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The List: The 5 correct takes on Joel Embiid getting paid

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The 76ers inked their injury-prone, generational talent to a creative contract extension. Here are the takes you need.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid, who has played all of 31 games totaling 786 minutes in three seasons, has agreed to a five-year, $148 million extension with the 76ers. The contract is reportedly loaded with complexities that presumably allow the Sixers some measure of protection, but the deal also signals a commitment that is fraught with perilous outcomes.

For all his promise, Embiid was only recently cleared for 5-on-5 activity and hasn’t taken the court for Philly’s preseason games. While others have been paid on potential more than production, this deal is unprecedented.

If there’s one thing we’ve come to understand about The Process, it’s that all takes are valid and none is without caveats. Here are five.

1. This is really a no-brainer

Embiid is a generational talent, a once-in-a-lifetime big man who is poised to carry the 76ers through the next decade if he can just stay on the court. Even in this age of disappearing centers, Embiid can be for Philly what Tim Duncan was for San Antonio.

When he did play last season, the Sixers were a viable playoff contender. When he didn’t, they were a low lottery team. Even with Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz on the roster, Embiid is the obvious franchise centerpiece. The talk about Philly making the playoffs this year? That goes away if Embiid can’t stay healthy.

You don’t mess around with players like that, especially in their formative years when the franchise has control over the negotiation. Even if Embiid staggers through another injury-plagued season, the Sixers would still try to lock him up this summer. Do it now and protect yourself as much as possible.

2. This is headed for disaster

Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career and didn’t even last 800 minutes of his third while playing under heavy time restrictions. The track record of injury-prone big men is littered with torn ligaments and broken dreams, and Embiid has already had several serious setbacks.

The Sixers, of all organizations, should know, having traded the top pick in the 1986 draft for a broken-down Jeff Ruland and going all-in on the disastrous Andrew Bynum experiment in 2013. And Embiid, for all of his precocious talent and wonderful gifts, has been more injured than most. Even Greg Oden (Greg Oden!) played 82 games and more than 1,800 minutes in his first two seasons.

3. What’s the hurry?

Embiid would have been a restricted a free agent this summer, and the Sixers would retain matching rights. If he makes it through this season healthy, they could always sign him in July.

It’s not like there was a long line of suitors for restricted free agent big men this past summer. Just look at Embiid’s former Process partner, Nerlens Noel, who had to slink back to Dallas for the qualifying offer. The Sixers have been playing the long game long enough to wait a few more months.

4. Ah, but restricted free agency carries certain risks.

The Wizards danced around with Otto Porter and had to match Brooklyn’s offer sheet. That deal has a trade kicker, a player option, and an upfront payment schedule. Who knows what manner of contract chicanery rivals would have planned for Embiid if he hit the market.

Let’s say Embiid went the restricted route and secured an offer sheet without the protections the Sixers built into the deal. Even with his injury history, it’s almost certain somebody would try to make the Sixers stay on the hook for the whole bit. By signing him now with all those tricky contingencies attached, they minimize some of the risk and maintain good will for what they hope is a longtime partnership.

5. This is a great day for Joel Embiid.

Embiid is a 23-year-old who emigrated from Cameroon as a teenager and worked his way through two serious injuries while mourning the loss of his younger brother. Yes, these contracts have far-reaching ramifications for team building and roster construction, but it’s a strange part of this job that requires us to give our unqualified opinion about somebody else’s money.

Embiid is a delightful spirit who enjoys entertaining the fans and has warmed the hearts of what had been the most cynical fan base in sports. He’s an easy guy to root for, and this generation of young stars would be incomplete without JoJo. As Robert Covington noted before Monday’s preseason game in Boston, “Get that bag.”