There has been every louder buzz that Joel Embiid's contract situation is an important one for the Sixers.
Eligible for an extension, "The Process" has uncharacteristically gone silent on both social media and has reportedly not been working out at the team's practice facility in Camden, and WIP's Howard Eskin says he knows why.
"He’s not ready for five-on-five play, according to the Sixers," Eskin, a long-tenured radio personality in Philadelphia said on the station's midday show. "But what I understand is, his agent wants a new contract before he — remember he’s eligible to get a new deal. Now, if you’re the Sixers you can’t give him a max deal until you see that he can play, how many games he can play during the season.
“But my understanding, part of the reason that they’re saying — whoever it is that is saying that he’s not ready for five-on-five play, is because — and Joel Embiid, I don’t think worries about the money, but they listen to their agents. And the agent wants a new contract.”
Embiid's rookie deal has one year left after this season — a team option — before he becomes a resticted free agent. The team wants him back and hasn't been shy to say so. But Philly understandably wants to avoid Embiid hitting the market. They also want to avoid handing him a max contract, as in three pro seasons he has only appeared in 31 game, all of them last year.
And while his play, when he played, was All-Star caliber, he needs to show he is healthy before the Sixers will spend a max amount of $25 million per season on the 7-foot-2 big man.
So what is Embiid's strategy here? Perhaps he isn't as healthy as everyone hopes, as Eskin alludes to when he says he is "not ready for five-on-five play." Demanding a new contract first could preserve his earning abilities.
But extending Embiid before training camp could also help Philly — if Embiid proves to be healthy and productive. Inking a deal now gives the Sixers more leverage and therefore the potential to save a lot of money on a guy who could play himself into a no-brainer max deal. And getting Embiid relatively cheaply will help the team a great deal as it prepares to contend, and one day retain Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz.
Of course, there is also a good possibility the report is unsubstantiated and Embiid shows up and happily plays the duration of his current contract. But the news does make sense given the current situation.