DISCLAIMER: The following post is NOT an outright endorsement of Joel Embiid as the 76ers 2014 NBA Draft Lottery selection. It is simply a hypothetical idea that crossed my mind this past holiday weekend as I watched Embiid help Kansas defeat Oklahoma State and Baylor…
Leading up to the 2013-14 college basketball season my thoughts on the 2014 Draft class were that either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker would be the best fit for the 7-6. As I have watched both of those All-America caliber kids play this year, my pre-season thoughts have not wavered like many of the “experts” out there. Both are athletic, fantastic wing players who could step right in and start for Brett Brown. Either one would be a tremendous fit as a draft pick for the Sixers.
However, as the college basketball season shifts into high gear, I have begun to take a much closer look at some of the other elite prospects around the nation. So this past holiday weekend I closely watched (and rewatched via DVR) Joel Embiid of Kansas play in two games against very respectable competition.
As I watched and took notes on Embiid, who has recently sky rocketed up draft boards, I asked myself the following , “What if the Sixers are in a position to select Joel Embiid ? What if Hinkie is on the clock and Embiid is the best player available? Would Joel Embiid be a good fit here?”
If we project ahead to the 2014-15 season, it’s almost a certainty that Evan Turner, James Anderson and Spencer Hawes will be gone and that the Sixers first-five will have at least two holes in it:
SF: Thad Young (Hopefully)
C: Nerlens Noel
On paper, the selection of Joel Embiid — a long and athletic 7-footer with limited offensive skills — could go one of two ways for the Sixers. The addition of Embiid could create some very interesting lineup combinations for Brett Brown in 2014-15. Brown could use Embiid and Noel together and create a “Twin Towers” scenario that would certainly make the 76ers a better defensive unit. A lineup containing Noel and Embiid would also provide Brown with a number of high post-low post X&O options in the Sixers half-court sets. Or Brown could use Embiid off the bench and combine him with Tony Wroten and Arnett Moultrie to be the foundation of a very strong second unit. Really when you have two young, athletic and aggressive 7-footers, the possibilities are endless.
On the flip side of those positive items is the idea that selecting Embiid would mean Hinkie would have taken very similar 7-foot centers in back-to-back NBA Drafts. Noel and Embiid have nearly identical skill sets, bodies (Embiid is 20 pounds heavier) as well as offensive deficiencies and this would create the dreaded repetitive parts situation on the 7-6’s roster. Having two athletic, but raw 7-footers in the lineup/on the roster could hinder the scoring ability of a team that already struggles to get buckets in the half-court.
Let’s take a closer look at Embiid and see if we can reach a conclusion on whether or not he is a good fit for the 76ers…
Here’s a what draftexpress.com had to say about Embiid…
“The Cameroonian 7-footer is posting 18.5 points per-40 minutes on terrific efficiency (69% 2P%), while adding 12.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 4.5 blocks…Embiid looks the part of a NBA center. Very new to the game of basketball…has a limited feel for how to make his presence felt consistently, and doesn’t always know his limitations, but flashed some intriguing tools on both ends of the floor…Knocking down a 20-foot jump shot, making a nifty move to score a left handed hook shot in the post, and putting in some impressive efforts on the offensive glass, Embiid has some unique skills for a player only beginning to pick up the nuances of the game.
On the defensive end, Embiid is a talented shot-blocker who has the tools to become an excellent defender on the ball and rotating over from the weak-side down the road. The Basketball Without Borders product is a bit foul prone and could stand to be more aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim, but his timing was impeccable…”
Before I make a final decision om Embiid, let’s check out some video tape. First up is draftexpress.com’s preseason scouting video…
Now let’s take a look at Embiid’s highlights from the Oklahoma State game….
Embiid was coming off a huge performance (16 points; 9 boards & 5 blks.) vs. than No. 8 ranked Iowa State and on Saturday in a national spotlight game against #9 Oklahoma State, Embiid continued his high level of play. First and foremost, he posted 8 blocks in one of the better individual defensive efforts I have seen at the college level in some time. His quickness and anticipation from the defensive help side were very impressive. The 8 swats broke the KU freshman record for blocks in a game, which Embiid previously set earlier this year, with seven. Embiid has five or more blocks in four games this season and according to ESPN.com is the first player to have eight or more blocks in a game against a ranked opponent since current Sixer Nerlens Noel blocked 12 shots against Mississippi on Jan. 29, 2013.
In addition to the 8 rejections, Embiid also racked up his fourth double-double against OSU — 13 points (5-6 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Embiid scored 10 of those in the paint (game high) thanks to a variety of quick, but unpolished moves and converted alley-oops. Something else that impressed me was that unlike a lot of raw 7-foot prospects, Embiid appears to have good, quick hands.
I saw two things that I did not like from Embiid in this game: He committed 4 turnovers and shot 3-7 on FTAs. The first item is nothing new as Embiid averages 2.3 turnovers per game and had 7 vs. Iowa State last week. However he typically is a solid, but not great FT shooter (67%).
Here’s a look at Embiid’s highlights from the Baylor game
In the win over Baylor, Embiid scored 12 points on 4-7 shooting from the field and 4-4 from the FT line. He grabbed 4 total boards and was credited with 1 block. So, Embiid had a somewhat quieter game against Baylor, but IMO he still did some impressive things. I especially liked the way Embiid ran the floor on Monday night. Additionally, he made a number of plays that really put his quickness on display. Finally, I liked the fact that he did not have a letdown coming off a big performance during a very intense and emotional win over Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Obviously by now you have seen the play of that game on SC — Wayne Selden tracked down a loose ball along the sideline and dove into the stands to make an amazing save. While everyone else was watching Selden struggle to get back on the court, I kept focused on Embiid during that play. The 7-footer snatched up Selden’s wild save; turned without hesitation and flipped a semi-hook shot into the basket over a stunned Baylor defense. The play showed great awareness and a soft touch by Embiid. To be honest, I found it almost as impressive as Selden’s leap into the stands.
Based on what I saw from Embiid in the Oklahoma State game as well as again Monday night vs. Baylor, he certainly has improved from the beginning of this year. It’s obvious that he has put in a great deal of practice time on his footwork and offensive moves. Additionally, his court presence has now advanced past the 8th grade CYO level and he appears to have less trouble finding the open spots/making the correct rolls to the basket. Thus his half-court game has taken a giant step forward.
From his AAU playing days, everyone knew that Embiid was an outstanding athlete who could fill the lane on the break, catch alley-oops on set plays and serve as a game changer at the back end of a defense. Now thanks to the Kansas staff and a lot of work by Embiid, he is becoming a much more polished big man. His development has been very, very impressive and IMO he may be a better overall player than Noel was before he got hurt at Kentucky. After watching Embiid so closely in these last two games, I can understand why he is has surged up the draft boards and sits in the #1 spot in several mock drafts.
But does that make him a great fit for the 76ers?
It’s a tough question answer. But here goes…
I’m not going to tell you that if the Sixers are fortunate enough to draft Embiid this coming June that it would be a disaster or even a mistake. He’s a 7-footer with solid skills and too much upside for me to make that type of dramatic statement. What I will say is that I think the repetitive parts idea has merit here. The Sixers have more pressing needs than center. And don’t kid yourself; neither Noel nor Embiid is sliding to power forward in the NBA. Adding a shooting guard or another wing player who can flat out fill it up would be at the top of my priority list for the 76ers.
Thus, if you ask me is “Is Joel Embiid a good fit for the Sixers?”…
I would answer “Yes.”…However, I don’t think Embiid (if available) is the best fit for the Sixers.
But have no fear Philadunkia nation, if Joel Embiid is available when the Sixers are on the clock during the 2014 Draft and Sam Hinkie selects this tempting prospect, we could do a lot worse than adding an athletic, quickly developing 7-footer who excels at rebounding and playing defense.
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