By Art Beitchman
The best thing to happen to the Sixers’ rebuild was when super center rookie Joel Hans Embiid broke his foot just before the 2014 NBA draft.
He was earmarked to be the No. 1 overall pick, but no more as he slid to 3 and allowed the 76ers to draft their franchise center, injury and all!
The 76ers are finally bearing the fruit of that controversial and ballsy selection of then GM Sam Hinkie.
Two foot operations and years later, Embiid is proving to be the franchise player, and best big man the 76ers have ever drafted. NBA legend and Philadelphia native Wilt Chamberlain was drafted by the Warriors in 1959, thus excluded from this conversation.
Jo Jo has only played 30 regular season games due to the two-year layoff, plus the immense rigors of an NBA season. He’s averaged 25 minutes a game, scoring 19.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocked shots per game.
But the biggest impact the he’s supplied has been a supreme interior defender of the rim, nearly completely closing down any opponent from freely getting to the iron.
Embiid’s cat-like quickness gives him the ability to get to any shot, even hunting down shooters from 10 feet away, a valuable commodity for an NBA center to possess.
That defensive intensity has permeated the entire team — since December 30 they have a record of 10-3, which is good for 3rd best in the NBA in that time!
It’s no coincidence that since Nerlens Noel has been inserted as Embiid’s back-up through that stretch of play, 76ers head coach Brett Brown has had an elite rim defender on the court the full 48 minutes of an NBA game with amazingly positive results in the win column.
After three consecutive seasons of awful basketball, loyal 76ers fans finally have a team on the rise. And even better, Ben Simmons’ NBA career is about to be unveiled in February.
Sixers fans have good reason to be excited about the future.