Joel Embiid may just be a rookie, but he has already showed exciting skills that could get him into the All-Star festivities this year.
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Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Joel Embiid is single-handedly changing the way the Sixers are perceived around the league. Although Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor were noble tries at turning the Sixers from a laughing-stock into a respectable team, neither of them had the talents to really pull the Sixers out of basement.
Additionally, neither player really showed any bursts of being exciting like Embiid has thus far this season. He’s been simply captivating, dominating almost every game that he has appeared in so far. It’s tough to argue a case for any other player on the Sixers when talking about who is the best player on the team, and who is going to be the foundation of the next few seasons.
Coming off of a year where Karl-Anthony Towns dominated in his freshman NBA year, it’s no surprise that a player with Embiid’s talent has captivated audiences the way he has. Embiid and Towns both are good examples of what the next wave of big men should be. They both are decent from beyond the arc, and have little to no issue handling the ball in fast break situations, at times looking like 7-foot tall point guards.
So far this season, Embiid is averaging 18 points, 7.6 rebounds, and shooting 48.6 percent from the field. With him being on minutes restrictions and appearing in an average of 22 minutes per game, that’s not bad at all.
Nov 19, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts after a defensive stop against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 120-105. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The most obvious part of All-Star weekend that players strive to get selected for is the All-Star game. The Eastern and Western Conference both select a limited amount of players from their respective sides, and to be chosen as one of the players that makes it in is truly an honor that follows you around for your entire career.
The starters are selected by the fans via voting on social media platforms. The reserves, however, are selected by the coaches votes from their respective conferences. The starting lineup is made up of three frontcourt players and two guards, which gives Embiid three possible slots to fill into if the fans are to vote him in.
So, for Embiid to make a starting role, he’s going to have to beat players like Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, and Andre Drummond in fan voting. Add in forwards to that mix since they’re considered frontcourt as well, and he’s also going to have to beat players who will get massive amounts of votes from casual NBA fans who mainly pay attention to national games such as Paul George and LeBron James.
Embiid making the All-Star game as a starter is a huge stretch. But as a reserve, it’s not completely far-out. Reserves are selected by head coaches who vote from each conference.
It would still be a massive accomplishment, and a huge way to start his career, but with the lack of dominant big men in the Eastern Conference, it’s a possibility if Embiid can keep his solid play up at a high level, and impress the people who are in charge of selecting reserves.
The last player to make it to an All-Star team as a rookie was Blake Griffin, who was voted in by coaches in 2011. Embiid has been getting respect from coaches all around the league, so who knows, maybe he’ll get some love from the coaches when they submit their votes for the bench.
Nov 7, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) reacts against the Utah Jazz during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Rising Stars (United States vs. World)
If Embiid doesn’t make it into the All-Star game, it’s almost certain that he will be invited to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge, which usually takes place a few days before the main event of the weekend.
The Rising Stars Challenge has been around for quite a while. It started as a game between a split version of the rookie class, and then transitioned to be a game of rookies vs sophomore players later on.
Starting in 2015, the game began to celebrate the influx of international players that were coming into the league, as the game was still played between rookie and sophomore players, but was USA players vs. international players.
The Sixers have participated in this event int he past few years. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel have both been highlights of the competition over the past few seasons, but Embiid is on another level as far as fan appeal all across the board.
Embiid would be on the international team, even though he did spend a bulk of his high school career in America. Embiid is a native of Cameroon. Although it would be fantastic to see Embiid dominate his peers in the Rising Stars Challenge, he has had little to no trouble against some of the NBA’s best big men, so it would still be awesome to see him get his chance in the All-Star game instead. Nonetheless, this would hopefully mean that Embiid would get to go up against Karl-Anthony Towns in one of the most exciting Rising Stars Challenges in a very long time.
As a side note, it’s uncertain when Ben Simmons will return to action, but if he can be healthy by the end of January, he could have a shot at being a participant in this as well. He would be Embiid’s teammate, as a native of Australia.
Nov 7, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) warms up before a game against the Utah Jazz at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The Skills Challenge is one of the many superlative events of the All-Star weekend that takes place the night before the big game. This challenge tests a players’ all-around skills as a basketball player, focusing on ball-handling, speed, shooting ability, passing, and agility.
In the past, the event has largely been dominated by guards, since the requirements for agility, passing, and even shooting often exceeded the skill sets of the traditional big men in the NBA. That all changed last season when Karl-Anthony Towns weren’t home as the champion of the game.
The only players who have won the challenge more than once have been guards. Although Towns will likely participate in the event again this February to change that, there is also something Embiid may want to change — being the first Sixers player to win the event.
Embiid is quite similar to Towns in a few ways, and one of those is how skilled they are at handling the ball and moving around like point guards despite being taller than 7-foot.
With that in mind, Embiid and Towns possibly facing off in the Skills Challenge would be must-watch television. Something tells me Towns would be much quicker than Embiid for most of their potential face-off, but since the obstacle course doesn’t end until a player sinks a 3-pointer after all of the other tasks, I have a feeling Embiid and his 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc might push him past Towns, should they face off.
Nov 19, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) dunks after the whistle against the Phoenix Suns during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The dunk contest is one of the most anticipated events of the weekend. Last season, Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine faced off in the final round of the dunk contest, as they went through two rounds of tie-breakers. Lavine went home as the repeat champion, and many people thought Gordon was robbed.
In some years, the dunk contest has been considered to be the most fun part of the weekend.
Embiid has wowed us in past years before games as he recovered from foot surgery going through dunk routines. While some of us thought the Sixers were too lenient with what they allowed him to do (such as showing off his dunks while he was recovering from injury) it was exciting to see him elevate and dominate the rim.
Embiid has had a few in-game instances this season where he has impressed by dunking. His height makes it easy for him to get to the rim, and I have a feeling he could put down some earth-shattering dunks throughout the contest to make himself a contender. With Embiid’s humor, and the allowance for props, it could be beneficial for the league to put him on the spot as a dunk contestant.
Zach Lavine is likely going to want to go for the three-peat, and Aaron Gordon will probably want to come back and give a try in the contest again. With only two spots remaining after them, it seems like it would be difficult for Embiid to secure one of those spots and then establish a competitive dunk routine. He’s better off placing his talents elsewhere in the weekend.
Nov 16, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) prior to game against the Washington Wizards at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
This one would be something to see, for sure. Imagine a 7-foot-2 big man hoisting up the 3-point contest trophy as a champion. Big men are not often regarded for their 3-point shooting, but Embiid has been solid so far this season. Through 10 games, he’s shooting 50 percent percent from beyond the arc.
Embiid isn’t shooting at a huge volume — he’s only taking 2.2 3-pointers per game — but he has shown that he has solid shooting form, and that he can be more consistent than your average big man from beyond the arc, which is something that gives your offense another layer that is very tricky to figure out how to defend.
The 3-point contest has been won by a variety of players from different positions, but you have to go all the way back to 2006 to find the last time a player 7-foot or taller won the title (that player was Dirk Nowitzki). Kevin Love and Paul Pierce were players that won the competition and did well from beyond the arc as fairly tall players, but no player listed primarily as a center has ever won the 3-point contest.
Embiid could be the first, and he is one of the players that is really ushering in the new wave of big men that can shoot well from beyond the arc. I could definitely see him going deep in the contest, especially if he can hit a groove. He feeds off of crowd energy, and fans will go berserk with the opportunity to see Embiid hit shots in the 3-point contest.