After a two year wait, Joel Embiid has arrived. It is not an exaggeration to say Embiid was worth the wait. The outgoing, reactive, highly skilled 22 year old is wrecking front courts and taking names. This is not the Embiid we saw in Kansas. This is a full grown man who can do things on the court.
These things: Hit the three ball. Spin and dunk. Block shots. Rebound. Get to the rim with ease and finish. Finish through traffic. He is on everyone’s board as the player to stop on the Sixers. The Sixers don’t have much else and this is the irony. Sam Hinkie got run out of town for The Process. And the Process is working as far as Embiid’s development is concerned. He makes everyone forget Jahlil Okafor is on this team.
You can see a future for Embiid where he is first team All-NBA defense and first team All-NBA and a nightly must watch highlight on SportsCenter.
Embiid has only played half a NBA season. And this is his damage. 19.7 points. 7.7 rebounds. 7.7 free throw attempts per game. 2.4 blocks. 2.0 assists. PER of 23.9, the second highest among centers, only trailing Enes Kanter (OKC).
Embiid is making 51.6% of his long twos shots. He is the 10th ranked center as far as on-court impact. He is ranked higher than veteran center Dwight Howard (13th) and second year player Karl-Anthony Towns (16th).
Compare him to Shaq’s rookie year in 1992. Shaq averaged 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.5 blocks per game. But Shaq played 38 minutes. Imagine Embiid’s numbers if he played 13 more minutes per game. He would come close to Shaq’s offensive numbers. But Shaq had an advantage. He was a beast in the paint, unstoppable, gifted around the rim, a quick first step. Shaq never shot below 56% in his career. Shaq had four 60% seasons. Embiid is hovering around 50% because he takes perimeter shots which lowers his overall field goal percentage.
But let’s talk about a rookie making the All-Star team. Has it happened and who?
It wasn’t LeBron James. It wasn’t Kobe Bryant.
It was Blake Griffin (2011). Yao Ming (2003). Tim Duncan (1998). Grant HIll (1995). Shaquille O’Neal (1993). Dikeme Mutombo (1992). David Robinson (1990).
In 26 years, 7 out of the 8 rookie All-Stars were forwards or centers. It is good news for Embiid. Who woudl keep him out of this year’s game in New Orleans?
This year the fans don’t have the final say. The media and players votes count as far as the starters. Kevin Love has a 16,000 vote lead on Embiid. Jimmy Butler trails Love by 73,000 votes. But this is no longer a counting game. The fan totals will be weighted and given a score. The media tally will be weighted and given a score. The players vote will be weighted and given a score. All three scores will be added up. The highest scores for the respective positions will be the starters. It is possible the East front court is LeBron, the Greek Feak and Jimmy Butler. Butler’s heroics have turned losses into victories. He might edge Embiid with the media and players. And if that is the case then the coaches vote will determine the subs.
No frontcourt player outside of LeBron, Giannis, Love and Butler is having a better year than Embiid. Not Carmelo. Not Paul George. Not Porzingis. Not Jabari Parker. He is a lock to make the All-Star team and when it happens he will be the first rookie in six years to do so.
It would be an amazing accomplishment for such a young player who has come into the league and dominated his position, even as he is still learning the league. At 22 years old Embiid would join Paul George, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Yao Ming, Vince Carter, Hakeem Olajuwon, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar as first time All-Stars at the age of 22.
But let’s be real. An All-Star nod doesn’t change the Sixer Process. They are still a ways away from a playoff berth and will be back in the lottery, perhaps with two picks, theirs and the Lakers. The Sixers don’t have the guard talent necessary to make the playoffs. They have a lot of bigs but average perimeter players. Once they solve that matrix then Embiid will go from All-Star to superstar and the Sixers will have done what Sam Hinkie knew they could do all along. Turn The Process into a contending team.
photo via llananba