Joel Embiid, as expected, will begin the 2017-18 NBA season on a minutes cap.
As for what that cap will be, the Philadelphia 76ers don’t seem to know for sure. They do know, however, he won’t be clearing 20 minutes out the gate, as head coach Brett Brown detailed, per NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato:
Joel Embiid's minutes have been a hot topic this afternoon. Here's Brett Brown's full response on his playing time. pic.twitter.com/x3xTV76JmL
— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) October 16, 2017
The Sixers were always going to treat Embiid with kid gloves—now more so than ever. He represents the future of their franchise, and they’ve doubled down on that outlook with his five-year, $146.5 million that is peppered with non-guarantees, likely and unlikely bonuses, and other incentives. The Sixers have outs if things go sideways, but they’re not inexpensive ones.
Beyond that investment, we have the common-sense factor. Embiid has played in 31 games through three seasons, not one of which included him logging 30 minutes. It would be reckless of them to baptize him by fire.
The goal at some point, though, is to get him free from limitations. The Sixers need to have a gradual process that builds him up to that. And it may not be one that reaches its conclusion this season. Maybe if they contend for a playoff spot they’ll try pushing the bill, but Embiid, for all his superstar promise, remains a project. Don’t be surprised if the Sixers elect not to unleash him in full at all this year, even if his recovery is going according to plan.