The NBA world hasn’t seen seven-foot center Joel Embiid play competitive basketball since the Philadelphia 76ers drafted him with the third pick in the 2014 draft.
Embiid, once considered the No. 1 prospect in the draft, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot a week before the 2014 draft, and injury concerns caused him to slip the Sixers at No. 3.
Shortly after drafting Embiid, the 76ers said he would likely be out for the season.
Despite playing one, injury-shortened season at Kansas, NBA people raved about Embiid before the NBA draft. There was clearly a reason talent evaluators liked him even more than Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker before his foot injury.
Since January, brief highlights of Embiid working out have been sporadically popping up online. These videos are only a few seconds long and rarely feature actual NBA defenders (which are important), but they do offer exciting glimpses into the type of player the 21-year-old could be if and when he gets healthy.
Early in March, the 76ers posted a Vine from their official account of Embiid dunking between his legs during warmups:
Most recently, a video of Embiid practicing his post-ups surfaced, and though he misses the dunk, his physicality looks insane:
Here he is in the same workout working on his post moves:
In February, the 76ers tweeted a video of Embiid practicing three-pointers, with his form looking fairly smooth:
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) February 26, 2015
He appears to be practicing this a lot:
These are all encouraging after what has seemed like a rocky start to his NBA career. Embiid’s injury history makes him a gamble — and the Sixers are right not to rush a seven-footer with foot issues back (see: Kevin Durant) — but there have been other troubling signs.
Midway through the season, a photo of Embiid surfaced that looked like he had added some extra weight:
A separate report from the Philadelphia Inquirer said that he was 50 pounds heavier than he was in college and was having behavioural issues behind the scenes:
Embiid has a weight issue. Although the Sixers wouldn’t disclose his weight, a source said he’s close to 300 pounds after being 250 pounds at Kansas last season.
His work ethic is being questioned by some inside the organisation.
And a blowup with assistant strength and conditioning coach James Davis is one of the reasons he was sent home during the team’s recent West Coast road trip.
In Embiid’s defence, he was both limited in conditioning exercises while he recovered from his stress fracture and was told to bulk up. The combination of the two seemed to add some unwanted weight to his frame.
As evidenced in recent videos, Embiid looks mildly healthy and in shape while still boasting a more filled-out frame.
There are still concerns about Embiid going forward. His injury history is troubling and he’s yet to play a minute in the NBA. Furthermore, the emergence of Sixers big man Nerlens Noel since the All-Star break creates a question about Embiid’s fit — something head coach Brett Brown even acknowledged early in the season.
Until Embiid gets on the court, which reportedly won’t happen until this summer, the Sixers can only be hopeful about Embiid. He entered the draft last year as a franchise-changing talent, and if he can stay healthy and fit, he could still be one of the major keys in the 76ers’ rebuilding plan.
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