In each of the last two NBA Drafts, the Sixers selected what they hoped would be cornerstone big men in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid.
While both are loaded with talent, the moves were viewed as being at least slightly risky, considering that both players were injured at the time and would need to miss the entirety of their first NBA seasons.
Things worked out according to plan with Noel, who showed all kinds of promise while appearing in 75 games last season. But for Embiid, a recent setback with his foot injury could put things on hold for much longer than the team anticipated.
76ers center Joel Embiid may not be available to play at the start of the NBA season after the latest setback in the healing of his right foot, an NBA source said Sunday. There’s also a legitimate chance that the 7-footer could miss the entire season.
Another source, an Eastern Conference executive, said Sunday that the 76ers’ rebuilding plan is doomed if Embiid is unable to remain healthy or play at a high level.
“He was their guy,” said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They were hoping he was a franchise player. If he’s not a franchise player, their whole plan is gone. . . . If Embiid can’t play or if he can’t reach a superstar level, their plan is really in trouble.”
The part about the rebuilding plan being “doomed” if Embiid ends up being a bust isn’t exactly true, because more losing in Philadelphia would mean more lottery picks, and a chance to replace him with rookie talent in the future.
But there’s no question the process would be delayed, and it’s worth wondering just how much patience ownership will have if the rebuilding drags on season after miserable season.