Giving Joel Embiid $148 million is a lot like handing your drunk friend $20 for pizza: you just don't know if you're going to get a return on your money
Have you ever given your drunk friend $20 to go get pizza knowing full well there's a chance you never see that money (or any pizza) again? Of course you have. And you did it because the possible return of drunkenly eating pizza without leaving the couch outweighed the risk of your friend doing stupid drunk things instead of getting you pizza.
Well, the Philadelphia 76ers just handed their drunk (injury-prone) friend Joel Embiid a five-year, $148 million max extension (with several complex clauses). They too are banking on the rewards outweighing the risks.
In order to better understand how risky and unprecedented Embiid's contract extension is, let's look at the pros and cons of the young center's short career.
- Joel Embiid is a 23-year-old, 7-foot tall, 260 pound unicorn playing basketball
- Joel Embiid's per-36 numbers during his career are 28.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 3.5 blocks, putting him in elite company for a rookie.
- Joel Embiid makes the Sixers significantly better, giving them a net rating of plus-3.2 with him on the floor and minus-7.9 with him off last year.
- Joel Embiid throws down dunks like this:
- And blocks like this:
- And finally, when not playing basketball, Joel Embiid can be found feeding the culture doing stuff like taking his shirt off at a Meek Mill concert, losing his mind at an Eagles game, or disrespectfully swatting a child's layup attempt.
- Due to injuries, Joel Embiid has played 31 out of a possible 236 NBA games since being drafted third overall in 2014.
Despite so many impressive pros, the one con sticks out like an injury-prone unicorn playing basketball.
Embiid was somewhat of a legend until the 2016-17 season. After being drafted third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in June of 2014 despite undergoing foot surgery just days before, Embiid sat out the full 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons due to a setback in his recovery and an additional surgery on the foot. After two years of sitting out, Embiid finally made his regular season NBA debut on October 26, 2016 recording 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. It finally made sense why the Sixers took the risk and drafted the big injured guy.
The 31 games Embiid played in 2016-17 on a minutes limit were nothing short of dominant for a rookie, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes. For someone who only started playing ball at age fifteen, Embiid showed how incredibly well rounded his game already is and his high celling became obvious. But the smooth sailing didn't last long. On February 11th, 2017 it was revealed that Embiid had a torn meniscus in his left knee that would end up sidelining him for the remainder of the season.
Although there is no formula to injuries, it is true that taller players have a higher injury risk. It is also true that since 2000, lottery players 7'0" and taller have missed 23.5% of games due to injury compared to just 14.6% for the rest of the league, according to FiveThirtyEight. Embiid has sat out 92.1% of his potential NBA games. If you think that sounds a lot like Greg Oden, who was drafted first overall in 2007 due to his size and potential and ultimately had his career cut short due to injuries, you're not alone.
To sum it up, Embiid is already a dominant NBA centre who is only getting better. He is the type of player championship teams dream of having. He is also incredibly injury prone. And he just got payed $148 million over five years.
As ESPN's Zach Lowe put it on his podcast, "Best case, in x amount of years, Joel Embiid is the best player in the NBA. Worst case is Joel Embiid is Greg Oden."
The Sixers just put a lot of money in the hands of their 23-year-old center. Now they sit on the couch praying that their risk pays off and Embiid comes home with the pizza.