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Sixers News: Joel Embiid named NBA Rookie of the Month for December

Joel Embiid had another strong month as the centerpiece of the Sixers.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The sky is blue, water is wet, and Joel Embiid is still head and shoulders above his rookie peers. Embiid followed up a Rookie of the Month award in November with the same honor in December, closing out 2016 on a high note.

Embiid’s stats didn’t all trend upward in his second full month — the Twin Towers configuration played a big factor there — but 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game isn’t too shabby for a guy who has been unable to play for the last two years. The assist count climbing might be the most encouraging part of his game; Embiid began the year as a black hole, and he’s already starting to show flashes of better team play to accompany his individual brilliance. When he’s dropping dimes in transition, you know the game is starting to come together.

No other rookie has really come close to his impact. To put things into perspective, Embiid averaged over nine points per game more in December than the Western Conference winner, Buddy Hield, and did so at a more efficient clip. He is shouldering a tremendous burden for the Sixers after a two-year layoff, and is outclassing peers by a mile.

Perhaps the most important uptick for Embiid is in the minutes department. The Sixers lifted his limit to 28 minutes per game at the end of November, a move which led to Embiid playing almost four more minutes per contest in December. The Sixers haven’t shown any urgency to push it higher, and there’s a decent chance it hovers there the rest of the season, but he’s playing at a high level as the minutes burden creeps up, a positive sign for the future.

One area to keep an eye on? Three-point shooting. Embiid’s percentage from downtown plummeted in December, dropping to 29.7 after he made half his attempts from beyond the arc in November. The good news is he doesn’t necessarily have to be a sharpshooter to bend defenses, and he’s shown an increased willingness to attack off the dribble from the perimeter as he gets his legs back. His absurdly huge Euro-step is mesmerizing.

Barring a drastic change — perhaps Ben Simmons’ entrance will qualify? — Embiid should be the favorite to win this award every month the rest of the season. He’s the runaway Rookie of the Year at the moment, and he should be damn proud of his season so far.

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