Joel Embiid has yet to have surgery to repair his fractured eye socket, the swelling has to go down before he can go under the knife. His absence has changed the Eastern playoff race — a few days ago there was talk of the Sixers passing the Cavaliers for the three seed and having a reasonable path to the conference finals, now they may not be able to hold off the Pacers and keep home court in the first round. And if Embiid is not back for that first round…
Want some good news Sixers fans? Want some hope?
The Sixers are optimistic that Embiid will only miss one playoff game, maybe two, if everything goes right, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on the NBA Countdown show today. That is on the short end of the 2-4 week timeframe for these injuries, it would require everything going right — he gets surgery this weekend, it’s not more complicated than they think now, there are no setbacks in healing — but it’s possible.
With Embiid back, and if he can step in and quickly be close to his old self, the Sixers become a real threat in the postseason. While Ben Simmons may be Rookie of the Year, and they have good fit role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, it is Embiid that makes it all work. When Embiid has been off the court this season the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions worse. When Embiid is sitting the Sixers defense goes from elite to about average, and the offense falls and becomes one of the worst in the NBA.
That’s not a formula that lasts long in the postseason.
The Sixers will try to plug the hole with some combination of Amir Johnson, Richaun Holmes, and Dario Saric at center, depending on the matchup, but the Sixers need Embiid back to have any real shot in the postseason.
Which is why this report matters. Hope, it’s the best of things.