You’ve heard it a hundred times, but it’s worth repeating: Since he was drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Joel Embiid has yet to participate in a single NBA game. That’s two full seasons of Embiid’s professional basketball existence thrown to the wayside due to a broken navicular bone in his right foot that has needed multiple surgeries to allow him to get back on the court.
And while Embiid has been glued to the Philadelphia 76ers’ bench, negativity has engulfed him. He tweets too much. He hasn’t taken his rehab serious enough. Why is he drinking so many Shirley Temples? Compound those rumors with the depressing fact that the 76ers have gone 28-136 in Embiid’s absence, and it can feel like the big man out of Kansas has ended his career before it ever began.
Yet rumors of Embiid’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Fully healthy for the first time since David Stern called his name on draft night, Embiid has been getting after it in the gym this summer, and the results are terrifying. Putting in work behind the scenes in the Las Vegas Summer League and working out with Drew Hanlen, one of the best trainers in the game, have provided glimpses into the type of player we might see during the 2016-2017 NBA season.
In these videos, Embiid’s right foot looks just fine as he glides effortlessly down the lane and finishes with a couple of dunks. In the second one, a nonchalant right-handed windmill gives you some semblance of an understanding of how athletically gifted the 7-footer truly is.
Working with Hanlen, Embiid performs a quick spin move to get around a defender in the post before throwing down a vicious dunk—a combo that could become deadly as Embiid continues to work on and improve both his footwork and his explosiveness.
“He’s moving well and has great footwork,” Hanlen said. “He’s a film geek, has a high basketball IQ and makes jump shots. He will be a star in the league when he stays healthy.”
To be fair, all this work has been done with little resistance on the defensive end and without the accelerated speed of in-game action. But for fans who have been waiting for Embiid’s NBA debut like it was Judgement Day, these visuals feel like Christmas in July. It’s like the general manager who drafted Embiid once said: Trust the process.