It’s been over two years since Joel Embiid was selected with the 3rd pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Since then, it’s been a torrid period for the Cameroonian center. A broken navicular bone in his right foot kept him out for two seasons and delayed his NBA debut. But tonight – when the 76ers host the Thunder – that debut will finally come.
Joel Embiid Set for NBA Debut
In those two long years since the draft, Embiid has been something of an enigma. Sixers fans had to rely on workout videos to see their prized big man in action, as the seven-footer’s debut was relentlessly delayed. But the preseason helped to dissolve some of the mystery and show how the center has developed since his college basketball days.
Philadelphia fans will like what they see. Not only did Embiid display his well-documented skill in the post, he flashed the shooting range that is so coveted in modern big men. Although his FG% of 44.8% was inefficient for a center, that number is likely to climb in the regular season as he shakes the rust off.
Embiid also improved as the preseason progressed. He grew more confident throughout October, culminating in an 18 point, 9 rebound performance against Miami. His confidence in his own shot grew, as he took 16 shots in that final preseason game.
Challenges of the NBA
Of course, even as an official NBA game finally looms, Embiid has work to do. Although he has matured since his draft, he faces the same challenges that any rookie does. While his defense has tremendous potential, he must be careful not to be overzealous chasing blocks. Against Miami, he fouled out in just 18 minutes.
Like any player coming off a long-term injury, Embiid’s quickness will be under the microscope as he adjusts the pace of the NBA. He has displayed impressive strength in the preseason, which bodes well for his career in such a physically demanding league.
The Sixers will look to offset any such growing pains by limiting his minutes to about 20 against OKC. The team also may rest him for back-to-back games to reduce the risk of further injury. Despite all of the setbacks and doubt surrounding the center’s fitness, he is a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
Embiid has endured a marathon to shake off his injuries in the last two years, but only now is he approaching the starting line of his professional career. He still has to improve as the Sixers try to improve from league-worst to the playoffs in the next few years. Embiid’s process will be central to that.