Joel Embiid can be the ultimate virtue of Philadelphia's patience

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Joel Embiid is a strange and rare breed in the NBA today. Primarily because he hasn't played a single minute in two years, and yet, he was a top three draft pick.

That's virtually unprecedented. And it's not a stroke of bad luck for the Philadelphia 76ers, they knew full well what they were getting themselves in for.

Embiid had surgery on a broken navicular bone in his right foot just six days before the draft and he was a hot contender to be picked first overall prior to his operation.

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The fact that a six-month injury layoff only bumped him down to third in the draft is unbelievable. Especially considering he missed the NCAA Tournament in college due to a stress fracture in his back as well.

Scouts and Sixers brass alike must have reasonably thought the big Cameroonian could be injury-prone. Nevertheless, the Sixers, in the midst of a serious rebuild, decided they had the patience to take the chance.

Two years later, how is that gamble looking? Well, Phill have tanked to record lows and have a record of 28-136 since Embiid was drafted. The eastern conference outfit have spent $9,054,600 on him thus far and will line his pockets with another $4,826,160 next season.

It's hard to look on the bright side if you're a Sixers fan. Normally, the idea of an almighty center returning to the fold would get any fan salivating. However, it's the last thing the Sixers actually need with Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor jamming up the frontcourt.

So why did Philly take the risk on him in the first place? Because he is that special, that's why.

A glance at Embiid's college stats don't make for sensational reading like, say, Karl-Anthony Towns' did. The 22-year-old only mustered an average of 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a night for Kansas in 23.1 minutes of play, but he did bring 2.6 blocks to the table, too.

As Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report noted back in February of 2014: "Possession by possession, offense to defense, Embiid controls a game simply by standing in the middle of it."

In the world of basketball, it's hard to convince anyone that a player is effective beyond stats. They dominate the game. But, Embiid is one of those players who has the desirable habit of making those around him better.

Perhaps he'll make Okafor better on defence. Perhaps he'll help Simmons raise his work ethic. Perhaps the Sixers will feel more like a 'team' with Embiid at the core of it.

At 7'0" tall with a 7'5.75" wingspan, Embiid is a matchup nightmare for next to anybody. He's a dangerous but intelligent post presence that helped the blossoming star of Andrew Wiggins - the eventual number one pick in 2014 - during their time in Kansas.

He's a scoring threat on the inside with a hellacious block on him at the other end. If Noel can only defend and Okafor can only attack, Embiid is the hybrid the Sixers have been waiting for, but had all along.

The 2014 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has had a tough time since he arrived in Philly, no question. He lost his younger brother, Arthur, in October of the year he was drafted to a terrible car crash in Africa. Then, the following June, he was told he would need a second operation on his troublesome foot and that he would miss yet another season of NBA action.

However, his coach Brett Brown insists he is training well and is going to finally suit up in preseason. After all the adversity he has faced and the multiple fitness setbacks, Embiid's time to justify Philly's decision is looming large - and there is no man more motivated to do just that.

Nerlens Noel
Philadelphia Sixers
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Joel Embiid
Jahlil Okafor

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