The Philadelphia 76ers swung for the fences and created a set of twin towers with the selection of Joel Embiid, pairing him with last season’s sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel.
Embiid was the best prospect in this draft before suffering a stress fracture of his navicular bone in his foot last week. He’ll be be sidelined 4-to-6 months with this injury, but that doesn’t necessarily bother the 76ers. The Sixers are not going to be competing any time soon, so expect the team to bring him along slowly.
His fit with Noel is potentially a good one. Noel, prior to injury, was an absolute terror on the perimeter in the pick-and-roll. His smart defensive game will fit perfectly with Embiid, who is still trying to figure it out on that end. Embiid is very mobile for a 7-foot, 250 lb player, but now he can stay around the rim where he is best. Offensively is where Embiid is further along. Embiid has a solid framework for a potential 15-foot jumper, along with the best post footwork we’ve seen from a prospect in a long time. Both this post ability and potential talent to space the floor should allow Noel to just be an athlete and minimalist on offense, where he can set screens and roll to the bucket. The Sixers want Noel to be able to just focus on the defensive end, where is a potential defensive player of the year one day.
Prior to being injured, Embiid was the presumptive choice for the Cavaliers at first overall. The navicular injury is a tricky one, as we outlined earlier today. It’s one that can linger throughout a career, and has felled many a big man. It’s why he’s such a question mark, and why no one knows what’s going to happen with his career. If he’s healthy for any extended period time, Embiid has a better chance than any prospect drafted since Greg Oden (welp) or Dwight Howard to be the best big man in the NBA at some point.
The Sixers may have just drafted the next great NBA big man, or they may have just drafted the next Oden. Or maybe he ends up as an Zydrunas Ilgauskas-type that fights injuries for long stretches of his career, but still plays All-Star level basketball while he’s on the floor. Time will tell, and the Sixers will need a little bit of luck for this to be totally successful.