Sixers star Joel Embiid will be out for at least the next to weeks with a bone bruise, this could a Unique Opportunity for Tony Bradley.
Finding a proper backup for Joel Embiid will be an essential need for the Sixers throughout his entire career. While Joel is every bit the superstar the Sixers hoped he would become, he still has never played more than 64 games in a season and will continually demand a strict load management plan to keep him as healthy as possible.
The Sixers began this offseason by adding Dwight Howard on a veterans minimum deal. He is certainly limited at this stage in his career, but this was a great signing for the team. While the energy Dwight brings is great, he is 35 years old and in his 16th season in the league. This is where Tony Bradley comes in, as the 23-year-old has been given a chance to grow into the team’s long-term backup center.
Who is Tony Bradley?
Tony Bradley grew up in Bartow, Florida, where he blossomed into a 5-star recruit in high-school. The 6’10 big man ultimately decided to commit to the University of North Carolina after being ranked 17th in the recruiting class.
Despite serving primarily in a role off the bench, Bradley averaged 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in his 14.6 minutes per game. Even in limited minutes, Tony created a large amount of draft buzz and decided to leave UNC to declare for the draft after a singular one-and-done season.
Due to his size and potential, Bradley was selected with the 28th overall pick by the Los Angelos Lakers, and his draft rights were immediately traded to the Utah Jazz.
Despite being with the team for 3 years, the big-man got in for a total of just 70 games with the Jazz. In the 10.4 minutes per game he received over this time, Bradley averaged 4.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
How did Tony Bradley get here?
Just prior to the season, the Sixers agreed to trade Zhaire Smith in exchange for the big man. The Sixers had extremely high hopes for Smith, but his career has been derailed by a series of strange injuries and issues, and he was in desperate need of a fresh start.
Bradley features an NBA-sized body and has a legitimate talent for rebounding the basketball. Per 100 possessions, the UNC product averages 19.2 total rebounds along with 20.4 points per game. To put this in perspective, Joel Embiid averages 17.9 rebounds per 100 possessions.
While he has never been seen on a large sample size, Tony Bradley is one of the most analytically impressive players around the league. He also has logged an impressive 21.8 rebounding percentage and a ridiculous 18.8 offensive rebounding percentage.
Tony Bradley also deserves a ton of credit for the work he has put in already this season. Doc Rivers took to his post-game media availability after the Bulls game to point out that Bradley has lost around 25 pounds already this season and continued to say, “Just because he doesn’t play, doesn’t mean that other guys don’t notice what he’s doing.”
How Important is this Stretch for the Sixers?
The recent knee injury to Joel Embiid was perhaps the scariest moment of the Sixers season, as all championship hopes would have been out the window if it had turned out as serious as initial reactions indicated.
As it is, there was no structural damage found with Embiid, and it was officially diagnosed as a bone bruise. Embiid will be reevaluated in 2-3 weeks, but it seems likely this absence could stretch longer than this.
For Embiid and the Sixers, the sole focus should be getting him back to full health and making sure he is at his best for the playoffs. While a bone bruise is certainly a much more manageable injury than it initially looked, the injury can still be one that lingers with guys for several weeks.
For Tony Bradley, this is a terrific chance to establish some long-term value with the Sixers. If he can prove to be productive in extended minutes, there is a real role for him on the team as Embiid’s primary backup moving forward.
The former Jazz player has now started 3 games this season in Embiid’s absence and has proven to be a better fit alongside Ben Simmons than Dwight Howard. Bradley has shown potential in his limited minutes, including scoring 14 points on 7-7 shooting in his recent start over the Bulls.
This stretch without Joel Embiid will prove to be an extremely important stretch of play for not only the Sixers but Tony Bradley and the direction of his career as well.