The Philadelphia 76ers much-maligned “Process” appears to be in full bloom. They have balanced drafting great talent (Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid) with acquiring great talent via trade (Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris) and in free agency (J.J. Reddick.)
So far, it seems that the present Sixers have the right mix. They are currently locking in on the No. 3 seed in the East, and have shown flashes of championship potential.
But the franchise has become keenly aware of the importance of maintenance for the end game.
The Sixers have carefully managed their top player, Joel Embiid so that they can maximize his talent this season, and for seasons to come.
No question the Sixers remember the agonizing days in which Embiid couldn’t even lace up to play for two years and change. Now with their prized No. 1 draft pick healthy the past couple seasons, the team wants to make sure Embiid remains healthy for the long haul.
So there have been games where Embiid could have played, but didn’t. In the NBA that’s called load management. There have also been some games where Embiid was injured and could have played, but also didn’t. That’s just called being smart in general.
Willingly, the Sixers have paid the price for it in his absence.
His impact on the floor is usually missed, and the 76ers look all-around blah without him. Honestly. anyone will miss 27.3 points and 13.6 rebounds per game from a player who can stretch the floor offensively and defend the paint at will.
Yes, fans want to see their favorite players suit up. It’s the reason many sign-up for season tickets and spends countless dollars on merchandise.
But sometimes the business and the science gets mixed in when it should be a joint marriage. Embiid resting 20 games in the regular season gives the 76ers a possible 20 extra games of playoff time in the Spring.
Because in the end, a dominant regular season team doesn’t translate to dominance in the postseason. The Toronto Raptors over the last few years can ask LeBron James which season is more important.
But what the 76ers are looking to avoid is what happened with James in the 2015 postseason.
James had played his 2015 NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors without Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving. Even with the superman heroics. the Warriors had their system and health in their favor.
James’ 2015 fiasco is what teams around the league have grown scared of, and resting players have become a premium.
This is why Toronto (Kawhi Leonard) Golden State (their entire starting five) Boston (Kyrie) and Philly with Embiid optimize rest for their best players. The goal is to keep players fresh for when it matters most-the spring. But also, to make sure that even in their 30’s, they can still be prime contributors helping their team make championship pushes.
Embiid is an important piece to the 76ers championship push. He’s the face of their “The Process” movement and one of the NBA’s more unique personalities.
But it won’t mean much if their star, who has missed two full NBA seasons and a half, is banged up and noneffective in the postseason and beyond. The 76ers have done a great job pacing Embiid and the teams for the playoff grind.
“But, at the same time, the league has to understand that the science of what we do is a whole lot more sophisticated than it used to be, and we have definitely added years to people. So, it’s a trade-off: Do you want to see this guy in this one game or do you want to see them for three more years of his career? And do you want to see him through the playoffs because he didn’t get hurt?”
Pop knows what he’s talking about.