What Joel Embiid’s Thumb Injury Means for the Sixers

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) shoots the ball over Chicago Bulls Center Nikola Vucevic (9) during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

It has been clear to anyone who has watched the Sixers this year that Joel Embiid has raised his game to another level. The MVP candidate has taken another massive leap forward in his maturity and production on the court. With all the off-court drama surrounding the Sixers this year, Embiid has kept his head down and continued to produce at a superstar level. The 7-footer led the NBA in scoring this season at 30.6 points per game while adding 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game. Joel Embiid has looked as locked-in as he has ever been and has been motivated to drag the Sixers to success all season. This has been the healthiest Embiid has ever been entering the postseason, however, this quickly changed with the news of the thumb injury that occurred in the opening round.

What is the Injury?

The injury has seemingly been known within the Sixers organization for the past few days, but an MRI officially confirmed it today. Joel Embiid has a torn ligament in the thumb of his right shooting hand which will require surgery in order to fix it.

There are two notable ligaments in the thumb and it has not been revealed which one Embiid has injured. Both ligaments play a major role in the stability of the thumb during pinch and grip activities. The injury cannot get worse from playing through but will require surgery and several weeks of rest to properly heal.

How this Impacts Sixers?

It obviously is far from ideal for this injury to occur in the postseason. Joel Embiid is the lifeblood of the franchise and the Sixers will only be able to go as far as their superstar takes them. Embiid has made it quite clear he will not miss any time, but the level of play he is able to compete at is the larger question.

The thumb is a difficult injury as it is not directly involved in the shooting motion, but is sure to impact his game to some extent. Embiid said he felt its impact when passing out of the post and attempting to dribble following Game 3. The superstar also seemed a bit more hesitant to get in the mix when fighting for rebounds or loose balls which is far from what is typically seen from Embiid.

On the positive side, Embiid is still the biggest and strongest player on the court and this does not change with a thumb injury. Even operating at less than 100% the superstar is more productive than the average player. The gravity of Embiid will continue to demand at least two defenders and he will remain the main focus of Toronto. The Sixers hold a comfortable 3-1 lead over the Raptors and should feel confident about their chances of winning the series. However, the larger concern is certainly looking past this series.

The emergence of Tyrese Maxey has been great and James Harden has continued to be a useful player. However it is clear the Sixers will need Embiid to continue to play at an extremely high level for the team to make a deep playoff run. The injury will not improve without treatment and it will be one Embiid must learn to play with for this playoff stretch. If there is any player that has become accustomed to playing through injury it is Joel Embiid, but this is far from ideal with so much postseason still remaining.

Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire