If you ask a group of Sixers fans how the offseason has gone in terms of player additions, you’d probably get a lackluster sigh from most and maybe some forced optimism from others. Whether or not you agree with the moves they have made/haven’t made, it should not be forgotten that the organization has a strong young core of players that are poised to improve for the 2018-19 campaign.
A lot of the team success will rely on how Ben Simmons adjusts to a rough postseason against Boston and how Markelle Fultz comes back from a summer of three-a-days with Drew Hanlen, but perhaps the most important factor is how Joel Embiid is experiencing his first full healthy offseason.
Last season, the 7-foot-2 native of Cameroon averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game in 63 games, well above the expectation a lot of people had going into the year. I think, realistically, folks would have been happy for 50-55 games of Embiid, but we got 63. Heading into the upcoming year, Embiid has lofty goals set to get both himself and his team to the next level.
“I want to win the MVP. I feel like at the end of the day, it might be an individual award, but when I play better, the team also does,” Embiid told Yahoo! Sports in a conference call on Wednesday. “I feel like if I’m an MVP candidate or if I win the MVP, that means we are on another level.”
If Embiid plans to be in the running for MVP, he’ll have a lot to work on despite earning an All-Star bid in his first full season in the league. Turnovers were the main issue for Embiid, especially late in games last season. He’ll be counted on again in those situations, and the big man recognizes that he still has a lot to learn.
“I feel like I have everything. I just need to be more consistent,” Embiid said. “This is the first summer where I’m actually healthy and able to play basketball. I was pretty excited. I’ve already gotten so much better. It’s just about working on everything, perfecting everything. Like when it comes to my 3-point shot or the ball-handling, which was a problem. I feel like I can do it. You can also say I’m kind of new to the game. I’m still learning a lot. I feel like I still have a lot of potential, a lot of stuff to show.”
Going back to the Sixers team as a whole, we’ll be hearing about the failed star hunt for a while from the fans who aren’t pleased about the moves made to the roster this summer. The over-arching topic of the Sixers’ offseason has been star-hunting, but equally important is the star-developing aspect. While it would have been nice to have gotten a LeBron James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, Embiid says that improving himself was always the top priority no matter who joined the team during the offseason.
“When my season ended, there was a lot of talk about adding guys. I literally did not really care because I want to get better,” Embiid said. “I want to be better than those guys that were mentioned, if I’m not already better than them. That was my message, just going into the offseason, finally the first one healthy and able to do whatever I want. That was my goal regardless.”
After a disappointing performance in round two of the playoffs against Boston, Embiid and the Sixers may not have to wait too long to set their sights on the Celtics. According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, TNT is leaning towards opening up the season with Philadelphia against Boston come October 16. If Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz all take steps forward, we should be in for another exciting ride with this team full of young stars.