Embiid sores to the rim.
Embiid sores to the rim.

When you are a fan of a team whose General Manager drafts big, tall Forwards four years in a row, you should be concerned. You should be concerned particularly when three of the draftees struggle to score away from the basket even from the mid range position. And you should also be concerned; all four have since getting into the league proved prone to injuries.

Yes Philadelphia Sixers fans, you should be concerned. The man responsible for those pickups has been replaced but the air of freshness and finally getting the team to be competitive on the court is yet to happen; well at least for now.

The Sixers outlook for the season seemed bright as it does with practically every NBA team in an offseason where the teams landed their hands on the coveted overall number one pick in the draft for the first time since 1996. That pick was used to pick Allen Iverson from a pool of future stars that included the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury and even undrafted stud Ben Wallace.

Call it coincidental if you wish as Iverson got sworn in few months after Ben Simmons was picked number one. Further good news followed when Cameroonian Center Joel Embiid, after two years of being sidelined with injuries, played major minutes in exhibition games ahead of the season; he is still doing it with the new season’s opening day around the corner.

Despite Simmons versatility-rebound, pass, defend, finish-there were worries his additions to an overstocked frontcourt was going to bottleneck their chances of making progress in a “loose” and spaced out league.

One way to prevent that from happening was to trade either fellow big men Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor or both in exchange for much needed help in the backcourt. However, a few bounces have come Philly’s way that stand to completely alter the script many had for them in the upcoming season. First, Simmons went down with a foot injury much similar to that of Embiid’s then Noel hurt ligaments in his knee and Okafor is rusty after sitting for most of the offseason nursing an injury. Okafor played 15 minutes registering eight points in the process. That means a once crowded frontline has trimmed overnight and likely to challenge during the early part of the season. Dario Saric-another big man prized collection- and Embiid earned earn starting spots on opening night against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder with the likes of Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes and Robert Covington.


With Simmons out till January and Noel likely out for the next week or two after injuring his groin on October 6, the Sixers could trotted out a lineup of Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Grant, Saric and Embiid. What the lineup offered in the 97-103 loss stood in contrast to the projected starting lineup minus the injuries to Noel and Simmons. The projected lineup was what fans feared would set up the team to fail further competing in a league that is opening up more every season. One only need look at the number of three point shots attempted in recent years to get an idea where offenses are trekking to in the NBA. Per Basketballreference.com, the Milwaukee Bucks recorded the lowest number of three point attempts last season with 1277 which is higher than the 1223 attempts Minnesota Timberwolves registered in 2014-2015 season.

Noel will be sidelined for a while with a knee injury.
Noel will be sidelined for a while with a knee injury.

However, that fear was allayed mainly Embiid’s inspired play on his NBA debut as he put into action all the unique abilities that made Hinkie go through hell for him. The Cameroonian finished the game with a team high 20 points including converting one of three attempts from the three point line. More telling, the Philadelphia Sixers lost the game extending the team’s run of losses. Leading up to its game away to Atlanta Hawks on Saturday October 29, Philadelphia must tighten up on defense to prevent Hawks’ new addition and homeboy Dwight Howard dominate the glass like he did on his debut against Washington Wizards. The former Houston Rockets big man gobbled up 19 rebounds to go with 11 points and three blocks as he looks to resurrect his career.

Meeting a three time Defensive Player of the Year will speed up Sixers first year frontcourt players which ought to pay dividends years down the line but opening up the offense is what the team needs immediately. Funny how an uncommon route is making that happen.

By Yaw Adjei-Mintah


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