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76ers exercise $4,826,160 option on Joel Embiid, who has yet to play for them

Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 13: Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie talks to Joel Embiid #21 prior to the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 13, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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Joel Embiid, the 76ers’ No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, missed all of last season. He’s expected to miss all of this season. He might not even be ready to begin the 2016-17 season.

But facing a Monday deadline to guarantee Embiid’s $4,826,160 2016-17 season or let him unrestricted free agency next summer, Philadelphia is making the prudent choice.

Brian Seltzer of

This was practically a given for all three players. Nerlens Noel ($4,384,490) and Nik Stauskas ($2,993,040) are bargains at that value.

Even Embiid is worth the money. How else would the 76ers spend it? Free agents aren’t exactly flocking to Philadelphia. Besides, the 76ers aren’t interested in getting good yet. They’re continuing to build through the draft, and a sidelined Embiid improves their draft position.

Plus, Embiid still has upside. If he gets healthy, he could capitalize on the mix of skill and athleticism he showed at Kansas. The 76ers would obviously prefer, if that happens, it happens with them. Exercising his option maximizes those odds. Despite negative reports about his work ethic, they’ve stood by him. It’s too soon to cut bait now.

The bigger question comes next fall. Will Philadelphia – after two of Embiid sitting – exercise his $6,100,266 2017-18 option by the Oct. 31, 2016 deadline? My guess is yes for all the reasons they exercised his third-year option, but we’ll see how this rehab goes.