks there’s something special in this kid, as he explained after one game against the Sixers and Joel Embiid:
“…I think they've done a great job with their medical team and coach Brown of just bringing him slowly and he's going to be really good. I mean, he's already good, but he's going to be really, really good. As the games go on, you get more and more games, you get more of a feel for the games. He'll be a really good player in the league.”
Even in losses, this young stud seems to be making good impressions on all the right people. And while most of us are shocked by his performance so far, he had big expectations before the problems with his foot began to surface.
Many compared the young Embiid to Hakeem, which, looking back on it now, seems like a completely unfair comparison. Still, he was expected from many to be a strong post star in the pros. When the Center developed a stress fracture in his foot prior to his NBA draft debut, stocks quickly fell on the once high-priced star. The foot is a consistent problem for NBA bigs, so many GMs labeled him as an unhealthy risk before the draft even started.
The Sixers though, having the third pick in the draft that year, decided to take that risk. Although it evidently hurt their short term success at the time, they did not rush Embiid along like most other teams would. They held off, took their time, and made sure that his health was right before he ever set foot on the NBA hardwood.
That patience paid off well in the end for the Sixers organization, as it now seems they have a future franchise player in the books.
This year, being just his first season, Embiid is averaging 19.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 23.23 is good enough for 23rd in the entire league. In other words, this kid is good. Very good.
With stats like those, Embiid will soon open floodgates the Sixers haven’t seen in a long time. Out of nowhere, Philly has an elite Center, a great young forward in Ben Simmons, and a roster full of young guys who want a chance to prove themselves, when all they had a few years ago was some draft picks, and some very optimistic dreams. Safe to say they’ve made quick strides.
But it all starts with Embiid. Without him, the basic building block of creating a successful team becomes much harder to build. Without him, the Sixers are left with too many question marks.
Fascinating though, isn’t it? I mean, the guy missed two years in the NBA for foot surgery. He stayed relevant on Twitter, yeah, making the young fans chuckle over social media. He stood there quietly as the rest of the league kept going. But now after all that, he’s the Sixers savior… in a weird way. And now, after all that, he’s about 3 months away from becoming Rookie of The Year, and showing us that every once in a while, miracles do happen.