"Stat Just Happened" is our new series where we'll pair an important stat with how it actually unfolded on the floor. Our aim? To answer key questions, uncover hidden truths and peel back the curtain on why some numbers matter more than others.
According to NBA.com, that's Joel Embiid's shooting percentage from midrange this season.
Why is that notable? A couple of reasons.
First, it's one of the best rates in the league. As of this writing, Embiid is one of 125 players who have attempted 50 or more shots from midrange this season. Of those players, only 10 - three of which are noted midrange assassins Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant - have converted them at a higher percentage.
Two, it's way up from previous seasons. Embiid has always taken a decent amount of his shots from midrange - around a quarter (26.0 percent) of his field goal attempts in his career have come from that in-between area - but he's never come close to shooting this well.
Embiid has basically gone from being an average midrange shooter for his position to an elite one this season.
The midrange isn't nearly as popular as it once was, but it's still an incredibly important weapon for a number of players in the league today. For Embiid, it helps him keep defenders honest when he gets the ball in the post, where he's generating over a third (34.7 percent) of his offence this season.
At 7-feet and 280 pounds, Embiid has the size to overwhelm defenders with his back to the basket, even opposing centres...
...but he's grown much more comfortable facing up to the basket, something Embiid was reportedly working on during last season's hiatus.
When defenders press up on him, Embiid is quick enough and has a good enough handle to get by them. It helps that he's built like a brick wall, because defenders tend to bounce off of him when he drives. While he doesn't drive as frequently as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson do, Embiid is getting fouled at the same rate as them in those situations.
MORE: Zion Williamson is dominating the paint like Shaq
There's a Shaq-like "what am I supposed to do?" element to defending the big fella, and he's picked up some of the tricks of the trade from the league's best foul-drawers.
When teams swarm him, he can find the open man. He's still not an elite passer, but it's a part of his game that continues to improve.
And when teams try to take both of those options away - dropping his defender back to prevent the drive while everyone else stays home on the shooters - he can fall back on his now trusty midrange jumper, which is practically unblockable.
Embiid isn't a robotic shooter either. He'll mix in silky smooth jab steps to keep his defender off balance, and his quick release leaves little room for error.
You know the rules - hand down, man down.
Embiid can even shoot off the dribble.
According to NBA.com, he's 37-for-65 (56.9 percent) on pull-up jumpers and 12-for-24 (50.0 percent) on step back jumpers this season, both of which are up considerably from last season. (Embiid shot 31.3 percent on pull-ups and 25.0 percent on step backs in 2019-20, per NBA.com. Yeah ... night and day). A few of those have come from 3-point range, but the vast majority of his off-the-dribble jumpers have been midrangers.
The NBA is loaded with unicorns right now, but you still don't see players as big and strong as Embiid do things like this on a semi-consistent basis:
(Embiid being a legitimate pull-up shooter makes him a more versatile spot-up threat as well because it gives him something to go to when he's run off the 3-point line, where he's shooting a career-best 37.9 percent this season, but that's a conversation for a different day).
The result? Not only is Embiid leading the league in post scoring this season, he's doing it at a highly efficient rate, ranking in the 78th percentile with an average of 1.08 points per possession. He posted almost identical numbers last season, but he's hoping the way he's posting up this season - more face-ups and less methodical back-to-the-basket attacks - will pay dividends in the long run by making him less predictable.
"I've been adding a lot to my game and it's been working well," Embiid said earlier in the season. "But I'm excited because that's what you need in the playoffs, especially when you're going to play a team four-to-seven times and they're going to game plan.
"Sometimes I'm going to have to shoot over double teams; sometimes I've got to pass it; sometimes I've got to figure out how to play through double teams and triple teams. Those types of shots, you can't guard. You can't guard a step-back. You can't guard a catch-and-shoot shot. So, I think it's going to go a long way.
"But I think, also, those shots are going to help me play for the next 10 to 15 years."
The playoffs will be the real test for Embiid, but that one key number leaves a lot of room for optimism...
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