Inside the Sixers: Embiid proof Sixers sticking to best-available philosophy

Posted: June 30, 2014

You should have disregarded NBA commissioner Adam Silver's announcing around 7:45 p.m. Thursday that the 76ers were on the clock.

They had been on the clock for 364 days, through several hundred hours of scouting followed by several hundred mock drafts and several hundred rumors. After all that, they made what they called an easy choice.

Time will tell if Joel Embiid was the right choice; we won't know until he actually starts playing. We'll probably have to wait at least until we see the 7-foot center out of Kansas defending a mobile post player in the 2015-16 season opener before we begin to draw any conclusions.

Embiid might sit out the coming season because of a stress fracture in his right foot. The recovery from his June 20 surgery will take five to eight months.

But Embiid's selection indicates the franchise remains committed to its philosophy of taking the best player available.

Now, the Sixers must find a way to make that philosophy work in what could become a crowded frontcourt the season after next.

No one questions whether Embiid is a talent. When healthy, the native of Cameroon has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon.

He averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocked shots at Kansas. Before his foot injury, he was projected to go first overall in the draft.

"We felt in many ways very fortunate to have the set of circumstances happen that allowed a player like Joel to be in our position," Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said. "We were very aggressive, and we will continue to be very aggressive, to find the best players for our team."

Yet, the 76ers have another center, Nerlens Noel, whom they also expect to be dominant.

Before the draft, the Sixers appeared to be invested in Noel at center. The 6-11 rookie missed all of last season while recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his left knee after his lone season at Kentucky.

Before the February 2013 injury, the Everett, Mass., native was regarded as a favorite to go first overall in that year's draft. He ended up going sixth to the New Orleans Pelicans, who shipped him and their 2014 first-round pick to the Sixers for Jrue Holiday.

Embiid's selection ensures that the franchise will have the 2015-16 version of the twin towers.

Sixers coach Brett Brown said Embiid might be the power forward in that scenario. He's the better shooter. Yet at 250 pounds, Embiid is more equipped to take a pounding at center than the 228-pound Noel. Both players are stellar shot blockers.

"I think that once you see these guys get older and playing together, you will figure it out," Brown said. "Center, power forward, I feel like in my head, without getting too coachspeak, I can see how you can make it work.

"And the bottom line is: I do think that Nerlens and Joel can coexist."

That's because the former San Antonio Spurs assistant has memories of winning NBA titles with twin towers David Robinson (7-foot) and Tim Duncan (6-11) in 1999 and 2003.

"I think I can find a way to play those two guys together and develop a program," Brown said. "It's a really good problem to have."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|