Brett Brown on Joel Embiid: “Leaps and Bounds Ahead” of Last Year
If the Sixers "strategy" is to play out the way they want it too, they are going to need to be right about Joel Embiid.
Sixers coach Brett Brown has referred to Embiid as "the center of our universe" - he was described by one current NBA GM at the time of the 2014 NBA Draft as about as much of a "can't miss" prospect as you can find in the draft.
"His ceiling is Hakeem Olajuwon. His basement is Serge Ibaka," said the GM.
Finally, there has been some encouraging news regarding Embiid, he did some light shooting without his protective boot about 10 days ago and now Sixers coach Brett Brown said Embiid is "leaps and bounds ahead" of where he was mentally this time last season.
While Embiid is still expected to miss the 2015-16 season, this is a good step in his recovery to get him on the floor for the first time in his NBA career for the 2016-2017 season.
The interesting thing about Embiid that had him fall into the Sixers lap with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft is that it was a stress fracture in his back that had teams concerned about picking him in the draft, not his current foot injury.
In the summer of 2014 it was Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker as the players most commonly mentioned by scouts as the potential Top 3 picks in that year's NBA Draft, but Embiid was emerging as the top pick in many scouts' minds.
Wiggins has been a very good NBA player thus far, he's a very good scorer, but the lack of statistical diversity in his stat lines keeps him from a top-flight NBA player at this point. Parker missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL and has struggled this season, scoring just 10.8 points per game.
To this point, Embiid has been nothing more than a myth and a symbol of the Sixers rebuild, a process mocked by many with Embiid the poster child of the teams ineptness on the floor. Officially listed at 7'2", meaning he has grown two inches since being drafted out of Kansas, the skilled big man could change many of the Sixers fortunes when he is cleared to play.
In his one and only season at Kansas, Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 boards and 2.6 blocks, shooting 62.6 percent from the field.
The next question will be how does Embiid fit into a team that already includes Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.
It's a fair question that has many answers.
One, the Sixers could start Embiid and Okafor together with Noel used in the role of defensive stopper, two the Sixers could move Noel or Okafor, or three package them both in separate deals to find some guards to pair with Embiid.
Most likely scenario?
Don't be surprised to see the Sixers try to pair all three of them together for at least one year with Embiid and Okafor starting together and Noel providing energy and defense off-the-bench.
General manager Sam Hinkie has said in the past that he thinks of Embiid as more of a power forward.
"If [Embiid and Nerlens Noel] can play together," Hinkie said at the time Embiid was drafted. "They will be an absolute menace at the rim."
Just being able to consider having Embiid, a guy who could be the true difference-maker back is an exciting conversation to be having - even if we have to wait til next season to actually see him.