Two years after being drafted third overall, Joel Embiid is expected to finally make his NBA debut this season. All signs are pointing to Embiid being ready to go when training camp kicks off next week, after missing his first two seasons with a recurring foot injury. But head coach Brett Brown still doesn’t know if Embiid will start on opening night, and his minutes will be kept on a tight leash. The same is not true of this year’s No. 1 overall pick, Ben Simmons, who will be turned loose right away.
Embiid was expected to be an elite player since the time the Sixers selected him third overall in the 2014 draft. However, two operations on the navicular bone in the 7-foot-2, 275-pounder’s right foot prevented him from playing in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
The Sixers will have him on a minutes restriction. Embiid also isn’t expected to play on back-to-back nights. They won’t know if he’ll start at center against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the season-opener until after consulting with the medical staff.
This year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, won’t have the same restrictions. Look for the 6-10 point forward to play 30-plus minutes a night while initiating the offense. There’s a lot of excitement because of his ability to play anywhere from power forward to point guard.
Embiid hasn’t played high-level competitive basketball since spring of 2014, so keeping him on a minutes restriction makes a lot of sense, at least until his conditioning gets back to where he needs to be. Embiid’s history of foot problems also make it the smart play to monitor his work load, since there isn’t a great track record of big men being able to come back from those injuries. But as of now, all signs are positive.