Going into the 2014 NBA Draft, every scouting report described Joel Embiid as "a rare combination of skill, grace, and athleticism," drawing parallels between the Kansas product and Hakeem Olajuwon. According to the 76ers' president Daryl Morey, that comparison still stands.
Morey on the similarities between Embiid and Hakeem
"I'd say Hakeem Olajuwon if he was 7-1," Morey said about Embiid during The Colin Cowherd Podcast. "I don't know if you've ever been next to Hakeem, but he's like 6-10."
Hakeem, who NBA.com listed as a 7-footer, was a forerunner of a mobile big man with a guard-like skill set. Embiid, whose offensive repertoire is even more versatile due to his ability to hit the long-range jumper, might be the closest thing to Olajuwon we've ever seen.
In an era where there are only a few post-dominant players -- Embiid being one of them -- once praised big guys' mobility is no longer an abberation. That's mostly due to the redefinition of what a modern-day center is and what set of skills he is expected to bring to a team.
But somehow, Embiid still stands out, the same way Hakeem stood out. Morey explained why when he drew parallels between the two.
They're different in some ways, but both were two-way players, both were extraordinarily impactful defensively, both were extraordinarily skilled offensively with amazing footwork.
Morey's biggest wow moment with Embiid
Six years into Embiid's NBA career -- he sat out his first two years due to injuries -- the 27-year-old is having his best season yet, averaging 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. But even more importantly, he's finally found some consistency availability-wise -- he's played in 46 games for the Sixers thus far.
For a guy who's dealt with injuries even before entering the NBA, this is a great sign. The same goes for Sixers, who, after acquiring James Harden on the trade deadline, are going all-in on this year's NBA title.
Last year, their championship hopes were crushed in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, when the Sixers lost a seven-game series to the Hawks -- the loss prompted the Ben Simmons saga, revealing to the organization that the Australian isn't the right guy next to Joel for them to go all the way. But according to Morey, something even more revealing happened during their first-round matchup against the Wizards; something that convinced the Sixers' executive Joel is indeed the guy to build the team around.
Daryl describes it as 'the biggest Wow moment' involving the big guy, and it happened after he went down with a knee injury in Game 4.
"We put him through this regiment that they have for when anything happens, they like run Joel through all these paces. He was able to do both legs of each leg balance that I think Simone Biles would've been moderately impressed with. His mobility and balance and strength off each leg at his size; I've never seen anything like that and people say the same about Olajuwon."
Assuming Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers have a great chance to win it all this season. Barring any health problems in the future, he's also talented enough to justify the Olajuwon comparisons.
"They both played soccer growing up," Morey said. "I think the parallels are there, except Joel's three inches taller and much bigger actually."
The eye test says the two are very similar. However, at this point of his career at least, Embiid lacks accolades. With Harden on his side, this year is his biggest chance to kick things off with the most important one.