Joel Embiid is possibly the most fascinating player in the NBA.
The former third overall pick is just 23 years old and has played just 31 career games over the first three years of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he was just awarded a maximum five-year, $146.5 million extension last week.
That’s because in just 25.4 minutes per game over those 31 games last season, Embiid posted a mind-blowing 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks per contest. To give a proper account of how unique his offensive skill set is, consider the following: at 7-feet and 250 pounds, he made 36-of-98 (36.7 percent) of his three-point shots and converted 191-of-244 free throws in 787 minutes on the floor.
In other words, he was nearly unstoppable on both ends of the court when he got the opportunity to showcase his skills.
Health has been a real concern for the big man. He missed the first two full seasons of his career with foot injuries. He is coming off of a torn meniscus which required him to miss the end of last season due to surgery. At his size, injuries to the legs or feet are especially concerning.
Therefore, the 76ers eased him back into the mix during the final two games of the preseason after he rehabbed himself back to full strength. He struggled in his second (and the team’s final) game, but in the first against the Brooklyn Nets, he put up 22 points, going 4-of-9 from the field and 14-of-18 from the free throw line. He added seven rebounds, three assists and a block in just 15 minutes.
Yes, 15 minutes.
Therefore, not only did he prove that he can make a dominant impact in limited minutes last season, but also gave Brett Brown and the coaching staff an indication that he is ready to pick up where he left off with the preseason stat-stuffer.
At least to begin the season, the Sixers will be extremely cautious with their franchise center, keeping him on a strict minute limit.
"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brown said, via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "If you were to choose a number, it would be somewhere like in the teens.”
That might not go over well with the outspoken Embiid. Pompey also reported that shortly after he and other reporters heard from Brown, Embiid said, “I hope they don’t have me on a minutes restriction.”
When informed of his team’s decision by the media, the big man showed disappointment.
“Ah, [shoot],” Embiid exclaimed. “I didn’t know about that. But that’s disappointing. I feel great, and hopefully that changes based on this practice and tomorrow’s practice.”
He also made it clear that he has a say in how many minutes he ultimately plays.
“I got a voice,” he explained. “They got to listen to me. … If I feel great and my body feels great and my knee is fine, I should play 30 minutes or more. I definitely have my opinion on that… They are going to hear me. We are going to discuss it.”
Philadelphia has “trusted the process” for a number of years. With all of their pieces in place, watching Embiid spend most of his time on the bench would certainly rile up a fan base that has been very patient.
However, another major injury would potentially set the franchise back a number of years. Therefore, there will likely be a substantive debate where both sides have legitimate arguments on the topic.