BOSTON — Contract extensions are commonplace in the NBA.
The circumstances surrounding Joel Embiid’s were not.
Oftentimes, the decision to sign a player to a max extension is clear for months leading up to the deadline. Say in the case of a perennial All-Star or consistent go-to guy. The massive financial investment is supported by a proven basketball résumé.
The NBA’s contractual schedule, however, doesn’t wait for that to happen. The Sixers had to go off a small window of game action and a tremendous amount of potential when it comes to Embiid. Mixed in were two-plus years of injuries and endless questions of health. All of those factors needed to be weighed by Oct. 16, two days before the start of the regular season, or else he would become a restricted free agent at season’s end.
The Sixers didn’t wait that long. In fact, they didn’t wait to see Embiid play in another game after he underwent left knee surgery in March. They agreed in principle on Monday to a five-year, $148 million extension.
Yes, $148 million for someone who has played 31 games over three years.
Here’s the thing: As astronomical as that breakdown is, teams do not solely factor in games played.
Think about how closely Embiid is monitored to simply practice. He wasn’t cleared to go through full-court 5-on-5 until last week, more than six months after his surgery. For all the checklists and criteria to be greenlit for a practice, imagine the ones he would have to meet for a contract extension.
At some point, the talent outweighs the uncertainties here. What the Sixers do know is they are a completely different team with Embiid on the floor. They have a game-changer and future All-Star on their hands who, when healthy, can be the building block to take them to another level. The team enhanced its roster this offseason, but no single player can impact the game like he does.
The Sixers had options. See how this season played out and address the contract in restricted free agency or lock him up long term now. By agreeing to the deal this early, they removed any distractions of an impending contract situation. Embiid and the team know where they stand for five years.
Extending Embiid also gives the Sixers a more clear picture of how to build their roster. They can make trades this season and go after free agents next summer knowing those players will be on the court alongside Embiid.
The money will be compared to the number of games played. The difference is glaring. The Sixers, however, signed Embiid to a max contract extension for how he can help the team in the future, not what he has gone through in the past.