The Sixers lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semis last season for a number of reasons - poor situational coaching, Ben Simmons' disappearance, Danny Green's absence - but one that is often overlooked is the fact that Joel Embiid was hobbled for the entire series.
Sure, Embiid still put up mind-bending offensive numbers and played on that end like the MVP candidate he was.
But on the other end, as the big man fought through the lateral meniscus tear he suffered in his right knee during the first round, he wasn't himself - and the Hawks were able to wrest a seven-game series away from a Sixers team that in better conditions likely could've won in five.
Embiid luckily didn't have to undergo surgery during the offseason. While his injury history is daunting, we've got some good news on his knee with the preseason opener just 11 days away, courtesy of a report Thursday from The Athletic's David Aldridge:
"After a summer of rehab and rest, Embiid is a 'full go,' per a league source, and will have a normal preseason load."
A full go? Oh, you love to hear it.
A (largely) healthy Embiid was an absolute force last year, leveling up his game in basically every area and turning into an unstoppable player on both ends of the court. He was one of the two or three best players in the NBA, and his play drove the Sixers to the No. 1 seed in the East.
With the Nets (theoretically) having a full offseason to mesh, the Bucks returning for their title defense, and the Heat loaded up, there's a good chance the Sixers will have to put up a fight just to make sure they get home court advantage in the first round.
But having a "full go" version of Embiid is going to be a huge leg up on the Eastern Conference race. Other teams have their stars, but no one in the league has an Embiid.
The Sixers open the preseason Oct. 4 at the Raptors, and open the regular season Oct. 20 at the Pelicans.