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Sixers sign Joel Embiid to a 5-year, $148 million contract, but is he worth it?

Alex Aroko
ANALYST
Feature
311   //    11 Oct 2017, 21:02 IST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid has been tied down to perhaps the most unique contract ever in the NBA by the Philadelphia 76ers. The reasons for such a move are still up in the air. Before you start cursing out the organization, you should understand that they have all the insulation they could manage inserted in the form of clauses, just in case.

So far, Embiid’s terrific personality exceeds his productivity on the basketball court. He was arguably the best prospect, if not the best player, in the 2014 NBA Draft that contained the likes of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. He missed his first two seasons in the NBA due to a foot injury sustained in college. He had a setback on the same foot in his second season and had to sit out.

In his third season (still somewhat a rookie), he took the league by storm, posting ridiculous stat lines while on restricted minutes, easily becoming a fan favourite and the face of the franchise. At 7ft tall, he possesses an unbelievable upside: high basketball IQ, extraordinary shot blocking ability; a consistent 3-point shot; great work ethic and competitive spirit, and finally, a hilarious no limit social media game.

His downside is his health. The Sixers took a hyper-conservative progression with his rehabilitation to ensure a steady healing process. The glimpse of brilliance he displayed in the 31 games he played last season is a testament to how talented he is as an an-up-and coming center in the league.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers

Breaking down the contract:

It’s rookie-scale max extension, with the $146.5 million total for the deal based on the NBA's new salary cap projections for the 2018-19 season.

As per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski,

“Philadelphia gets protection if the foot, if the knee, if any of that gives out and he can’t play anymore...But even then, Embiid will still get roughly half this contract.”

What I get is that the organization is trying to protect their investment and themselves if things go south (God forbid). The obvious intangibles are loyalty and signaling to the fanbase and other players that they are serious about becoming a contender and that they are willing to take care of anyone they believe in.

Secondly, this may be a move to help Embiid avoid the distraction concerning his future with the team, and just concentrate on the game. It could also take the pressure of rushing back to the court off him and wait until he’s a 100% and ready to perform.

Finally, the organization might have the argument that his worth could be more while healthy, and this move saves them money later.

My verdict:

I have no problem with players earning their keep, but NBA history dictates that people his size don’t recover well from problems involving their backs and lower extremities (knees and ankles). I wouldn’t want to compare Embiid to Gregg Oden, Andrew Bynum, Yao Ming... but the trend with such injuries is one that cannot be overlooked.

Trust the process is all fun and amazing to talk about but Philly has to give results. The hype and pressure surrounding Embiid, Ben Simmons’ return, and Markelle Fultz may have spurred the Sixers organization into action and as a result, Embiid got an extension sooner than later.

They could have waited until his restricted free agency. Here, they’d offer him a competitive contract, and could also match any offers present, and still keep him after a hopefully healthy season of witnessing his abilities. I’m not sold on the urgency to lock him down now.

The details of the contract will be released soon. Until then there’s legitimate concern about this deal.

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Alex Aroko
ANALYST
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