There’s no denying that Joel Embiid has the potential to be one of the best big men to ever play in the NBA.
However, there is a major concern that could have a negative impact on that potential.
The Sixers have been extremely cautious with him. Since he spent the first two full seasons of his career sidelined with various foot injuries, he played just 25.4 minutes per game over 31 games last year before suffering a knee injury that kept him out for the rest of the year. In that time, he broke onto the scene by scoring 20.2 points while pulling down 7.8 rebounds and blocking 2.5 shots per contest, but the team has continued to be unwilling to set him free this season, even at full health.
Averaging 24.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 31.3 minutes per game this season, the Sixers have held Embiid out of back-to-backs and, with a couple exceptions, have clearly limited his workload.
Additionally, he has not been able to work on basketball-related chemistry with his teammates away from game situations.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, all Embiid does during team practice sessions is receive treatment, study game tape and put up some shots.
It involves “getting medically worked on a lot,” coach Brett Brown recently said. “You know, taking whatever we can in that time line and helping him physically get better.”
Therefore, he has not been asked to take part in any type of situational drills, scrimmages or anything of the sort. Although his numbers are outstanding and he can already be regarded as one of the top centers in the league, it creates a “what if” situation. What if he was practicing with his team like a normal player? Would he be even better?
According to Brown, that time is coming very soon.
“The good news is we are seeing progress where he can slowly start to do things more with the team,” Brown explained. “He had one of the rare times he actually did come in and do stuff with the team, pre-Trail Blazers game.”
Obviously the most important thing is that Embiid stays healthy in the short and long term. After all, he signed a five-year, $148 max extension before the season tipped off. Not only is Embiid a dominant force on the court, but he’s also the team’s most expensive investment by a wide margin.
“The endgame is to make him a normal member of a team,” Brown noted. “He’s amazing to date with the rules and the restrictions, the things that he’s got to go through to play, game day, game night.”
When he becomes a normal member of the team, his production will seemingly improve. Therefore, it seems as though the best is clearly yet to come for one of the best young players in the Association.