David Murphy: The Joel Embiid conundrum will take center stage this offseason

David Murphy, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

The two questions we ask ourselves each May:

1) How much time will Joel Embiid spend on the court next season?

2) How do you build a roster that can survive without him?

I’m talking mostly within the context of a game here. During the Sixers’ loss to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, the contrast in their performance with and without Embiid was as stark as it ever has been. They had a whopping plus-45 point differential in the 248 minutes he was on the court during the series. When he was on the bench, they were outscored by 46.

Whenever the topic arises, our focus tends to go to Embiid’s backup. How hard can it be to find a backup center who can give you 10 minutes of satisfactory play? But, then, the question kind of answers itself. The dearth of quality options at the center position is one of the primary reasons Embiid is such a game-changer.

The delta between him and your average big man is off the charts. The law of supply and demand only compounds matters. If you are a big man who is capable of keeping a playoff team afloat when a player like Embiid is off the court, you are probably going to be able to find more minutes on a team that does not have a player like Embiid.


The conundrum lies at the heart of the logical basis for finding a third star. It’s actually more important for the Sixers than other teams, the thinking goes. You aren’t going to find a backup center who can give you even 75% of what Embiid gives you at the position. Which means the best option for succeeding without him is to be better at the other four positions.

Surround Embiid with two elite bucket-getters, and that duo can handle the offense when Embiid is on the bench. Makes complete sense. Of course, inventory levels of elite scorers on the wing aren’t exactly abundant.

A few big questions that will define the Sixers’ offseason ...

1) Outside of Paul George and LeBron James, are there any impact wings who will even be available?


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