Extending Joel Embiid to Max Deal Is a Risky, Yet Essential Move
There are fans who are completely on board with the Sixers' decision to re-sign Joel Embiid to a five year, $148 million contract extension, and then there are fans who are not.
I mean, logically, can you truly blame those latter fans?
Embiid is a transcendent, once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent, but his 31 games in three seasons is obviously a gigantic concern and has raised so many question marks for quite some time.
But if you, like myself, had the pleasure of watching Embiid truly own the court and his opponents like he did for those 31 games last season, you saw a player that the Sixers truly cannot live without.
Embiid is the kind of player that unfortunately make or break the future of the Sixers organization.
Which is why Bryan Colangelo and Co. were put into a very "complicated" situation when it came down to offering Embiid a max contract extension.
But while this might be the riskiest move in professional sports, as contracts go, the move was completely necessary and had to be done for the sake of the Sixers having any sort of chance at contending in the future.
Say what you want about Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, they both have the potential to be very special for this city, but none of this works without the health and wellness of Joel Embiid.
Embiid as the "Process" has the potential to either make the future bright for the Sixers or completely leave it in darkness. I wish this could be true, but there really is no middle ground with this situation.
With Embiid on the floor, the Sixers are a completely different team than without him. He brings a level of aggression and passion that hasn't been seen in such a long time.
Honestly, you could put a combination of any one of the Sixers bench players out on the court with Embiid and the team would be successful.
This is because Embiid is truly a leader.
I was recently having a discussion with one of my co-workers about what it means to have a leader on your team, and we both agreed that a leader brings the best out of literally everyone around you, no matter what the circumstance is. Tom Brady and LeBron James are perhaps two of the most notable leaders in professional sports in my lifetime.
With Embiid, albeit early in his career, has already statistically proven the impact he brings to a team who had a lack of talent last season.
T.J. McConnell was a much different player last year than the season before, and I would venture into saying that Joel Embiid's passion and love for his team and the City of Philadelphia helped make T.J. more efficient when he was playing last year.
The stat that jumps out to me that further explains what Embiid is worth to the Sixers, that further proves that the contract extension was a great idea, is something called NetRtg a.k.a. point differential per 100 possessions.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com explained this stat in his article on October 7 about Embiid and his NetRtg, with a chart below.
When Joel Embiid was on the floor last season, the Philadelphia 76ers outscored their opponents by 3.2 points per 100 possessions.
Only one team in the Eastern Conference (Toronto) had a NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) better than plus-3.2 last season.
The Sixers were outscored by 467 points over their 82 games, but were a plus-67 with Embiid on the floor. With Embiid anchoring the defense, they allowed just 99.1 points per 100 possessions, a mark better than that of the Spurs' No. 1-ranked defense (100.9).
The Sixers were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Embiid on the floor than they were with him off the floor. It's not often that rookies make a positive impact defensively, but Embiid clearly did. Opponents shot 40.8 percent at the rim when he was there to protect, the best rim-protection mark among players who defended at least five shots in 25 or more games. He also led the league with 4.72 steals plus blocks per 36 minutes.
Embiid anchored the Sixers' defense every time he stepped out on the floor, and while the Sixers were only 13-18 when in Embiid's 31 games, a lot of those losses were close losses.
It's apparent, that the Sixers struggle defensively when Embiid isn't out there with him, and he's also not their to space out offensively and control the floor in so many different aspects like he does so well.
It's important to note that according to this NetRtg advanced stat, Jahlil Okafor had the league's worst NetRtg last season with -14.5 points per 100 possessions. The Sixers were 11-5 in games where Embiid had a positive plus-minus.
With their 108.7 points per 100 possessions last season, the Sixers were ranked 10th defensively against the NBA's top 10 offenses, part of the main reason why Embiid played such a crucial role for a team that was 21-23 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, a 16-win increase from the season before alone.
From a statistic standpoint, and also solely based on the eye-test, extending Embiid is vital to the Sixers' success. There's just so much factual evidence out there proving how massive Embiid is to the success of the Sixers when he's healthy and out there playing against teams.
And yes, don't get me wrong, health is a huge part of this. This entire argument is all for naught if Embiid is not able to step foot on the court for meaningful minutes for the Sixers, but the intangibles he brings to the table for the team is invaluable.
You're literally not going to find a player as dominant as Embiid is for a very, very long time.
So was the contract extension risky? Yes, absolutely.
But is the reward gigantic if he stays healthy for at least 60 games a year? Absolutely.
It had to be done, and with all of the salary protection added to the deal in case of a 'catastrophic injury,' the deal is a win-win for the Sixers.
You get your star center locked up, and for a good price all things considered.
If Joel was here with me, he would tell you to do one thing right now and one thing only.
Just Trust the Process.
Josh Liddick is Sixers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLiddickTalk.