Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid Passes All-Star Eye, Numbers Tests
Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has proven he is worth the wait. But is the 7’2″ giant an All-Star in his rookie season?
Over the past month, the first thing I’ve done every morning upon arriving in my office is vote “hashtag” Joel Embiid to the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.
Blinded by his uproarious social media presence and unabashed cries for attention, not since Shaquille O’Neal have we had a dominant big man — both in stature and in game — so genuine, rollicking and likeable (sorry, Dwight Howard).
And, based on the number of All-Star votes he’s received thus far, a large contingent of the NBA universe feels the same way. This is not even accounting the voting boost he’s inevitably going to enjoy after his Triple H-themed entrance that turned the Internet ablaze.
When you take a couple of steps back, however, would Embiid really garner our respective votes if it wasn’t for his outlandish theatricals and “Vine-worthy” moves?
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I mean, for one, his team stinks, as the Philadelphia 76ers are currently near the bottom of the East at 13-26. And, despite running away with the Rookie of the Year award, JoJo is still on a rather strict minutes limit.
There’s also the fact that he has yet to play in back-to-back games. In fact, he’s appeared in just 28 of the Sixers’ 39 contests thus far.
Looking strictly at his raw numbers and assessing the above factors, one would wonder what separates him from a center such as Brook Lopez, who is also averaging nearly 20 points and two blocks on an Eastern Conference bottom-feeder, while doing his damage on true shooting percentage (TS%) that hovers around 58 percent?
But, when digger deeper, you’d realize The Process is not all fancy numbers and ballerina-like moves that regularly appear on the front page of Reddit/r/NBA.
Simply put, his on-court impact matches the eye test. At age 22, after missing two full seasons with foot injuries, Embiid is already an absolute beast on both ends.
In many ways, this season has been the year of the unicorns. There was tremendous hype surrounding Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns coming into the current campaign and Giannis Antetokounmpo has enjoyed a breakout year for the ages.
Unlike KAT, though, and perhaps more akin to Giannis, Embiid has actually lived up to his billing as a unicorn — a 7-foot pterodactyl with the skills and “stretchability” of a guard/forward, but the defensive impact of a true rim-protecting big.
In an era starved of elite two-way big men, JoJo has been everything we had wanted from a guy like Anthony Davis and the aforementioned KAT. His abnormal concoction of length, agility and unreal measurables actually affect his team positively on the defensive end of the floor.
In fact, the Sixers only allow 102.4 points per 100 possessions (which would rank sixth in the association) when Embiid is anchoring the middle and sport a respectable net rating of plus-2.1, per Basketball-Reference.
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By contrast, when JoJo is sitting, Philly’s defensive rating plummets to 111.4 (or, a 9.0 points per 100 possessions difference) and experiences an overall net rating of minus-11.9.
Anyone who can carry a team stacked with D-League hopefuls and lottery projects to a net-positive deserves All-Star consideration, no matter what kind of restrictions he is on.
This is not more evident than when looking at the 76ers’ on/off advanced numbers, where Embiid is the only player on Philly’s entire roster to bolster a positive net rating, per NBA.com.
Not convinced? At present, the Sixers are 10-18 when Embiid plays and, more encouragingly, 6-1 in his last seven contests.
He’s putting up a mind-boggling 28 points, 11 rebounds, nearly three assists and 3½ blocks per 36 minutes and he’s also recorded more than 20 points in less than 30 minutes in nine straight contests (becoming the first player in NBA history to do so).
Joel Embiid is the 1st player in NBA history with 9 straight games of 20+ points in less than 30 minutes in each game. #Sixers
— Khandyman.com (@KhandymanSports) January 17, 2017
Yes, he still averages an insane five turnovers and five fouls per 36 minutes and his minutes restriction probably helps him sustain his intensity and motor on both ends of the floor — a luxury comparable bigs, such as AD and KAT, do not enjoy.
Minutes restriction, team record and shaking off the initial rust aside, when looking purely at his impact when he is on the floor — the on/off difference, his per-minute production and culture-changing, balls-to-the-wall effort — Joel Embiid clearly deserves to be on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.