The whole season hinges on Joel Embiid.
The 76ers are finally bustling with young talent also highlighted by Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric.
Without their big man, the project will not be complete.
Embiid has yet to be cleared for 5-on-5 action, which has to be mildly surprising. The 7-foot-2 center had surgery on his knee in late March and missed the remainder of the season after playing in only 31 games.
Yes, they were 31 solid games. But 31 games nonetheless after playing zero in is first two seasons.
Embiid wasn’t cleared to play in back-to-back games last season. He also had minute restrictions, which was limiting.
The Sixers have 14 back-to-backs this season as they attempt to reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Training camp will begin at the end of September and it’s cloudy as to whether Embiid will be running up and down the court with his teammates.
Plain and simple, Embiid must be on the court with his teammates. They have to develop together. They have to grow together. They have to jell together.
Embiid has to be in the middle of the growth. It’s the only way that the Sixers will push forward and ultimately have a chance of advancing to the postseason.
If Embiid wasn’t injured, the Sixers would never have had the chance of selecting him third overall in the 2014 draft. They had to wait two seasons before finally seeing glimpses last season of the talent Embiid possesses. It can’t be overemphasized – Embiid has All-Star potential and even Hall of Fame potential if he can stay healthy and improve every season.
For all of Embiid’s popularity on social media, none of that matters if he’s injured or unable to play. Twitter and Facebook and Instagram are terrific social media vehicles, but they can also be distractions if Embiid is in a suit and not in uniform.
The 2017-18 season looks promising for the Sixers. Embiid is the franchise cornerstone, the biggest piece on this roster in every single way.
Fans have to be excited about seeing the likes of Simmons and Fultz. This duo will surely have plenty of shining moments this season.
Everything begins and ends with Embiid. It’s that simple.
Embiid must prove his ability to stay healthy and take a leadership role for coach Brett Brown. He must produce All-Star numbers while directing this team.
Training camp is inching closer. The season won’t be far behind after that. Embiid needs to be the No. 1 option. It all hinges on the big man.