Through the first half of the NBA season, Joel Embiid looked as the clear runaway choice for the Rookie of the Year award. Now after missing the last nine games for the 76ers, and Dario Saric continuing to step up his game, is Embiid’s claim slipping away?
Joel Embiid has not suited up for the Philadelphia 76ers since the January 27 game against the Houston Rockets. In that game, his dominance was once again on full display scoring 32 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. The fact that Embiid played at all against the Rockets was under question. You see, he had been injured just a week prior during a 93-92 victory over the Portland Trailblazers. Joel suffered a bone bruise to his left knee after landing awkwardly coming down off a dunk in the third quarter. He returned briefly before aggravating the knee more after driving to the basket, thus ending his night for good. The rest of the team hung on and pulled out a surprising victory.
Joel Embiid is fighting to stay healthy, considering his previous injury and already strict limitations this season. And so, it was not surprising to learn that he would sit out the next few games to get healthy.
Embiid wound up sitting the following week and re-entered the line up against Houston, in a nationally televised ESPN game. Embiid dominated in all phases throughout the game. That performance instilled confidence that he was healthy. Additionally, his appearance warded off any fears fans had begun feeling. The 76ers would fall to Houston 123-118 .
Shortly afterwards, the 76ers announced that Embiid once more showed symptoms of knee soreness and the team chose to sit him the next game. The day-to-day tag would stick for the next nine games until February 11th.
FInally, Derick Bodner reported Embiid had suffered a partially torn meniscus as well. That report seemingly forced the hand of General Manager Bryan Colangelo to awaken from his media-avoiding slumber and speak on the topic.
The injury is minor and the day-to-day tag remains in effect. The team confirmed that Embiid will also not be shut down for the remainder of the season. Furthermore, Colangelo insisted the recovery process is for the previously stated bone bruise. How long it will take for Embiid to return to the court is anybody’s guess at this point.
Before the most recent injury, Joel Embiid was on his way to a clear cut NBA Rookie Of The Year bid. Racking up insane statistics through the season, averaging twenty points seven rebounds, two blocks, and two assists – PER GAME.
This is all while averaging just less than 26 minutes per game So far this season, Embiid has played on a minute’s restriction schedule. Beyond that, Embiid is restricted on load by not playing the second night of back to back games.
Joel has also won Eastern Conference Rookie Of The Month for three months in a row through January 2017. Joel’s immediate success this season has taken many of the league’s fans and best players by surprise. His play has brought national attention on Philadelphia 76ers basketball for positive reasons, thus turning him into one of the leagues rising superstars.
His presence through comedic social media posts and turning the phrase “Trust the Process” into a slogan of hope and championship destiny, has turned him into a city’s hero. Unfortunately 76ers fans have learned the hard way that Joel’s missing games and minutes had directly contributed to his snub in this year’s all star game. Will the same thought go into the decision for Rookie of the year?
Rise of “The Homie”
All the while this season, another rookie has been closely behind Joel Embiid in most statistical categories. Fellow teammate Dario Saric, who started the season off with a less than stellar performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 26th, has since been just that—stellar.
In Dario’s last 10 games he is averaging nearly 14 points and 5 rebounds per game. Scoring a career high 24 points against the Orlando Magic February 9th, Saric has provided a much needed adrenaline shot for the team coming off the bench. Saric’s performance this season has steadily improved. Most noteworthy are the improvements he has made in his shot release. Saric has improved his defensive game as well, positioning himself into the stretch four of the future. He provides the team with an intense toughness and grit that Philadelphia fans love and respect.
I am not suggesting Dario has earned the Rookie of the Year title. But he is worthy of the discussion, and deserves to be given a nod. Embiid has more than proven himself worthy and the rightful claim for the rookie throne. Despite the time missed due to injury or rest, he has held an enormous gap statistically and via presence on the court.
Even with Dario Saric rising to the occasion with Joel out, the 76ers through the season are only 7-17 without Embiid on the court, 13-18 with. The record may not indicate a vast difference, but Joel’s presence on the court has been severely missed.
Embiid Remains Atop
Whether it has been noticed in the lack of consistent defense in the paint, or with the noticeable spacing issues the team has faced when Joel is not available.
These reasons alone show how valuable Embiid has been this season, making him obviously the most valuable player on the roster to this point. Joel Embiid is the most valuable player on the team being in his rookie season. That fact makes him the obvious and deserving claim to the award of NBA Rookie of the Year.