Waiting for the Other Shoe To Drop

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Sixers fans may have to wait longer than hoped to see Kansas product Joel Embiid take the court.

I attended a wedding Saturday night, not even giving my usual cursory glances to what was happening on twitter as I reveled in wine and dance. So imagine my surprise when Sunday morning rolled around and apparently a Woj bomb of the nuclear variety had gone off late in the night, throwing Sixers nation into complete chaos.

The Sixers would later release a statement with the crux of the matter being that a CT scan ‘revealed less healing than anticipated at this point’. Conflicting reports subsequently came out that a second surgery had definitely been ruled out, then also that one may or may not still be on the table. So basically, nobody knows anything as of this point in time. Still, it’s easy to understand why devious visions of Greg Oden would dance in the heads of Sixers fans; big men with foot concerns generally don’t have a great history of success overcoming them, something the Sixers were fully aware of when they selected Embiid third overall in last summer’s draft.

For now, I would caution patience; there’s no need to form an orderly queue on the Ben Franklin Bridge quite yet. The last time Embiid reportedly suffered a ‘setback’, he was back to throwing down highlight-reel dunks within a week. It’s certainly not a good thing that it’s taking longer than expected to heal, but it’s not like there was some new break or that we know further surgery is needed. Sure, it’s a bummer that we likely won’t see JoJo take the court in summer league, but if he needs more time to heal, time and cap space are the two things the Sixers have in great abundance after all. The team wasn’t going to be battling the likes of Cleveland and Golden State for league supremacy this upcoming season anyway.

What this really underscores is how crazy it was for Sixers fans to have Noel-Embiid penciled in as the starting frontcourt for the next decade when Embiid has still yet to play a professional game. Really all along, the Sixers were firmly still in ‘best player available’ mode in regard to this month’s draft. If by some divine providence, Karl-Anthony Towns falls to 3, you take him. If the Sixers decide Kristaps Prozingis is the guy, I have to trust their judgment.

The only big I wouldn’t pull the trigger on would be Jahlil Okafor because he seemingly couldn’t play next to either Embiid or Noel. Spacing would be a huge concern on offense and Okafor doesn’t offer superior rim protection or the ability to track guys on the perimeter defensively. In a league where significant stretches of the finals are being played with LeBron James being the tallest guy on the court for either team, Okafor doesn’t seem to fit this new version of the NBA.

Finally, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that if Embiid should turn out to be a bust due to injuries (if, we’re still a long way from that), it’s an indictment of Sam Hinkie’s process with the rebuild. The only reason the best talent in the draft fell to the Sixers at 3 was because of these very same injury concerns. It was the epitome of a high-risk, high-reward selection. Hinkie’s strategy has always been to collect as many high draft picks as possible knowing some of them aren’t going to pan out. That’s the nature of the draft. If Embiid should be one of those that doesn’t work, it’s on to the next one. Regardless, we’re still a long way from that happening and hopefully this setback is but a minor footnote in a long, successful career for Joel Embiid.

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