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Sixers Tinder: Joel Embiid Matters More Than Anything

Future GOAT.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

I know what I'm about to say might be considered sacrilegious, but I've got to be honest. There's a part of me that gets annoyed when the Sixers trot out Allen Iverson at different events throughout the year. It's nothing against him. A.I. is the best. But for me, at least, he also serves as a reminder of what the Sixers have lacked since The Answer's reign in Philly: a true star. One of the best talents in the league. A single player who can make an entire organization of so-called "basketball people" relevant.

The Sixers will have the golden opportunity to add a new "face of the franchise" type talent this year in the 2016 NBA Draft after winning the lottery. But while everyone is busy debating Ben Simmons versus Brandon Ingram, all I can think about is the one player on the team who matters more than both of them.




Much like we've been waiting for the Sixers to finally win the lottery, we've also been waiting for this 7-2, 270 pound big man to finally play a professional basketball game. The hope is that the long wait will be over when this season arrives. No more setbacks. No more pre-game warmup videos or grainy footage of him playing other sports. Just ... Joel Embiid, actual NBA player on the active game roster.

And what a sight that will be. Admittedly, it might not be as pretty as people would hope right away. He's been away from playing actual basketball games for so long. It remains to be seen how his injuries and his time off have impacted his development.

But if Embiid can be anything like the player we think he can be ... look out. I always go back to what Jonathan Tjarks wrote about Embiid back in 2014. Just try not to get excited. I dare you. Bold emphasis is mine.

There is nothing Joel Embiid can't do on a basketball court. He's 7'0 250 with a 7'4 wingspan and he's an elite athlete who can get down in a stance, play way above the rim and control the defensive glass. On offense, he is a very fluid player who can play with his back to the basket, step out and knock down a mid-range jumper and find the open man out of a double team. This is after starting to play basketball only 3-4 years ago.

Embiid is the rare 7'0 who projects as an elite offensive player and an elite defensive player. In my mind, he's the best big man prospect since Tim Duncan. He's way more athletic than Yao Ming and Andrew Bynum and he's more polished than Dwight Howard and Greg Oden. Most young big men have to adjust to the NBA - the NBA is going to have to adjust to him. This is a guy who could be the best C in the NBA by the time he's 22-23. [...]

Embiid has no ceiling to how good he can be. That's a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a very young man, but it's the reality. Some guys need the right context early in their careers to develop into good players - Embiid is not one of them. He is the context. He would have cracked the rotation of every team in the NBA last season and he would have started for most of them. This is a guy you clear out your roster for [...]

I don't want to sound like I'm over-hyping the guy, but all the coverage of Wiggins overshadowed how absurdly dominant Embiid was at Kansas. His per game numbers weren't huge, but you have to look at per-minute stats with young players and his were off the charts - 19 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.5 steals, 4.5 blocks on 63% shooting. He was basically Anthony Davis with 30 pounds of muscle and the tie goes to the bigger player. [...]

A 7'0 who can control the paint on both sides of the ball is the most valuable type of player there is in the game of basketball. That's why almost every dynasty in NBA history had a Hall of Fame 7'0 in the middle of it. From Russell, Wilt and Kareem to Shaq, Hakeem and Duncan, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Embiid is good enough to be the guy who takes the baton, which I admit is an almost blasphemous thing to say.

Phew. It almost sounds too good to be true.

But it's not. If Embiid can stay healthy, which is obviously the make-or-break "if," then he's the guy with the potential to truly change the Sixers franchise. The combination of his immense talent and big personality will have the people of Philadelphia eating right out of his gigantic hands, just like they once did and still do with Iverson.

Embiid is the franchise cornerstone for the basis of championship contention. He has the potential to be so good that he can settle any qualms there are about the likes of Byran Colangelo building a team around him. He is the living embodiment (The Embiidiment) of why Sam Hinkie's patient plan was worth all that losing.

There is virtually no situation where it makes sense to get rid of Embiid at this point. He's here to stay, and it's going to be awesome to see the Sixers build a foundation upon him and the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft moving forward.

Easiest swipe right of my life.


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