Can Joel Embiid really bring something to the French team ?

A bit more than a week ago, several French medias reported that Joel Embiid has started the procedure in order to become a French citizen. A few days later after being eliminated in 6 games by Miami during the Eastern Conference semi-finals, Embiid talked about it during the post game press conference. Without confirming at 100% the fact that he indeed, started the procedure, he clearly mentionned his ambition of becoming a French citizen during this summer :

I have a lot of friends and family in France. Regarding the procedure I don’t really have an answer, but as I said I need to see for this surgery with my finger so this summer, I want to be healthy and then we’ll se what comes next.

Joel Embiid’s answering to the question about getting the French nationality. 76ers – Heat GM 6 post-game press conference. 11/06/2022.

A few years ago, Embiid already talked about his will of playing with the French team and this year it seems like it’s finally happening as he’s certainly about to become a French citizen. There’s obviously several questions and debates around this topic but here I’ll only be talking about basketball because personally, I think that Embiid has enough links to France in order to become a citizen. So, can Joel Embiid really bring something to the French team ?

Embiid is without a doubt, one of the best center in the league right now. All-Star, 76ers franchise player and MVP candidate since two years now, Embiid is physically dominating the paint and rare are the players who can really stop him. He can also make some tough shots both from the mid and long range. Ultimately, Embiid’s game really stepped up during the past three years as he developed some serious skills, allowing him to diverse his game and be an offensive threat in diverse ways. On the paper, adding an MVP caliber player like Embiid would be huge a step up for the French team, but that’s on the paper and in reality adding Embiid France’s roster is not that simple.

Currently, Rudy Gobert is the main center of the French team and he’s clearly making the job by being one of the main player in this team. Problem, both Gobert and Embiid are what I would call “pure centers”. What I mean is that I’m hardly seeing either Gobert or Embiid being used as a power forward because let’s be honest, if you have both Gobert and Embiid in your team, they’re both starters. Even if Embiid could play as a power forward thanks to his shooting skills and because he’s a more technical player than Gobert, I’m still not sure that playing Embiid as a PF and Gobert as a C would be a highly efficient line-up as it’s always better to use players in their natural position. Another issue that we need to take in account is the incoming arrival of Victor Wembanyama. The 18 years old power forward who’s announced as the next generational talent and who’s expected to be drafted in the NBA next year, will be an important part of the French team in the upcoming years and I mean in one or two years no more. If Wembanyama is indeed the next generationnal talent, it means that France will have three main players for only two sports avaible. Wembanyama can potentially be used as a small forward but again, better use him in is natural position. Once again, on the paper, it looks huge to have Wembanyama as a 3, Embiid as a 4 and Gobert as a 5 but in reality it might a huge challenge to play them all while being an efficient team.

Finally, we still don’t know how Embiid will handle the FIBA context. Last year Olympic Games showed how hard it canbe for NBA players to adapt their game while playing in a FIBA context. Not so much because of the rules but because the players are defending hard and the referees are much stricter regarding the fouls. Without talking about Team USA, we have the example of Giannis, who despite carrying Greece, is not dominating as much as he’s doing it in the NBA. Because Embiid’s game is (despite his shooting skills and technical skills) mostly based on physical domination, nothing says that he’ll be dominating the paint like he’s doing it in the NBA. So is it really worth it to add Embiid to your roster if you’re not sure that he’ll dominate the game like he’s supposed to do it ? Not sure about that.

In conclusion, adding Embiid to the French team is so far, an idea that despite being exciting on the paper, still need to be tested because nothing says it will work as much as expected. Personally, I’m not a fan of seeing Embiid playing with the French team for all the reasons I listed in this article, however I’ll be the first enjoying it if it works. One thing I’m sure about, is that when Embiid will play his first game with France (if he indeed ends up playing with France), everyone will be looking for it.