The last we checked on Joel Embiid his head coach was praising his “night and day’ maturity level this year as compared to last year. However, that was only a few months after reports came out that the Philadelphia 76ers were greatly concerned about the big man’s progress, in part because he drank far too many Shirly Temples.
The only way we’ll know for sure either way about Embiid, basically, is when he finally makes his long-awaited NBA debut. If teammate Ish Smith is to be believed, however, Sixers fans definitely have a lot to look forward to when it comes to the former No. 3 overall draft pick.
Smith joined 97.5 The Fanatic’s Anthony Gargano and The Meat Locker Crew for a near hour-long chat on Thursday (the Embiid conversation starts at around the 42:00 mark), and Smith said that Embiid has tuned a lot of heads during Philadelphia practices.
“First of all I think he’s grown two inches. One or two inches I think. He’s just such a physical specimen, he’s so big and strong. But, his skill is what takes him to the next level for me.
“So, last year, when he was practicing and working out and playing and he was getting into the flow, he was doing full-court drills, handling the ball with coach Billy Lange, handling the ball, full-court spinning, behind-his-back. I’m talking about handling the ball. So after that I’m like, ‘Okay I guess anybody can do that.’ Then after that he’s doing post-up moves, and doing all that. . And by yourself it looks good.
“So then I seen him play against some guys before practice started, they had him out there. Oh my goodness. Like it wasn’t even fair how much better. He was going against our guys, and it was just a different level. He’s just so … he can shoot the ball, he’s unselfish, he’s bigger and stronger so if he just wants to power you to the rim, he can. Or he wants to skill you he can. He can step out and shoot the three ball. He’s got a pretty form….He’s got a lotta skill. He really, really does. He was special to watch.”
Safe to say that is an absolute glowing endorsement from the Sixers’ point guard. The questions now become: when will Philadelphia finally get to see Embiid put all of those skills in action? And how will he fit with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor?
Regarding the first question, Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie said today that he believes Embiid will be ready to go come next season. In terms of how Embiid will fit into the rotation, that will be up to coach Brett Brown and company to figure out. But if he is indeed healthy and can do everything Smith was describing, Embiid could end up being an absolutely dominant force for Philadelphia once he further develops his skill set.