Will the 76ers give Joel Embiid a contract extension before the Oct. 16 deadline?
That’s one of the biggest questions heading into training camp, which begins Tuesday. The Sixers would love to lock up their franchise player. However, they don’t want to commit to a potentially costly deal for the organization.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we can find common ground,” Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Wednesday. “But it will take common ground in order for something to get done.”
But what is common ground at this time?
We all know Embiid’s injury history. He’s still unable to participate in five-on-five scrimmages after having what the Sixers called “minor” surgery more than six months ago to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Embiid played in only 31 games last season before the team announced on March 1 that he would need season-ending knee surgery. His last game was Jan. 27.
All that came after Embiid had missed the previous two seasons because of two surgeries to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. And don’t forget the stress fracture that kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments during his lone season at the Kansas in 2014.
But no other Sixer possesses Embiid’s total package of size, toughness, shot-blocking ability, strength, athleticism, quickness and competitiveness.
He’s the most important part of turning “The Process” into what the Sixers hope is a championship team. Without Embiid, the Sixers will have to rethink everything about the plan they’ve been working on for the last few years.
So why hasn’t he signed an extension?
Both sides are trying to protect themselves. And in the process, they’re perhaps doing their best poker-face impressions.
Who are they fooling? It would benefit both sides to get a deal done now as opposed to trying to get a free-agent contract signed next summer.
But again, they are trying to protect themselves.
Embiid could sign an extension for a maximum of four seasons in excess of $100 million. If he doesn’t sign an extension, the Sixers would most likely give him a qualifying offer that would make him a restricted free agent next summer.
In that scenario, they would have the right to match any free-agent deal another team offers Embiid. Assuming he stays healthy, Embiid could demand a five-year, max-contract deal.
Or he could decide to take the Sixers’ qualifying offer, in which he would receive $8 million for the 2018-19 season and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. This would be similar to Nerlens Noel choosing to take $4.1 million over one season with the Dallas Mavericks instead of a reported four-year offer in the neighborhood of $17 million per year.
It would be a risky move for Embiid to wait until next summer to get a contract, based on his injury history.
Very few NBA teams — if any — would offer him a max deal next summer if he fails to stay healthy this season. And Embiid would be lucky to get a noteworthy deal if his knee injury turns out to be career-altering.
One would think that Embiid would want the money now, due to his history.
However, he could demand a certain number of years in the extension. The Sixers, on the other hand, can insist on contract incentives tied to games played.
Before the Sixers give Embiid a max contract, they have huge insurance protection issues to consider because, without the protection, the Sixers would probably be on the hook for paying Embiid’s next contract in full.
Here’s the dilemma: Embiid’s contract probably won’t get insured in the league’s temporary total disability program, in which each NBA team must insure at least their five highest-paid players based on the current season’s salary or total remaining contract.
The insurance company would pay 80 percent of the remaining salary after a player misses 41 games. It would also pay 80 percent up to six seasons if the player doesn’t return to action.
But the insurance company can submit 14 league-wide exceptions on players with big contracts and injury histories. Embiid would fall into that category once he signs an extension.
If Embiid takes a one-year qualifying offer next year, he would be betting on his health. But that move would strike fear in the Sixers organization because he could go anywhere he wants next summer.
So it would benefit both sides to get an extension.