By: Jake Brown
“The Process” took a major step forward yesterday as center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a contract extension. First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the deal pays Embiid $148 million over the course of five years, or roughly 30% of the 76ers’ total cap space. If Embiid qualifies for the “super-max” by making one of the three All-NBA teams this season, he can earn 35% of the salary cap allotment.
The Sixers have acquired several young players over the last few years, but Embiid appears to have once-in-a-generation talent. The seven foot center can certainly dominate down low, but he also can also space the floor with his athleticism. Embiid shot 37.5% on 99 three-point attempts while averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season. He is a threat from anywhere on the floor, and the 76ers will give opponents nightmares if Embiid’s 6’10” teammate Ben Simmons plays in the backcourt, too.
While this deal solidifies Embiid as a cornerstone for Philadelphia basketball, the Sixers’ front office is taking a gamble considering Embiid’s lengthy injury history. After dealing with back and foot injuries at the University of Kansas, Embiid has also struggled with knee injuries during his pro career. He has only played in 31 games despite being drafted three years ago. Unless there are several injury clauses in the contract, the 76ers will have a lot of dead money if Embiid suffers another serious injury. The team has not released all the contract details yet, but an early report from ESPN suggested that Embiid will earn everything on his contract unless he is waived by the Sixers.
With Embiid locked up, General Manager Bryan Colangelo can focus on securing supporting pieces. Wing player Robert Covington is in the final year of his deal with the team. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds last year and should start at the “three” for this year’s squad. “RoCo” is an accurate shooter and a lock-down defender. He averaged 1.9 steals per game last year, tied for fourth in the NBA. An extension for Covington is still easily attainable because the Sixers do not have many salaries on the book for the 2018-19 season. Additionally, the Sixers will likely try to cut ties with guard Jerryd Bayless, who is due roughly $9 million next season. Bayless has been hobbled with hand injuries and has had little impact on the team. Regardless, the Sixers are in a steady financial situation. This season will be all about grooming their young core for a future playoff run.