The 2014 NBA Draft had a trio of players competing for the top draft selection.

Andrew Wiggins was an athletic monster that could punish the rim and had a great defensive instinct. He has potential to become an incredibly rare talent, that may only come along once a decade. He was the number one selection in the draft

Jabari Parker came out of Duke with the ability to score from all over the floor. He had a Carmelo Anthony-esque knack for getting off any shot he wanted. All that scoring prowess was packed into a frame of 6’8 235. A pure scorer. He would have helped his playoff team nicely last season, if not for a rookie season cut drastically short with a torn ACL. He followed Wiggins as the second pick in 2014.

The third pick is a pretty notorious one. Joel Embiid.

Embiid has not registered a single minute of NBA action and is still a hot NBA topic.

After sitting out for his rookie campaign with a foot injury, in August of 2015 it was announced he suffered a setback in the recovery of his foot. One year for an injury can be tolerable, but two seasons is kryptonite to any fan’s patience.

There are many fans willing to write him off already. I’m nearly certain the negativity surrounding Embiid would not be as poignant if not for the Andrew Bynum debacle. I mean who doesn’t still become enraged over the thought of that dimwitted, lazy, selfish, waste of space,good-for-nothing dirtbag stealing $17 million? He’s the Bernie Madoff of professional sports.

But before Joel Embiid is thought of as another wasted failure of a player, hear me out.

The outlook for Embiid is not as promising as once thought considering the nature of his injury. The navicular bone is not an injury to be taken lightly. Yao Ming’s (7’6) career was essentially ended by a navicular bone injury. Kevin McHale (6’10) suffered a navicular bone injury and it is thought to be the culprit behind his limp. But on the bright side, the injury isn’t a death sentence. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7’3) fractured his navicular bone in 2000 and went on to play ten more seasons. All of those players are comparable to the size of Embiid, who has reportedly grown to 7’2.  Michael Jordan had a navicular bone injury in 1985 and explaining what happened to him afterwards would be a waste of time and energy.

For all of those doubting his chances of ever suiting up, don’t you think they would have given up already ?

The Sixers traded away Michael Carter-Williams after earning himself Rookie of the Year honors, which showed the organization’s long term outlook on him. The Sixers decided not to retain JaVale McGee and owe him enough money to buy a third world country. And as nearly every casual Sixers fan knows, the team is devoted to sabermetric, analytical statistics.

So given their brazen openness to the long-term potential of players, room to spend/burn money, and their religious numbers crunching science, if there was no light and the end of the Joel Embiid tunnel, I’d be willing to bet they would have cut the Cameroonian and washed their hands of the whole situation.

And the next Embiid negative bullet point is “they shouldn’t have picked him”.

And who would have been a better choice ?

When your in the midst of a massive overhaul that is unprecedented in the history of professional sports, you aim for potential.

So out of Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Nik Stauskas, Noah Vonleh, and Elfrid Payton who would have been better ?

Two of those players aren’t even with their original teams.

Gordon isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Dante Exum averaged 4.8 points per game last season to pair with 2.4 assists, while appearing in all 82 games. Nik Stauskas and Noah Vonleh both got dealt after failing to show that they were not living up to expectations.

Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Elfrid Payton are all on their way to becoming legitimate NBA weapons, but nothing to justify them being selected over Embiid at the time.

Without sounding like an overly optimistic daydreamer,  I would have chosen him too.

Watch this and this and try not to envision his drool-worthy potential. Or if you’re more of a comprehensive person read this.

And keep in mind he’s grown two inches and now looks like…

Joel-Embiid
via collegespun.com

Roughly 7’2 and what looks to be about 280 lbs and pair that with a jumpshot, a plethora of post moves, and a shot-blocking intuition, it would be premature to lack the patience to see what he can do fully healthy. (If he gets there)

I know the injuries have weakened the possibility of Embiid becoming a monstrosity of a center and have increased the chances of him becoming Greg Oden.

I’d be more likely to write him off if not for the circumstances surrounding his basketball life and upbringing

He grew up in Cameroon with the hopes of playing volleyball or soccer for a living. He moved to America at the age of 16 with the prospect of  becoming an NBA star. He was implanted in Florida to play high school basketball, which led him to Kansas. He played one year of college hoops before declaring for the draft.

Embiid left his home to come to a foreign country to learn a new sport and culture. It’s been five  years since he left Africa for America to play basketball. He won’t turn 22 until March. He hasn’t been playing basketball for very long and is learning how be a young adult in American life with a few million dollars in his pocket. Embiid also lost his younger brother Arthur last year.

To say his past five years have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. In a city that relishes in proving doubters wrong and embodies the underdog, Joel Embiid fits right in. He has a lot to prove, he’s hungry.

He’ll be run out of town if he flops, but if he finds success could end up being a fan favorite.

Joel Embiid is trying the patience of a city whose fan base has been known for the polar opposite. He is a classic example of high risk, high reward.

Boom or Bust.

Only time will tell, but hey…

If the walking boot fits…

20150310_inq_sixr10z-c
via philly.com

 

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