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Thunder Preview: Joel Embiid Will Make Long-Awaited Debut With Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA -

After a long and active offseason the NBA is finally back, and the Thunder will tip off the the 2016-17 season with a 7:00 p.m. nationally televised matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Related: Nine Bold Thunder Predictions For 2016-17

Here are a few things to know about the Sixers as the Thunder try to start the season with a road win. 

Embiid debut

After multiple injuries continued to push back his NBA debut, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft and former Kansas Jayhawk, Joel Embiid, will make his NBA debut tonight for the Sixers in their home opener. 

Embiid (7-0, 250) is the type of player who can completely dominate a basketball game when healthy, but durability the big question surrounding the center. Embiid has had concerns with his back while multiple foot injuries forced him to miss his first two years in the league.

Embiid is an efficient offensive player in the post, but his shot blocking presence and ability to control the paint is what makes a player with his skill-set so valuable. Sixers head coach Brett Brown was on record in the offseason saying that he believes the game will go through Embiid on both offense and defense. 

The big man will be limited to only 20 minutes in tonight's matchup with the Thunder, but nonetheless it'll be exciting to see what Embiid is capable of doing when he finally makes his professional debut. 

Injuries on injuries

While it looks like the Thunder will head into this matchup with only Cameron Payne on the injury report, the Sixers enter the game without a few key rotation players. 

This year's first pick of the draft, Ben Simmons, will be out for extended time with a foot fracture, while forward Nerlens Noel will be out three to five weeks after having knee surgery. While Simmons and Noel are two of the more valuable players on the team, Philly will also be without point guard Jerryd Bayless, who has ligament damage in his wrist. 

Jahlil Okafor, who led Philly in scoring last season, will also be limited in the game to around 12 minutes as he tries to recover from a knee issue.

With all the injuries, look for the Sixers to run out Sergio Rodriquez, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Embiid in the starting lineup. 

Trust the process?

With a 47-199 combined record over the last three seasons, it's no secret that Philadelphia has struggled to get it going in the win column. But with former GM Sam Hinkie now gone and Bryan Colangelo now in his place, the Sixers now look to turn the page and move forward with the young assets they've currently built up after multiple years of picking early in the draft. 

Coach Brown will now try to piece together a winning team with players such as Simmons, Embiid, and Saric as building blocks, while it's possible that both Noel and Okafor could be traded at some point if the Sixers look to retool and get something in return for the former lottery picks. 

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