Is Joel Embiid the NBA's best centre?
Midway through his fourth season, the Philadelphia 76ers big man has already earned three All-Star selections and two All-NBA selections in addition to two All-Defensive Team selections. He could very well be on his way to adding a third in each category this season.
Today, he turns 26 years old.
In just over 200 career games, Embiid has posted averages of 24.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists, all while showing plenty of room to continue to grow and improve as a player. According to Justin Kubatko of StatMuse, Embiid recently joined David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal as the three players since the ABA-NBA merger to average 24-plus points and 10-plus rebounds through their first 200 games.
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That's elite company.
Embiid possesses one of the most unique skillsets the game has ever seen for a player with his size. He possesses the ability to score in traditional ways with his back to the basket, but also gets to his spots using moves typically reserved for more nimble guards.
Who could forget his Euro step finish against the Lakers from early on in his second season?
Euro-Biid on ESPN. #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/uqU7xKkgMu- NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2017
He'd go on to finish that game - the 43rd of his career - with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks.
It wasn't until Feb. 24 of this year that Embiid would best that scoring figure, putting up a career-high 49 points to go along with 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals in just 36 minutes of action in a win over the Atlanta Hawks in what happened to be his 200th career game.
🔔 @JoelEmbiid erupts for a career-high 49 PTS.- NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2020
49 PTS | 14 REB | 3 STL | 17-24 FGM pic.twitter.com/fMtY7yGT5e
It's amazing to consider that in a game where he scored nearly 50 points, Embiid sank just one triple.
Don't be confused, though, the jumper is there. Up to this point in his career, Embiid is a 32.2% 3-point shooter, but this season, he's made a total of 56 3s at a 34.8% clip. That includes seven games in which he's made three or more 3-pointers, bringin him up to 25 such games in his career. Not so bad for a 7-footer.
One look at Embiid's smooth jump-shooting stroke shows just how good of a shooter he already is. In fact, that was never truly the issue; an improvement upon his shot selection - and not settling for 3s when he doesn't have to - will allow Embiid to reach even greater heights as a perimeter shooter and overall scorer.
And there's no reason to believe he won't take those next steps.
In his final game before the suspension of play, Embiid went for an efficient 30 points (9-17 FG, 2-3 3FG) and 14 rebounds while dishing out three assists all in under 27 minutes of action, as it was his first game back in the lineup after missing the previous five.
It's pretty. It's so pretty.@JoelEmbiid | 📺 @NBCSPhilly pic.twitter.com/elv9jeIssg- Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) March 12, 2020
Still, once he returned he didn't miss a beat, doing what he does best how he does it best - with passion.
Embiid has become a fan favourite thanks to his larger-than-life personality and ability to take - and make - a joke. Most recently, in response to a Jeopardy contestant incorrectly guessing his nickname as being "Do a 180," Embiid changed his Twitter display name to reflect his newly-appointed nickname and shared a hilarious "lowlight" of his own high school blunder.
JOËL "DO A 180" EMBIID pic.twitter.com/reO1V3nCQt- Joel "Do a 180" Embiid??? (@JoelEmbiid) March 5, 2020
It's this same joy and passion that he approaches the game with that has allowed him to become the player he has grown into so far.
When speaking of Embiid, some of the concerns that surround his durability must be acknowledged. After sitting for the first two seasons after being drafted, he's missed 109 of a possible 267 regular season games and three of 22 playoff games due to various injuries and ailments.
That he has yet to play in 65 games of a regular season shouldn't be an indictment on Embiid, but rather a reminder of just how impactful he can be in limited action. You could also look at durability as a way in which he could improve to help this team reach its full potential.
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It's no secret that when they're healthy and at full strength, the Sixers are a scary team and a title contender.
With all Joel Embiid done before the age of 26, it's safe to say the best is yet to come.
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