Magic Johnson (left) speaks during a tribute to Western Conference forward Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (right) prior to the start of the NBA All Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports” width=”590″ height=”389″ /> Feb 14, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Magic Johnson (left) speaks during a tribute to Western Conference forward Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (right) prior to the start of the NBA All Star Game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Joel Embiid has gathered some serious attention as a possible All-Star candidate this year, and there are plenty of reasons to vote for him.
Whether you’re a Philadelphia 76ers fan or a general NBA fan, you may be skeptical of the idea of rookie center Joel Embiid participating in the NBA All-Star game. While in the opening weeks of the season you could have countered those thoughts with, “well, he’s just a rookie, he won’t get in anyway,” he’s now getting some serious attention as a candidate as a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star roster.
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Being an NBA All-Star is among the greatest honors outside of the big honors in the NBA — winning a title, winning Most Valuable Player, awards like that — and Embiid seems to be deserving, even in his debut season.
Some Sixers fans don’t want him to play in the game due to his injury history and the potential that he could get hurt in the All-Star game. Non-Sixers fans that don’t want him in the game point to the fact that he is just a rookie, and argue that his potential roster spot should be reserved for a player with more experience, and that it’s mostly his social media skills that are getting him consideration for the game.
While there’s a lot of detractors to the Embiid as an All-Star in 2017 argument, there’s also a lot of reasons to be behind him in the All-Star game.
Most Sixers fans — and even fans outside of the Sixers fan base — have gotten behind the Embiid movement and voted for him. There are plenty of ways to vote for a player to be on the starting lineup, but by far Twitter is the most popular. Any Tweet with “Joel Embiid” and the hashtag #NBAVOTE counts as a vote for Embiid to be one of the five players in the starting lineup.
Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Rihanna during her performance at White River State Park . Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
One of the reasons Embiid’s wishes of being in the All-Star game have blown up is because he has been expressive that one of the personal benefits for him would be the opportunity to date his celebrity crush.
A little bit of background — much was made about Embiid’s reaction to being selected third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. An unflattering live television delay left him looking as disappointed as ever, and many assumed that he looked disappointed because he was drafted by none other than the Sixers. Instead, a few years later, Embiid took to Twitter to reveal the “truth.” Embiid said that he was upset at the time because he had hit up his celebrity crush and that she said maybe he could have an opportunity at dating her once he was an All-Star.
Little did he — or we — know that he would be so good in his first season. Little did his celebrity crush know that either, but maybe she’ll be happy that the two can get together a bit earlier. Oh, and according to TMZ, Rihanna is the mystery celebrity crush. She’s recently getting over a breakup with rapper and hip-hop artist Drake as well.
Now, Sixers fans may not want Embiid to necessarily get with the mystery girl because it could take his head out of the game, but our process prodigy deserves to have a life (and a love one at that) too. And if a girl is going to motivate him to play at an All-Star level, so be it.
Even outside of the Sixers fan base, this story is a great one, and one that is perfect for NBA Twitter. Here we have Embiid, who, at one point, was counted out by most as a player that would never play out in the NBA due to injuries, going after a celebrity love with high hopes and leveraging his great play on the floor to get the girl.
May 16, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird speak to the press during a press conference at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
The players his rookie season lines up with
How many NBA rookies all-time (this season’s progress included) scored greater than 19 points per game, pulled in more than 7 rebounds per game, dished out more than 2 assists per game, and shot 35 percent from beyond the arc or greater?
Two rookies — Larry Bird and Joel Embiid.
If we reword that question but take out the assisting and 3-point shooting criteria (there are some really dominant players who played prior to the 3-point era), we get a list of 30 rookies, but if we order that list by points per minutes played, Joel Embiid comes in at second on that list, right below Wilt Chamberlain and above some respectable names such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Robnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Patrick Ewing.
This shows that not only is Embiid challenging what the game used to define a good big man as, but he’s holding his own in traditional big man stats as well.
Of course, the thing that makes these players great is not simply their rookie season — it was their entire careers. They were able to keep stats like this high for — in some cases — decades, and that’s really what gives them the incredible legacy that is now attached to their name.
But Embiid is showing that he’s holding up well to some of the league’s best. With that same query — players who average 19/2/2 and shoot 35 percent from beyond the arc, here’s the company he’s in:
Both lists are sorted by points per minutes played.
That said, Embiid has proven that he has hung with some of the best rookie seasons that have existed, and has proven that he’s worthy this season as well. With that in mind, him being an All-Star makes sense.
Dec 16, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) runs down court during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Clippers won 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Been a while since a rookie has been in the All-Star game
Remember that second trivia question we posed in the last slide? Here it is again:
How many NBA rookie all-time (this season’s progress included) scored greater than 19 points per game, and pulled in more than 7 rebounds per game?
The only active player on that list of 30 rookies that did that — other than Embiid, of course — in his rookie season was Blake Griffin. Griffin was the most recent NBA rookie to make it into the All-Star game, and that was back in the 2010-11 season. We’re coming up on six years since a rookie has been in the game, and Embiid could very well be the most worthy rookie since Griffin.
Griffin, who also won the Rookie of the Year award that year, closed that season averaging 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He shot 50.6 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc.
For the sake of adjusting to minutes restrictions that Embiid has been on all season, we’ll compare Embiid’s rookie year so far to Griffin’s using per 36 minute stats, which put them on an even level as far as what each player is doing/did inside of the minutes they were given.
Per 36 minutes that season, Griffin averaged 21.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per 36 minutes.
Embiid, per 36 minutes this season, is averaging 27.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists, all numbers that exceed or come close to the incredible rookie season that Griffin had.
The two players were obviously playing in different times, with different players competing for the same All-Star spots. Griffin was a reserve when he played, so if Embiid jumps up and snags a starting spot, it would be pretty incredible.
Another similarity between the two players is that they each redshirted at least a year of their NBA career before their official debut, making them rookies that weren’t actually in their first year out of college.
Even if this isn’t enough to get you to think Embiid should be an All-Star, it should at least get you thinking about Rookie of the Year this year.
Jan 6, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins (15) during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Golden 1 Center. The Clippers defeated the Kings 106-98. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
He’s liked around the league
The All-Star game is all about putting the fan favorites on the floor, and the player favorites as well. Fan votes count for 50 percent of the All-Star starting lineup votes this year, and the other 50 percent is put on players and select members of the media.
Embiid has already established good friendships — and in many cases, good friendly rivalries — with some of the top players in the league. No one really dislikes Embiid off of the court (at least as far as we know), and generally his competition respects him.
Embiid even got DeMarcus Cousins to speak very highly of him after their first matchup with each other, something Cousins does not just do for any player. Cousins has shown over the years that he’s a savage, and he will really only give credit where credit is due.
Fans of other teams like Embiid as well, and if Embiid keeps his career on the path that it’s on now, pretty soon it’s going to be one of those things where fans of even opposing teams are going to start going to games with the goal of seeing Embiid, not seeing their hometown team play.
In fact, we’re already seeing that come about a little bit. When the Sixers faced off against the Boston Celtics on the road, fans broke out into “Trust The Process” chants while Embiid was at the line. “The Process” has been a saying that was dubbed to the entire rebuilding process of the Sixers, but Embiid has snatched the saying and labeled himself with it over the years.
“The Process” is liked all over the league, and he might just be tearing it up in New Orleans in mid-February.
Jan 8, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Cavaliers won 120-116. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Need to see him around big talent
The first few months of Embiid’s career have been a dream for Sixers fans. While there was no rock solid proof that he would be what Sixers fans hoped he would become when he was drafted coming into this year, the hopes were high surrounding him.
Still, those who were looking at Embiid with a realist mindset saw that this was a professional who had not played competitive basketball in over two years, and had never experienced NBA competition first hand in a real game.
Right out of the gate, however, Embiid was strong, highly competitive, and everything Sixers fans had hoped — and perhaps even more. While Sixers fans and general NBA fans weren’t sure if things like his 3-point shot would translate to real game situations, he was able to make those things work with ease, and slip into the NBA game — albeit a bit confused and with some tunnel vision — as a highly productive member of the team.
That said, the team around him is not great. They’re getting better, and the pieces the Sixers have in place look like they have great potential to make the team competitive in a few years, but as of right now those pieces are mostly seeds, some of which have sprouted, while others have not. We have yet to see Embiid play on a team with truly incredible, up-to-par NBA talent, but if he were to play in the NBA All-Star game, that’s all we would see him around.
Imagine Embiid getting fed in the paint by a player like Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, or even potentially Kyle Lowry. Imagine him setting pick-and-pop plays with those players where Embiid is hitting 3-pointers from the top of the arc in the NBA All-Star game.
Not everyone knows all about our big man yet, and not everyone thinks he’s as good as we think because he’s carrying a bulk of this team’s load with a usage percentage of 36 percent. He needs to show the league he’s special, and prove to us as well that he’s going to be great once he has some other talent around him as well. The All-Star game gives him the perfect stage to do just that.