What Happens When Okafor And Embiid Are Both Healthy?


Being an 18 year old, I remember learning to drive a car very well. Jittery car rides where my mom would be grabbing onto my arm fiercely thinking I wasn’t hitting the brakes soon enough made up nearly my entire 10th grade year of high school.

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Among my experiences, I think the most valuable thing I and any driver learns is that you need to anticipate the worst, always keeping your eyes open for possible crashes. Being a defensive driver is important to make sure you keep yourself safe.

I know, this is a weird comparison, and I try to often keep my real life experiences out of my sports writing, but bear with me.

As I look at Sam Hinkie and what he’s doing with the Philadelphia 76ers, I can’t help but picture him as being in the driver seat of the automobile that is the Sixers.

So, in a way, it’s Hinkie’s responsibility to make sure the team stays out of crash and burn scenarios. He should be anticipating things that would cause demise to the team. Some could argue last season was a failure to anticipate with only 18 wins, but I would also argue that in real life, and in this metaphor, some crashes are simply unavoidable.

As we enter the 2015 season, I’m also realizing that there’s another crash that should be anticipated. All the talk of Jahlil Okafor is exciting. I recently moved to North Philadelphia, and I’m seeing tons of “8” Sixers jerseys.

At the same time, I’m remembering that there’s another center on the team waiting for his chance — Joel Embiid. Embiid just recently went through yet another foot surgery, and will miss this upcoming season.

So, isn’t there an obvious crash coming up? Once Embiid is healthy, shouldn’t he get the start? The Sixers have two clearly qualified candidates for the starting center position, once they’re both healthy. You can’t start two centers, or even give them both truly significant time.

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Now, some other rosters move one of the big men to the power forward position, but this has also been filled by the likes of Nerlens Noel.

Noel, also a big man, was transitioning to forward to make room for both him and Embiid. Two is a pair, but three big men is a crowd.

I’ll give Hinkie this — he certainly saw the collision coming. We know this, because reportedly the Sixers first choice pick was D’Angelo Russell, guard. A guard would’ve fit much better with the future roster featuring a healthy Embiid.

Fans were distraught when the Sixers picked up another center. This was understandable, because at the time they were under the impression that Embiid would be soon returning to the floor, and tearing things up as the team’s dominant big. Little did they know, his foot would need another surgery because the healing process had still not been completed.

This plan to get a guard was foiled when the Los Angeles Lakers picked Russell, and the Sixers had to “settle,” for Okafor.

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

Don’t get me wrong, I’m exited for Okafor, but what is beyond this year is a mystery. I can’t help but picture a hard time using all three big men once they’re all healthy around the same time. Trying to give Embiid and Okafor 30+ minutes per game is something that would be hard to manage.

Knowing Hinkie, he may end up dealing away one of the players to avoid this potential “car crash” scenario. But, not wanting to waste any one of these players, I believe there’s a way to make it work.

Rotating Noel and Okafor as starting power forwards/backup centers to Embiid could work beautifully. That way, they still get significant time, and get to play versatile roles with the offense. Additionally, we would get to see a combination of Embiid/Okafor/Noel at any given time, in a sort of “pick two” format.

I’m not sure this is something the Sixers really want to explore, however, and it could be easier to just ship one of the players off. I’m not sure who, especially since we have yet to see either Okafor or Embiid take the floor.

Either way, this is a potential crash and burn scenario, that must be adverted at all costs, or at the very least, prepared for.

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