After Saturday night’s Detroit Pistons game - where Joel Embiid once again got someone fouled out - Embiid told NBA TV that his secret is he gets the other player mad enough to foul him a bunch:
I know that if you're being extra aggressive, you can call me the James Harden of the bigs. I know I can draw fouls. They're gonna be extra aggressive and I've gonna use that to my advantage because they're so excited to play against me.
He’s not wrong about being the James Harden of the bigs. Even their drawn fouls look the same.
But Embiid isn’t the Harden of the bigs, Harden is the Embiid of the guards.
Much of what JoJo does is probably directly mimicked from watching Harden clips, but due to his size, strength, and ability to hone in on the weaknesses of those defending him, he’s actually better at it than Harden is.
Per-36 minutes this season, Joel Embiid is fouled on average 8.8 times. That’s most in the league among anyone playing real minutes. Harden’s 6.6 is good enough for 7th in the league (most among guards). And it’s not just on the ground fouls. According to NBA.com, Embiid attempts 9.7 free throws per-36, which is second only to Dwight Howard (10.3), and one spot in front of Harden (9.1). Last season, Embiid drew 10 fouls per-36, which was the best rate in the league. He shot 11.2 free throws per-36, also best in the league. He can say he’s the Harden of the bigs, but he’s actually doing what Harden does better*.
*Embiid’s 77.2% FT is nothing to scoff at, of course, but it’s not Harden’s 87.4%. That’s where James has him beat.