‘Not-Yet-Elite 11’: Ranking of Philadelphia’s Most Promising Young Talent

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1.) C Joel Embiid-76ers

Apr 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) dunks during warm ups before a game against the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Was there any doubt who the number one entry on this list would be? I would argue that Joel Embiid is the most important athlete in the city, regardless of age or past performance. It is impossible to overstate what Embiid means to a franchise that has gone from stagnant to polarizing in a matter of two offseasons, all working under the notion that the 2014 3rd overall pick is the ‘star’ the team has needed but been unable to acquire by other means. The faction of the fanbase that has maintained a level of patience has stood behind Sam Hinkie and the Sixers as they’ve compiled losses at a record rate while Brett Brown has desperately tried to elicit any sort of production from his band of ‘gypsies’. Joel Embiid’s health and abilities are the only thing keeping the proverbial hounds at bay, for now.

Joel Embiid was never supposed to be the ‘savior’ of the Sixers. It was his Kansas Jayhawk teammate, Andrew Wiggins, that the franchise desperately wanted to draft in 2014. As someone who watched every Kansas game that season, Embiid was stealing the spotlight from Wiggins by mid-season. Embiid suffered a back injury that cut short his lone season at Kansas, but that did not appear to keep teams and scouts alike from ranking him as the top draft prospect in the class of 2014. Even after the Sixers were slotted with the 3rd overall pick as a result of the lottery, there was still a real possibility that Wiggins would end up in Philadelphia.

Roughly a week before the draft, Embiid suffered a fracture in his Navicular bone. The same injury that cut short the careers of multiple bigs throughout the years would cause Embiid to fall from his spot atop draft boards and Wiggins slid in as the top overall selection. According to Brett Brown, the injury was a blessing in disguise. The Sixers coach preferred Embiid and salivated at the possibility of him falling

"“I wanted Joel Embiid, and when the injury happened I said to myself, he is going to fall, and we end up getting him.”"

Brown’s words are not just the fluffing of a yes man. Embiid was the best prospect in the draft, and there were some who did not even think it was a debate. The Cameroon native, still new to the game, demonstrated natural gifts not seen since the days of Hakeem Olajuwon and managed to steal the show from Wiggins in significantly fewer games. Here is a tremendous highlight video of Embiid, courtesy of r/Sixers.

Much like they did with Nerlens Noel, the Sixers organization kept Embiid out for the entire 2014-2015 season. Despite reports of weight gain and difficulties with coaching and the adjustments to being a professional, all indications are that Embiid is where the organization expects him as far as preparedness for a full workload. We have been teased for the better part of the second half of the season with pre-game warm up videos, Vines of dunks, and Embiid’s social media exploits. Anything less that what the organization has hyped up, at this point, would be a disappointment.

In addition to his immense talent level and seemingly non-existent ceiling, Embiid is a charismatic, international figure who seems like fans would gravitate towards. A healthy Embiid can have the city on a silver platter, if he is able to make the transition to the professional game. With a city divided on the tactics utilized by the Sixers to position themselves to acquire Embiid, his level of success will determine a great deal of what the ultimate narrative of Sam Hinkie’s plan will be painted as. The talent is there, the personality is there, the rest? Time will only tell.

Next: Adam Schefter in Camp that Thinks Eagles Could Land Marcus Mariota

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