Joel Embiid’s young, injury-plagued career has taken yet another turn. The Philadelphia 76ers’ big man suffered an orbital fracture Wednesday that could keep him from competing in the 2018 NBA playoffs.
Embiid’s availability for the first round of the postseason is up in the air. He could miss two to four weeks of action following surgery, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Embiid also suffered a concussion, in addition to the fracture, when he collided with teammate Markelle Fultz.
The postseason begins on April 14, and the 76ers are sure to be a part of the playoffs. Not only has the team already clinched a postseason berth, but they could very well have home-court advantage in the first round. The 76ers defeated the New York Knicks Wednesday, extending their winning streak to eight games.
Philadelphia is currently the No.4 seed in the Eastern Conference, sitting just percentage points ahead of the No.5 seed Indiana Pacers. The No.3 seed Cleveland Cavaliers have a half-game lead on both teams.
The 76ers are having their best season in 15 years in large part because of Embiid. Rookie of the Year favorite Ben Simmons is having a big year, but Embiid is easily the team’s most important player.
Philadelphia outscores teams by 11.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid is on the court, and they are outscored by 5.4 points per 100 possessions when the center is on the bench. The 76ers have a 41-22 record with Embiid in the lineup. They’ve gone 3-8 in the 11 games that he’s missed.
Even if Embiid only misses a couple of playoff games, that could be enough to force Philadelphia to have an early exit and prevent them from playing in the second round when the center might be healthy.
Embiid is averaging 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He started in the All-Star Game and is a candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Embiid joins a list of star players that have suffered recent injuries and could miss the first round of the postseason. Stephen Curry is likely to miss the first round, while it’s unknown if Kyrie Irving will be ready at the start of the playoffs.