Joel Embiid sat out the entire season after being selected third overall by the Sixers in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he remains an important part of the team’s plans to rebuild for the future.
If there was any doubt about this, then the team wouldn’t even consider allowing Embiid to take place in the activities at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this week.
Embiid is there, along with head coach Brett Brown and GM Sam Hinkie. And he’s not just an idle bystander as the Sixers move through the talent evaluation process.
“I mean, really, this was his initiative,” Brown said. “He asked about it and we extended the invitation and he was all in. I think that for him to come here to Chicago and share in the selection and opinions of people that we may draft is an impressive quality that he has shown us. We get a workout in the morning. We a get lift in the morning. We’re going to a see a playoff game [Thursday night], the Cavaliers-Bulls game, let him take all that in. But I think to just digest this whole purpose in Chicago, something that he didn’t have an experience to look at last year, as well as help us grow the program that we’re trying to build, is a good thing.”
If Embiid’s initial intention was to simply accompany the Sixers’ contingent, his purpose on the trip quickly evolved. In addition to undergoing various tests and measurements, as well as 5-on-5 scrimmages, the prospects are also interviewed. Each team decides who sits in on those sessions. General managers and coaches are almost always in each private question-and-answer period, along with key player personnel staffers. The Sixers had all those people in their interviews, and one more: Embiid.
“I think it was fantastic,” Brown said. “For him to look across and see somebody on the hot seat and a fellow 20-year-old being grilled by coaches and management on all things related to basketball, family, outside interests, we give them a pen, they go to a board, they draw. All those types of things for him to see and share in some questions and go back and forth with people that he’s actually played against. I just think it’s healthy and I think it’s got to be accumulative effort that we’re putting out there where these guys have a say in the design and the growth of their own program.”
Some of the players at the combine said that Embiid being present and participating in the interviews helped make them feel more at ease. But no matter how it plays out, the Sixers are showing one of their young building blocks that his input matters, and that he’s a valued member of the franchise.