Will Joel Embiid keep putting up monster stats?

ByJohn Cregan via ESPN logo
Friday, January 6, 2017

So now we trust The Process.

In terms of overall dossier (offense, defense, cyberstalking Rihanna) Joel Embiid is our most satisfying NBA rookie story since LeBron.

(Whither Karl-Anthony Towns? The same KAT who threw down the GOAT fantasy rookie campaign in 2015-16? Towns had a better season ... but Embiid is a better story.)

For two lost years, Embiid was the hobbled emblem of all that was wrong with the original "Process." V1 of The Process, defined: a quixotic dissolution of basic human competitive instinct in the name of stockpiling pingpong balls.

Embiid was drafted despite the presence of two other young bigs. Shelved with a bad wheel, he waits for a year ... then gets shelved again. (Note: The Sixers' bringing in Zydrunas Ilgauskas -- a big who overcame the same early-career break -- was an inspired motivational pairing).

GM Sam Hinkie pseudo-resigns. And then the pingpong balls finally turn up aces. Philly lands a transformational No. 1 in Ben Simmons.

Now Embiid is ready to retake the court. In honor of his departed GM, Embiid rechristens himself "The Process."

During fantasy draft season, Embiid's hype is properly muted. He's projected to play 45 games and to average a solid double-double and 1.5 blocks. Embiid's ADP: 95.9.

The Process 2.0 quietly opens his fantasy career as a 10th-round pick but explodes out of the gate. Embiid played 22 minutes, scoring 20 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and a 3-pointer against the Thunder. Then 14 points in 15 minutes. Then 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in just 25 minutes.

Then Embiid rests on the B-side of a back-to-back.

The pattern continues. Explode, explode, explode ... rest. Dominate, street clothes and repeat.

He is forced to pack in the thrills. He has an everlasting green light. The Process 2.0: 25.0 MPG, 19.2 PTS, 7.3 REB, 2.4 BLK, 0.8 STL, 1.2 3PM.

His usage rate is a Kobe-esque 33.6. His 3-point percentage is a Dirk-esque .386.

The minute restrictions and forced rest enrich Embiid's story. Sightings of The Process are tantamount to spotting a passing meteor.

He trades buckets with DeMarcus Cousins. He outpoints and beats KAT. He rests and lobbies Twitter to vote him to the All-Star team to call in Rihanna's pledge.

As a story, Joel Embiid is one of the best things to happen to basketball (real and fake) over the course of my fantasy career. I don't want his workload to increase. I want to preserve Embiid for future generations.

If you roster Embiid, you're beaming. You're getting all those gaudy averages as a return on your 10th-round investment.

I told you all that so I could ask you this:

Should you trade The Process?

Should you deal those gaudy numbers, even as Embiid continues to gain momentum?

Between now and your trade deadline ... you should definitely explore the market. Because those gaudy averages are getting incontrovertibly kneecapped by the nights off.

Because of back-to-backs (and one random rest day), Embiid missed 10 out of his first 33 games. That's 30 percent of his production, right out the window.

Look at it in Player Rater terms. A 30 percent drop turns James Harden (19.48 points) into John Wall (13.31 points). It turns Rudy Gobert into Steven Adams. Marreese Speights into Luc Mbah a Moute.

The drop becomes more pronounced when you measure Embiid's 2017 Player Rater average versus his season-long score. Based on his average, Embiid clocks in at 28th overall despite the minutes restriction. He generates 4.61 points on blocks alone. Beyond impressive.

But switch to the season-long Player Rater score. This score is tabulated in the aggregate across all games played ... and missed.

Embiid drops to 73rd.

That's still a solid return on the 96th pick. But thanks to Embiid's back-to-back policy, you're not actually getting top-30 production. Even if it feels like it when he's on the court.

You're getting eighth-round production.

With all of the hype and momentum building around Embiid, you would be derelict to not at least put out some trade feelers. If the back-to-back policy sticks (as it should), Embiid will miss at least 11 of his team's remaining 49 games.

Now, that's only a 22 percent production drop, so Embiid's prospects will improve in ROS terms. I still say explore offers. Because his value is about to peak.

And a closer look at the schedule reveals the peak's precise date.

Jan. 20, 2017.

Thanks to scheduling anomalies, Embiid won't have another back-to-back until Jan. 20-21. After that? He has another back-to-back. Then three more leading up to All-Star Weekend and a probable date with Rihanna.

All of those back-to-backs in a two-week span up to the break will dent Embiid's trade value. But from now until Jan. 20? Embiid might not miss a single game. His momentum and value should spike over the next two weeks.

He's already the talk of the NBA. Hype drives trade value. Embiid is a self-running human hype machine.

We just ranked him in our top 20. This might be the time to cash out for a more stable asset. Try for Nikola Jokic. Myles Turner. Draymond Green. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Preternaturally cantankerous Philly fans might argue that Embiid's stats could improve, even at just 25-28 minutes a night. (Translated into Philly speak: "Cregan is a *#&%$*%!*$#*@ moron," followed by the throwing of a D battery.)

Yes, Embiid is that talented. There could be some incremental numerical refinement. But that Kobe-sized 33.6 usage rate likely means The Process is hitting his cathedral-sized rookie ceiling. There just isn't much more Embiid can do under his minutes restriction.

You could bet that Brett Brown will manage to up Embiid's minutes. Maybe Embiid will get to play a back-to-back or two (which again, as basketball fans, we don't want).

But even then, someone is coming to siphon away touches from that 33.6 usage rate.

Remember that Ben Simmons guy?

No one has pinpointed Simmons' return date. But it's coming. He's coming. And when it happens, Simmons is going to run the point. Which means Simmons' usage rate will be sky-high. Which means Embiid's touches will suffer.

It will be thrilling to see Simmons and Embiid work together. But Embiid's numbers will take a hit.

Trust The Process? Trade The Process?

Between now and Jan. 20?

Work those phones, baby.