Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid is on a Hall of Fame trajectory

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

While he hasn’t even played his 200th NBA game for the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid already looks like he’s on a path to the Hall of Fame.

As crazy as it may sound now, Dwight Howard has a very good chance of finishing out his career in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Now sure, fans who only got into the game of basketball in the back half of the 2010s may consider that statement borderline insane, as Howard has played for four different teams over the last four seasons as a middle of the pack big man, but once upon a time, he was good.

Like near Shaq-level good.

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Averaging 18.4 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks a game over his first eight seasons in the league, the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft dominated the game as a near-constant double-double threat for the Orlando Magic.

Just for reference, Howard earned six All-Star bids, five All-NBA first-team honors, a third All-NBA team honor, three Defensive Player of the Year awards, a Slam Dunk championship, and multiple seasons where he led the league in rebounds and blocks.

When Howard eventually came up for free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers practically begged him to head west like Shaquille O’Neal before him, buying out billboards to allure their next great All-Star big.

Granted, his game has kind of gone off the rails since his very public fallout with Kobe Bryant, to the point where he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies to free up cap space, but for a time, Howard was one of the best players in basketball, regardless of position.

When compared to Howard, Joel Embiid is actually off to a better start to his NBA career.

Despite missing his first two seasons in the league due to injury, Embiid has averaged a pretty incredible 24.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, and a pair of blocks a game over his first 177 games in the NBA, a set of numbers that jumps nicely to 25.2, 13.6, and 1.85 when you remove his abbreviated rookie campaign.

Over those first three seasons, Embiid made the All-Star Game twice – both times as a starter – earned two All-NBA Second Team honors, two All-Defensive Second Team honors, a spot on the 2017 All-Rookie First Team and finished top-3 for the Defensive Player of the Year award twice.

In this modern era of basketball where the big man has become less and less valued, those accomplishments are incredibly impressive.

Is it a bit premature to declare a player Hall of Fame-bound after only two and a half seasons of production? Maybe, but Philly’s front office clearly felt confident enough that Embiid could become a cornerstone player that they extended the oft-injured big man to a five-year max contract in October of 2017, with a second max deal on the horizon as early as 2022.

But just to play devil’s advocate, what could prevent Embiid from reaching his potential and becoming the Hall of Fame player fans in the 215 so desperately want him to be?

Well, besides some sort of career-ending injury that’s really out of his control, the only thing that could hold Embiid back from becoming a serious Hall of Fame contender is, well, Embiid.

After coming into the 2017-18, and 2018-19 season overweight with a poor diet and conditioning issues, Embiid never seemed to get his health right, and has missed a number of crucial playoff games in each of the last two seasons due to conditions very much in his control.

While starring in Mountain Dew Shirley Temple ads certainly isn’t going to bolster his case for having turned over a new leaf of healthy living, all indications point to Embiid committing to get his body right with a full summer to trim down and bulk up.

He may not come back looking like vintage Dwight Howard or 2018 Giannis Antetokounmpo, but anything other than a Charles Barkley-esque ‘Round Mound of Rebound’ body would be seriously welcomed.

Next. With Boogie down, ‘The Process’ can reign supreme. dark

For better or worse, Dwight Howard only played like a Hall of Famer for the better part of a decade, so if ‘The Process’ can keep it together until 2027, then one could make a very good case for his inclusion in the NBA Hall of Fame, especially if he can take a few more steps forward and achieve his goal of becoming the first league MVP center since Shaq hoisted the trophy all the way back in 2000.