Rewind to the 2014 NBA Draft.
If Joel Embiid doesn’t have medical questions, the 76ers simply don’t select him with the No. 3 overall pick. Had Embiid been healthy, he would have been the overwhelming No. 1 choice. No question.
The Sixers needed some luck and they got it which allowed Embiid to drop to them at No. 3.
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Of course, the Sixers had to endure two lost seasons with a pair of surgeries. Then came last season with more question marks about his health in playing just 31 games.
Three seasons and 31 games didn’t exactly equate into an All-Star.
It was understandable why so many people were skeptical of Embiid’s ability to remain on the court and use his immense talent to lead this team.
Even early this season when Embiid missed games, most notably on the second leg of back-to-backs, the skepticism was rampant again. Slowly, the 7-foot-2 center has proven his durability and his leadership skills at the young age of 24. He’s playing in some back-to-back situations. He’s leading. He’s thriving.
At times, Embiid has looked tired. That’s normal for a kid who is playing more basketball in one season than he ever has before.
The Sixers are 42-30 and if things hold, they will hold homecourt status in the first round of the playoffs.
Ben Simmons is in line for Rookie of the Year. Dario Saric has been terrific. JJ Redick is knocking down 3-pointers. T.J. McConnell is providing grit off the bench. Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova are excellent role players.
Embiid is the franchise cornerstone.
Championships down the line will be possible if Embiid is leading the charge.
For now, it’s about consistentcy.
“You stay in shape,” Embiid said of finding that consistency. “When I miss a day or two and I don't really do anything I get out of shape really quick. So being consistent about playing and not missing two or three days I know my body, I've learned my body for the past three years. I know my body and I feel like that's how it works. I want to keep going. Honestly, I've been feeling really good, I haven't been tired so I just got to keep it going.”
Embiid has already played in 60 games while averaging a double-double. He’s shooting 3-pointers, rebounding, passing well and running the court beautifully for a player of his immense size.
Even if it is painful for some fans to watch him throw his body all over the court, the hustle is contagious.
The playoffs are coming at a quicker pace than many expected.
Four lost seasons and 75 total wins were difficult to stomach. The Sixers were fortunate to land Embiid in ’14. The luck is being turned into a playoff run. Finally.
Thanks in large part to Embiid.
Get ready, South Philadelphia: playoff basketball is on the way.