The WWE might’ve had one of its most prestigious events in “Hell in a Cell” Sunday, but the Sixers (0-2) have its own version of constant PPV entertainment in Joel Embiid. Fans can get a glimpse at this newfound Sixers hype Tuesday, Nov. 1 when the team faces the Orlando Magic (0-3).
Through his first two regular season games, Embiid’s numbers don’t effectively reflect the massive impact he’s had so far and can have this season. Even averaging a robust 17.0 points, hauling in 4.5 RPG and swatting 2.0 BPG in just 19.0 MPG, Embiid’s intricacies of his two-way game breed heavy optimism.
In his first shot attempt, the behemoth’s deft footwork and touch shined, hitting a semi-fadeaway mid-range jumper off a spin move that would’ve proved difficult for any offensively apt center.
Against the Hawks Saturday, Embiid opted for an open three on the opening possession, which he subsequently swished. Additionally, he blew by 2015-16 All-Defensive 2nd Team talent Paul Millsap. His versatility is putting opposing defenders in a vortex of confusion, having to honor his range and jump shooting prowess and contain him off the dribble.
Dealing with this generation’s version of Bill Laimbeer (Steven Adams) and Dwight Howard, Embiid will encounter a less disruptive defensive presence in Orlando’s Nikola Vučević.
“Vuc” is a walking double-double (11.7 PPG, 12.3 RPG this season) and his battle with Embiid on the block is a prominent theme to watch for in Tuesday’s game. However, arguably the most lauded “drafted player swap” over the last couple of the years will have the two players finally face off Tuesday.
Dario Šarić donned an Orlando Magic hat for less than 30 minutes before his rights were shipped off to Philadelphia for Elfrid Payton (13.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.3 APG). More than two-and-a-half years later, Payton’s inefficiencies have become more illuminated than Šarić’s, playing at a vastly talented position.
Šarić (5.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG) hasn’t been lethal offensively either, shooting a paltry 19.0 percent through his first two games and owning a negative-3.6 PER. He’ll face another daunting adversary Tuesday in Serge Ibaka. It’ll be an enticing battle in the frontcourt, despite Jahlil Okafor missing the first game of the back-to-back.
Sixers say that intention is for Jahlil Okafor to sit out tomorrow against Orlando, and Joel Embiid to miss Wednesday's game at Charlotte.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) October 31, 2016
He won’t get the chance to come off the bench and face a defensive stalwart in Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo.
Biymobo (2.5 PPG, 2.0 BPG), essentially, is what Nerlens Noel plausibly turns out to be one year from now: an eight-figure annually paid second unit big whose main role is to wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor. With Okafor usually occupying Noel’s role, it’s tough to gauge Noel’s aptitude in this respective niche, currently injured and previously starting at both power forward and center. Noel’s absence isn’t the only issue Brett Brown is managing.
Without both Jerryd Bayless, the expected opening day starting point guard when signed in July, and Ben Simmons, Philadelphia’s offense has sputtered this season, with stagnant motion offense creating extensive runs for opposing teams.
Standstill, catch-and-shoot gunners like Gerald Henderson, Hollis Thompson and Robert Covington have been slight liabilities, contributing to a combined negative-49 in the plus-minus box score and are shooting a collective 9 for 33 from the floor this season.
Heading into the third game, it’s been a bright turnaround this season for two-guard Nik Stauskas. Contributing 9.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and shooting 53.8 percent, Stauskas has been a source of necessary production that’s been relatively devoid in the backcourt through the first two games.
The former first-round pick has experimented more on offense as well, attacking closeouts and taking on contact near the rim. He’s putting his preseason performance in the rear-view and could string together his third straight exceptional performance this season.
Another backcourt member who struggled mightily offensively in the preseason, Sergio Rodriguez’s promising late-October run has the point guard entrenched at lead guard for the near future. His otherworldly 48.8 percent assist percentage illustrates the impact he has on this offense, even though the sample size is egregiously small.
*“Spanish Chocolate” has received the most minutes (61) through two games. His adept facilitating warrants extensive minutes while the team analyzes their long-term offensive options early in the season.
Time: 7:00 EST
TV: Comcast Sportsnet
*I realize “El Chacho” is his more common title at the moment, but it’s Halloween.
UPDATE: A previous version of this post insisted the game was in Orlando. For those heading to the game tonight, we promise it is in fact in Philadelphia.