Embiid Making the Sixers Must See

Eleven months before Joel Embiid’s historic night at Staples Center,  Embiid had a 33 point, 10 rebound performance against Brooklyn. Though no one knew it last December, 18 games into his pro career was just a scratching of the Embiid surface more than it was a watershed moment.

Fully healthy, the outgoing, reactive, highly skilled 23 year old is building on his rookie campaign that saw him wrecking front courts and taking names. Last season, he was on everyone’s board as the player to stop on the Sixers. This season, even with Ben Simmons dishing and creating and bounce passing and finish with the right hand, Embiid is still the Sixers best player.

You can see a future for Embiid where he is first team All-NBA defense and first team All-NBA and an All-Star.  MVP isn’t far behind. Nor is face of the league. He has the wit, humor, trash talk and on camera ease to capture imaginations, fans and score big ratings. Not to mention that Embiid, along with Karl-Anthony Towns, put to bed a lie that had been floating around the league ever since Steph and Co. began their title run: the big man is dead. Uh-no.

Joel Embiid. Karl-Anthony Towns. DeMarcus Cousins. Marc Gasol.

Embiid has the least NBA experience than the other dynamic All-Star centers. He has only played 43 NBA games. And yet this is his damage. 21.0 points. 8.8 rebounds. 7.7 free throw attempts. 2.3 blocks. 2.5 assists. PER of 24.4 and  a Defensive Rating of 101.

This season, he is averaging 11.2 rebounds (9th). He is averaging 1.9 blocks (6th).  His big negative is his 4.4 turnovers (5th most).  He is the 8th ranked NBA player when measuring on-court impact (Real Plus-Minus). He is ranked higher than third year former Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns (15th). He trails centers DeMarcus Cousins (2nd) and Nikola Jokic (4th).

Points FG% Rebounds Blocks Turnovers
DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) 28.0 47.2% 13.7 1.6 5.4
Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota) 21.5 54.5% 11.6 1.8 1.9
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) 23.0 51.6% 11.2 1.9 4.4

Compare him to Shaq’s second year in 1993-94. Shaq averaged 29.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks per game. But Shaq played 39 minutes. Imagine Embiid’s numbers if he played 10 more minutes per game. In fact, when measuring per 36 minutes, Embiid’s numbers of 28 and 14 are higher than Shaq’s 27 and 12.

But Shaq had an advantage in his game. 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. 50% of Shaq’s shots were 0-3 feet. 35% of Embiid’s shots are 0-3 feet.

(The first game of Shaq’s second year, he had a 42 and 12 game against Miami. He would have 7 more 40 point games. Game number 79, he had 50 points and 18 rebounds.)

No frontcourt player in the east, outside of LeBron, Giannis, Porzingis, is having a better year than Embiid. Embiid is a lock to make the All-Star team and when it happens he will be the first Sixers All-Star in five years (Jrue Holiday) and the first big man since Dikembe Mutumbo in 2002.

Embiid as an All-Star means he is returning to Staples Center, the site of his greatest accomplishment. You can split hairs and say the Lakers have no front court players to handle Embiid’s 7-3 talent but no forward/center has dropped 40 on the Lakers this year and they’ve played Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Giannis Antetokoumpo. The Lakers have the 4th best efficient defense. And Embiid destroyed them. 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 blocks.

It’s hard to wrap your brain around the fact that Embiid is 7 foot three with a small forwards game. He faces the basket with ease, Eurosteps his way to the rim, drains fifteen footers,  jab steps, spins, dunks, and on the other end, covers ground quick enough to make up for mistakes with his explosiveness.

While Shaq’s personality and Embiid’s are a perfect match and draw comparisons, Embiid’s game is more Olajuwon-esque. In Olajuwon’s second year, he posted 23.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, making 52% of his shots, similar to Embiid’s numbers.

The sixth game of his second year, Olajuwon had a 41 point, 18 rebound, 2 block game.

Nigeria vs. Cameroon, Year 2 Minutes Points Fg% Rebounds Blocks
Hakeem Olajuwon 36.3 23.5 52% 11.5 3.4
Joel Embiid 29.0 23.0 51% 11.2 1.9

Embiid is a breath of fresh air and it’s not just that on any given night he can beat the living crap out of his opponent and carry his team to victory. It’s his personality. He likes to have fun. He lightens up a league that has a lot of quiet, say the right thing, boring personalities.  Boring is never a word you associate with Embiid. His game isn’t boring. And neither is his talk.

Unlike a lot of players though, he walks the walk.


photo via llananba



photo via llananba