The city of Brotherly Love welcomes the idea of what an Embiid/Noel combination can mean going forward.
Let’s get a few things out of the way. I’ve been a Sixers fan for as long as I can remember, I wanted the Sixers to get the number one pick in the draft, and I had no problem with them tanking to try to achieve that. Then with their number one pick I wanted the Sixers to draft that freshman from Kansas. And look what happened. The Sixers fell to the three slot and still they got him! Almost.
Going into the draft I had dreams of a Michael Carter Williams/Andrew Wiggins backcourt wrecking havoc on the defensive end and creating breathtaking plays in transition. Unfortunately the thought of other draft possibilities didn’t leave me feeling thankful for my YouTube app. I dreaded the possibility of this image: two giants, well dressed in Armani suits, one with an excellent flat top, the other more subdued, both sitting at the end of the 76ers bench. These two men are Nerlens Noel and Sixers’ newest lottery pick, Joel Embiid. As a fan, I was deathly afraid of my Sixers drafting an already injured big man. First his back, now his foot, next my dreams of seeing a championship franchise before I turn 30.
Allow me to lay out the argument I made before the draft about the Sixers avoiding Embiid at all cost in the top five. Then allow me to explain another Embiid scenario that makes him well worth the risk at three.
Embiid will be asking for the phone number to Greg Oden’s tailor in season one. He will never find consistent health and he will give validity to all the pre-draft concerns that will make him slide in the draft. As Embiid rides pine at the end of the Sixers’ bench, MCW will keep learning how to lose in every way imaginable, stunting his growth to an irreparable extent. Noel won’t be able to bear the thought (much less the workload) of playing with the likes of Byron Mullens and Jarvis Varnado in the front court and his legs will betray him. Thaddeus Young will happily pack his bags to go ANYWHERE else. And Brett Brown will be on the phone with Gregg Popovich asking, “Why was this a good idea again?”
I’m not a doctor and I don’t have any inside information on Embiid’s injuries. With that being said, here is my medical philosophy: Backs don’t get better. Ever. You can learn to deal with a bad back. You can even have some good days with a bad back, but you never shake back problems completely. When was the last time you heard someone say that they used to have back problems? Never. You either have back problems or you don’t (unless Kobe knows a doctor overseas who has the antidote). And now we throw in a foot injury on top of that. Again, I’m not a doctor but when I think about big men with foot injuries I think Yao, Oden and before my time, Walton and Sampson. I have little optimism that feeble feet will help hold up a creaky back for 82 plus games season after season. I have even less optimism that these feet will hold up this back for 82 plus games for my hapless Sixers.
These are red flags! Don’t do it!
The Sixers looked fear in the face, drafted Embiid, and found Duncan-Robinson 2.0. Emiid assumes the role of Tim Duncan, exceptionally talented two-way big man that flat out produces while revitalizing a franchise. Noel assumes the role of a much younger David Robinson, epicenter of the defense who uplifts his teammates with his infectious smile and energy. The Sixers ride this duo to multiple championships and the city of brotherly love lives happily ever after. Is this some kind of 76ers fairy tale? Maybe. Is this scenario likely? Probably not. But is this scenario at least a possibility? Absolutely. And that’s all Sixers fans have. Right now it’s crazy to say that Embiid will be as good as Duncan, the best power forward ever; and to say Noel will be an all-timer like Robinson. But if this tandem can get anywhere near the status of that duo, then the Sixers made a brilliant draft day selection.
I don’t know what will happen and no one can really say for sure. But for the sake of Sixers fans, let’s hope that in June 2017 Brett Brown is calling back to San Antonio to ask Pop for advice on how to get the most out of his bigs in the Finals and not asking for his old job back.