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Steller Rookie Play Didn’t Answer Biggest Question About Embiid

 

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Though it may have occurred a year – or two – later than initially expected, Joel Embiid’s rookie campaign in 2016-17 demonstrated just how productive the young center from Cameroon can be on the NBA level.

In 31 games of [extremely impressive and historically productive] action for the Sixers, Embiid worked to clear the constant chorus of questions regarding if – and when – he would ever play in the league that had been following him like a cloud since the day he was drafted by the Sixers with the third overall pick in June of 2014.

Despite severe and rigid restrictions on his minutes per game, the crown jewel of Sam Hinkie’s rebuild was head and shoulders better than any other rookie; both statistically and aesthetically.

Embiid, 22, showed himself to be a dominant two-way big man with the ability to both run the floor and space it. He is equally devastating on both the offensive and defensive ends, leaving a precious few holes – none glaring – in a game that has been developing for less than a decade.

The advanced play of the Kansas product provided Sixers fans with a glorious glimpse of what the future could hold for the franchise.

The emphasis is on the word ‘could’ in the previous sentence however, because despite all of the questions Embiid did answer with his play this season, the biggest question that has surrounded him – and Philadelphia’s entire ‘process’ – remains unanswered.

That question, of course, is if Embiid can remain consistently healthy; something that the Sixers will need if they are to eventually contend for titles with Embiid as a centerpiece.

The good news for Embiid is that he showed no ill effects from the surgically repaired right foot that kept him strapped to the sideline for the past two seasons – or the stress fracture in his back that prematurely ended his collegiate career. The bad news though, is the torn meniscus that has him again out of the lineup for the remainder of the season.

At this point it’s difficult to determine whether these individual injuries are a series of isolated occurrences, or signifiers of a larger issue regarding durability. Is Embiid’s body destined to let him down – as has happened to other big men in the past – or has he simply been the victim of extremely bad luck early on in his career? We do now know that Embiid has the skillset to be historically great. What we don’t know is if his body will allow him to live up to that lofty potential.

The answer to that question will only come in time. In the meantime, the Sixers – whose future is so tightly tied to Embiid’s health – head into another offseason of uncertainty regarding the long-term prospects of their star center.

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