The Philadelphia 76ers have gone 6-3 while Joel Embiid has been sidelined with a bone bruise. For the most part, they’ve played about as well as anyone could have hoped for, although they are coming off a poor performance against the Denver Nuggets. Nevertheless, the Sixers’ defense and bench stepping up for the team to pick up this many wins (including three on the road) without Embiid has been huge for them.
Now, they don’t have to wait long to try and build on this momentum with their MVP candidate to lead the way again. The Sixers provided an update on Wednesday that Embiid is expected to return this weekend. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Embiid is expected to play on Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the Sixers return to Philly after a long road trip (the Sixers also have a game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday). Embiid has been responding well while ramping up his conditioning and basketball activities, and there will be another update from the team on Friday to confirm his status for the weekend.
When considering how bad the injury to Embiid’s knee looked when it happened and how long he could have potentially been out for (and how much the team could have understandably struggled without him), it’s great for the Sixers that Embiid is about to return and the team has held up well in his absence.
Over the last nine games without Embiid, the Sixers have ranked 1st in defensive rating, 19th in offensive rating, and 6th in net rating (+6.5). Even with some weaker opponents on their schedule, the Sixers’ defensive execution and play through a hectic schedule (with two back-to-backs and a six-game road trip) has been rather impressive.
Apart from Embiid’s return, the other thing to monitor with Philly’s center rotation now is whether they look to pick up a new big on the buyout market. Tony Bradley played well before being dealt away in the George Hill trade, and smaller frontcourts of Ben Simmons and Mike Scott struggle defensively. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said after the trade deadline that if the Sixers make a signing from the buyout market, it will probably be a big.
We’ll be sure to keep you posted when we receive another update on Embiid.