Joel Embiid is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA despite having only 31 regular season NBA games under his belt. The Joel Embiid story is equal parts depressing and impressive for that very reason. It feels like he’s done so much, it feels like he’s been playing excellent basketball for an extended period of time, but reality couldn’t be more different. Thirty-one games. That’s it. He’s still recovering from left knee surgery he had in March, but was finally cleared for 5-on-5 basketball activities in October.
Embiid’s injury concerns make his looming contract negotiations with the Philadelphia 76ers fairly complicated even though we all know where this is going. The 76ers have to keep Embiid. The 76ers will keep Embiid, but they’re going to be pretty uncomfortable with whatever that contract ends up looking like. It doesn’t sound like this is going to make it to restricted free agency, but you’ve got to believe a few desperate teams would toss Embiid a max contract offer despite the injury risk. The 76ers are better off negotiating now to try and avoid having to match a contract they really don’t want.
From Embiid’s perspective, he could certainly play the season out, pray his knees hold up, and see what kind of absurd offers present themselves, but the potential money lost if he suffers another catastrophic knee injury means a lot more to Embiid than it does to the 76ers. This is his big contract, and potentially, his only big contract. Playing out the season without a contract extension is a risk I can’t imagine is worth taking. He has too much riding on this.