Early Thoughts: Joel Embiid Looks Special

The Sixers may have only played two games (and lost both) but watching them this year has been wholeheartedly more exciting, mainly due to rookie Joel Embiid. Simply put I cannot stress how impressed I’ve been with the former number three overall pick thus far in the early 2016 season.

What about Embiid makes me gush? Well, there’s a lot. But the most striking thing to me isn’t really something tangible, instead it’s how natural and polished he looks as a basketball player, a rookie one at that. He has this confidence about him with the ball in his hands and looks like someone with years of experience despite playing just 44 total minutes. He looks unprecedentedly polished with his handles and moves. Actually, his whole career thus far has been unprecedented. Embiid was considered to be the number one overall prospect after only 28 games at Kansas but a surgery to his right foot following the season caused him to slide down and be selected third. He missed his entire rookie year. And the year after that. Not to mention he missed the NCAA tournament while he was still in college. So in his first real NBA games there would surely be some rust right? Not hardly. So far Embiid has put on display all the elements of his game that scouts believed could make him elite. He can step back and shoot, threes even. He has shown flashes of being a formidable defender with highlight reel rejections, including one on veteran Dwight Howard no less.

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Additionally, another reason i love watching the kid is because his game is plain old refreshing. With so many guard oriented attacks now, it’s cool to see a seven footer handle the rock and lead an offense. He doesn’t look awkward or clumsy like many players his size so often do. He plays like a guard or forward in a centers body.

I must admit that out of all the Sixers young “assets” (remember that word?), I was the most skeptical about Embiid, mainly because of his history of injuries. I still am skeptical to a degree about his body going forward. But thus far, saying he looks impressive would be an understatement. Has he only played two games? Yes. Is he going to make some bad, ugly rookie mistakes this season? Yes, of course. But from this small sample size it’s hard not to get amped about what this guy can do for a success starved franchise in the years to come.

Why The Sixers Shouldn’t Trade Jahlil Okafor

The Sixers, for once, find themselves in a not-so-terrible-place despite finishing last season 10-72. The reason being is, for once, things worked out for them on the night of the draft lottery and they secured the #1 draft pick that they…”deserved”. Additionally, they have no real cap concerns and already have a handful of highly coveted prospects on the roster. So why do I still have elevated levels on anxiety regarding this team? Because I think they could make a big mistake and trade away Jahlil Okafor.

Last year the Sixers were 18-64 and came away with the 3rd overall pick in the draft which was almost universally considered a flop for the team since they weren’t able to take guard D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State, which in hindsight is probably almost universally considered a blessing. Jahlil Okafor, having been apart of Duke’s championship squad as a freshman, for lack of a better phrase, fell into their laps as he was deemed too talented, too valuable to pass up despite already having two other highly touted big men on the roster. Okafor was seen coming into the NBA as a perennial 20/10 guy who’s poor stamina and free throw shooting were already well documented. He is still expected by basketball experts to be a 20/10 throughout the better part of his career and even averaged almost 18 points and 7 points during his rookie season playing with a terrible team composed of fringe NBA players. So with those averages, why would it not be shocking news if the Sixers parted with him after only a year?

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Well, it was apparent there wasn’t a great deal of chemistry with fellow big man Nerlens Noel, who is expected to be a centerpiece on this young team going forward. Second, as mentioned before, the Sixers have another coveted big man on the team not named Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid. Embiid, like Okafor, basically fell into the Sixers lap when they yet again had the 3rd overall pick in the draft the year before Okafor. Embiid was also considered a can’t miss talent who many expected to go #1 that year before he got injured just before the draft which inevitably hurt his stock. Perhaps saying that Embiid was a can’t miss talent is an understatement, even with limited basketball experience people compared him to Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. Additionally, Jahlil Okafor has had a rocky freshman campaign from an off the court standpoint. He was pulled over for going 108 miles per hour over the Ben Franklin Bridge heading into Philadelphia and was also involved in multiple drunken altercations, one where he was caught on camera punching someone and the other where he had a gun pulled on him. Finally, the last big reason why the Sixers might trade him is because he’s still considered to be one of their most valuable assets, despite all of this. He is viewed as someone who can still live up to his potential, who could benefit enormously from a change of scenery. For that reason, the Sixers could probably get a considerable offer for the 20 year old.

OK. Now that i supplied the reasoning why the Sixers could potentially swing a deal, I’m ready to defend not doing so like Johnnie Cochran in ’95.

  1. Yes, it is true that there was a lack of chemistry with Nerlens Noel and that they didn’t play well together. However, since when is it considered ok to give up on an elite prospect after only one season? Nerlens Noel is 22 and just learning how to play on his own, the notion that he should already be able to tailor his game to compliment another big man seamlessly is laughable. Not playing well with a guard is one thing, but this is another seven foot body, it’s not normal to have two elite big men playing alongside each other let alone them figuring the whole thing out in one year. Brett Brown has won less than 20% of his games as an NBA head coach. We all know that’s mainly because of the severe lack of talent but still he’s relatively inexperienced as a head coach. Maybe he should have some accountability? If he’s considered a coach worth keeping maybe he’s able to figure something out?

2. This is really the big one, no pun intended. JOEL EMBIID HASN’T PLAYED A SINGLE GAME IN HIS TWO YEAR NBA CAREER. Typing that in caps was such a satisfying release I want to do it over and over again. If you’re playing devils advocate you could argue that him not playing was more of a deliberate move by the team as they want to ensure he’s 100% healthy instead of a chronic inability to stay on the court. The point is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if he’s the next Tim Duncan or Hakeem Olajuwon, there is literally 0 NBA experience to validate that. He was hurt in COLLEGE. His team got eliminated from the tournament as he sat on the sideline with a stress fracture. He hasn’t played in a meaningful game since. Who knows if he can even play? There’s always players who are projected to be the next _______ (insert Hall of Famer here) who never pan out even when they’re healthy. The fact that the Sixers seem poised to bet the farm on this kid  is basically doubling down because not only is his health in serious question, there’s just no tangible evidence he can play in the NBA. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15. Okafor seems like a lock to be a consistent 20/10 guy for years to come. What’s Embiids projection? 25/15? 30/20? Although you probably can’t tell, I still like Embiid! That’s not sarcasm! He had two years to rest up and has a lot of potential, I just would rather see him in action and see what we have before we trade away a valuable player like Okafor. Who knows, maybe Nerlens is the odd man out? I’m just throwing out nonsense because the whole point is you don’t know what you don’t know.

3. Yes, his off the court incidents were troublesome. The footage of his altercations were embarrassing. He was 19 years old. It takes time for some players to mature and handle adversity. It’s probably tougher than you would imagine to go from the National Champion to laughingstock in less than a year. Hey, let’s not act like all the other Sixers are choir boys either.  Nerlens Noel is being sued by his landlord for extensive damage and mistreatment to his property. Again, doesn’t a head coach have some influence in off court behavior? Since Brett Brown’s our guy shouldn’t he be able to show these men how to act like a professional? Just a thought. Okafor played for Mike Krzyzewski. I’m not concerned. He flipped out for being on such a lousy team and while he reacted in the wrong way, I’ll take a player with passion over a player who doesn’t give a shit any day.

4. Yes, Okafor is one of the team’s most valuable trade piece. We can probably get a top 3 pick for him and under normal circumstances that could very well be worth doing. They can get the elite guard which has been ever so elusive for years now. They can pair two young top players from this years class to go with two promising big men, but that’s all under the assumption that Joel Embiid is going to be the team’s power forward for years to come. While it’s possible that may be the case and even hopeful, it is still ultimately an assumption that’s premature nonetheless. I’ll leave you with this question: if we lose a talent like Embiid (any injury would probably be longterm at this point) do you really want to wait another 82 games trying to find his replacement?

Jahlil Okafor Continues To Give 0 Fucks, Caught Speeding

It hasn’t been a pretty holiday weekend for Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor, but then again when has anything related to Philly’s pro basketball team looked pretty recently? But now rather than a minor slip up, Okafor seems closer to a full on Britney melt down.

“Okafor was stopped by police on the Ben Franklin Bridge about three weeks ago for going 108 mph, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Going over 40 mph on the bridge, which spans the Delaware River and connects Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey, is considered reckless driving, according to the report.

This is not Okafor’s only run-in this season.

Boston police announced this weekend that a man filed a report claiming that he was the victim in a fight with Okafor outside a nightclub early Thursday morning. That department had said Friday that it wouldn’t investigate the incident unless someone came forward.

And in October, a heckler pointed a gun at Okafor’s head following a verbal exchange at a Philadelphia club, the Inquirer reported.”

Alright alright first things first that as someone who has traveled over the Philadelphia bridges quite frequently nobody really follows the 40 mph thing. But 108?! Damn boy, as Fat Joe once said in ‘what’s luv?’, “slow down baby!”. Plus it’s the end of the month, officers have to fill their quota (duh). I was happy Okafor threw down with that loser in Boston, at least someone in Philly isn’t happy about playing for a loser. As a fan, I want to see some fire (and also some brain cells but passion is dope too). To me it’s either that Okafor is genuinely upset and struggling from transitioning from a powerhouse in Duke to a laughing stock in the Sixers, or the dude just really doesn’t give a fuck and wants nothing to do with this sad team. Hopefully it’s the former, Okafor coming out of college was perceived as a “good kid” (I love that phrase, brings me back to my own college days) with little off the court baggage. All jokes aside I hope the big  fella can figure it out, once this seasons misery is concluded it’s actually time to start building this thing up and start competing going forward. The Sixers are going to have a gaggle of high draft picks and there’s some promising talent coming out this year so there’s still reason for optimism, it’s just a shame that you literally have to endure full seasons of not trying to get there. Once the talent comes, fans will too, Gratzfeed guarantees that and if there is one thing we known it’s that Philly fans will pay whatever money they have to in order to see a winning professional team.

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You can check out the full story right here:

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/14248533/jahlil-okafor-philadelphia-76ers-stopped-speeding-ben-franklin-bridge

Sixers And Kings Complete Big Time Swap

The Sixers and Kings have just announced a massive swap that will send Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, and Jason Thompson to Philly for … wait, I’m pretty sure the Sixers gave up a couple of Hatfield franks and a bucket of crab fries. According to Sports Illustrated,

“In return, the 76ers will send a protected first-round draft pick to the Kings and will swap draft rights with Kings on two other first-round picks, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe.”

I’ve read that the Sixers apparently gave up some overseas players too but that they did not include Dario Saric, so we can all exhale. Let me break this down for yall…at first I was completely elated with this trade, and while I still am pretty fucking pumped, I’ll feel better when i know what the Sixers plan on doing with Thompson and Landry. If the Sixers can move those two and keep Stauskas then this was an absolute steal for Philly that should replenish hope for Sam Hinkie among Sixers faithful. Landry and Thompson both have two more years on their contracts that combine for somewhere around 28 million total. I expect the Sixers to be able to move them eventually but the real gem in this deal was Nik Stauskas. The 6’6 sniper from Michigan was selected 8th overall last year by Sacramento but had a pretty dismal year averaging only 4.4 points per game. HOWEVER, the Kings last year were less of a basketball team and more of a three-ring circus as they endured a coaching change, disgruntled players, the works. Totally not the right environment for a rookie and no reason at all to lose faith in the kid who’s still only 21. The Sixers were in desperate need of a shooter and this is the perfect guy to take a chance on, doesn’t hurt at all since there are no real expectations to win this season anyway. Great fucking job Hinkie.

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The Kings on the other hand are scheming and did this to clear cap space to pursue free agents. Word on the street is they like Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo, which seems like a recipe for either brilliance, or more likely a total fucking implosion. Can’t wait to sit back and see how that one plays out.

You can check out the full article right here:

http://www.si.com/nba/2015/07/02/nba-free-agency-sacramento-kings-trade-nik-stauskas-philadelphia-76ers-monta-ellis-rajon-rondo