Trust the Process: Should the Sixers Give Embiid an Extension?

The 76ers are eyeing their first playoff berth since 2012. Photo by Michael Tipton (Flickr) CC License

Joel Embiid has been everywhere this offseason. Everywhere, that is, except on the court. Yesterday, the 76ers confirmed that the Cameroonian center has not yet been cleared for 5-on-5 drills and may be unable to participate in training camp.

It’s just the latest in a long line of setbacks for the gifted but oft-injured player. Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career with a broken navicular bone and was limited to 31 games last season due to a meniscus tear in his left knee. He underwent minor arthroscopic surgery on March 24th and was originally expected to be ready for the start of training camp in late September.

“It’s really early in the process to determine exactly where Joel is in his progression back to playing,” team president Bryan Colangelo told reporters. “We have put him through a very hyper-conservative progression toward returning to basketball. It’s been very important for us to make it criterion based where he checks off certain boxes and he can move to the next step.”

You generally don’t like to hear words like “hyper conservative” associated with your franchise cornerstone, especially when he’s eligible for a contract extension. The Sixers have until October 16th to decide whether to re-up Embiid for another four years and approximately $100 million.

In this edition of the Matt/Ryan Show (which has previously covered such topics as the ESPN 100 and Carmelo’s future), Matt McEwan (MM) and I (RM) will discuss how the Sixers should proceed with their fragile big man. We’ll also offer props and odds for his future production.

Should the Sixers give Embiid an extension?

RM: No way. I respect Embiid’s talent and unique skillset but the Sixers should employ the same “hyper conservative” approach they’ve adopted during his most recent rehab stint. Think of it this way, if you had a car that broke down every 31 miles, would you renew your lease?

MM: Absolutely. What are you going to do, walk 31 miles? Last year Embiid proved he’s a special player who’s well-worth the risk.

Will the Sixers give Embiid an extension?

RM: This is another matter altogether. The Sixers have invested so much in Embiid over the past four years that they probably feel obligated to bring him back at any cost. There’s no way they want another team to reap the benefits after spending millions on podiatrists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, and whomever they pay to keep an eye on Embiid’s Twitter account.

MM: Absolutely. The 76ers realize Embiid is a foundational piece in the sky-scraper they’re currently constructing.

Odds the Sixers will sign Embiid to a contract extension: 1/4

We could be seeing a lot of Joel Embiid in street clothes this season. Photo by Disney | ABC Television Group (Flickr) CC License

Will Embiid be an All-Star in 2017-18?

RM: Absolutely. If Anthony Mason and Brad Miller can make an All-Star team, then anything is possible. Embiid was third last year in fan voting, fifth in media voting, and eighth in player voting among all frontcourt players, and his popularity has only grown since. Even if he misses the start of the season, he’s a virtual lock to earn a roster spot in the depleted East.

MM: Would he be considered an All-Star if his only role during the weekend was to play LaVar Ball 1-v-1? Because that would be the most entertaining part of the festivities. Joking aside, three of the East’s 2016-17 All-Stars now reside in the West, Isaiah Thomas may still be sidelined with his hip injury, and Carmelo Anthony is likely to be on his way out of the conference, too. If Embiid can just play in half of the games prior to All-Star Weekend, he’ll get voted in.

Odds Embiid will be an All-Star in 2017-18: 2/3

How many games will Embiid play in 2017-18?

RM: I’m cautiously optimistic that Embiid will appear in 65 games. However, that could change if he trips on a roller skate at the top of his stairway or a light breeze blows against his surgically repaired knee.

MM: He played in 31 last season, after missing the first two years of his professional career due to injury. If the 76ers want Embiid healthy for their first playoff run since 2011-12, they’ll need to be extremely careful with him. That means limiting his action even before issues crop up. A 100% healthy Embiid might only suit up in 60 regular-season games.

Over/under games played for Embiid in 2017-18: 55.5

Will Embiid play in any back-to-backs in 2017-18?

RM: The Sixers will do everything but encase Embiid in bubble wrap for the first half of the season, but don’t be surprised if he plays limited minutes in back-to-back games in March or April if a playoff spot is on the line. Philly hasn’t participated in the postseason since 2012 and they’re eager to reward their long-suffering fans.

MM: If you drop a raw egg on the floor and it doesn’t crack, are you going to go ahead and try it again?

Odds Embiid will play in any back-to-backs in 2017-18: 2.5