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How Joel Embiid's contract protects the 76ers from a Brandon Roy scenario

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Philadelphia is paying an injury-prone talent, but not without some protections.

NBA: New York Knicks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid has often been compared to Greg Oden, a dominant center who couldn’t stay healthy enough early in his career to make a mark on the NBA. But in the wake of Embiid’s massive contract extension with the 76ers, there’s actually another cautionary Blazers tale that’s a more appropriate corollary: Brandon Roy.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks report that the Sixers have the option to void Embiid’s contract (once it takes effect) if the center misses 25 or more regular-season games or plays fewer than 1,650 minutes due to feet or back injuries.

Roy’s injuries — which hit in force just months after the wing began cashing in on his max contract — cost Portland a lot of money. That’s what Philadelphia is trying to protect itself from: A Brandon Roy situation with a max contract player who can’t stay on the court.

Oden, you may recall, never got paid, despite playing more than twice as many games as Embiid by this point in their careers. Oden and Embiid both missed the entirety of their rookie seasons while recovering from surgery. Embiid also missed Year 2 while Oden played most of the season (albeit on minutes restrictions).

Embiid finally debuted in his Year 3, but played just 31 games and fewer than 800 minutes. In those minutes, he was thoroughly dominant, averaging 29 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. But in February, the Sixers determined he had a torn meniscus and shut him down the season. He was just cleared for full-contact action this week.

Oden began his third season as Portland’s full-time starting center, and he was good. But he fractured his kneecap in early December and missed the rest of the 2009-10 season.

At that point, the Blazers could have reached a contract extension with Oden. They did not. Oden underwent another microfracture surgery at the beginning of the 2010-11 season — the fourth and final year on his rookie contract. He never played for the Blazers again, getting waived for roster space at the tail end of that season.

For various reasons, the Sixers bit the bullet and extended Embiid before his fourth year. They have already invested much more money and faith in Embiid than the Blazers did in Oden. As such, any protections in Embiid’s contract aren’t really protecting the Sixers from an Oden situation because Oden never got paid like this!

But Brandon Roy did.

Health concerns about Roy’s knees dated back to his draft day in 2006. Yet, Roy was a spectacular young player who was fairly reliable for Portland through three seasons. Those seasons included two All-Star berths for Roy and the first two post-Jailblazers playoff berths for Portland. The Blazers gave Roy a four-year max contract extension after Year 3. Portland did reportedly have insurance on the contract, but there was no specific cap relief protection.

Knee injuries start causing Roy problems in that fourth season — he missed playoff games — and cost him almost half of Year 5, the first on his fat new contract. In that 2010-11 season, Roy played just 1,310 minutes over 47 games. Once the season ended, he never played for Portland again, eventually being waived under the amnesty clause and given a medical retirement. Future comeback attempts with other teams failed. He’s now a champion-level high school coach.

Portland suffered mightily not just from the loss of Roy’s prodigious talents, but from the salary the franchise still had to pay him, even though amnesty wiped his salary off the cap sheet. Five games Roy played for Minnesota in 2012 cost the Blazers $17 million of that salary that insurance had covered.

If Portland had the Embiid clause in place with Roy’s contract, the Blazers could have voided the deal at the close of the 2010-11 season, saving tens of millions of dollars over the following three seasons without dealing with insurance, the amnesty clause, or medical retirement.

The Sixers wanted to be able to completely exit the Joel Embiid Experience if he turns into a lost cause. With this contract, they are able to do that.

Unlike Greg Oden, Joel Embiid got paid. Unlike Brandon Roy, Embiid’s team isn’t completely on the hook of his body goes awry. This is the lesson Philadelphia learned in crafting this deal.