As we make our way toward training camp, we’ll be examining what would constitute a successful season for various members of the roster. Previously covered: Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric. Next up, Joel “The Process” Embiid.
Joel Embiid is good at basketball, like really, really good. After the season he just had while staying healthy for most of the year, one can only dream of what Embiid is capable of if he takes another step forward. Besides the broken bone in his face that forced him to miss the final stretch of the regular season and beginning of the Miami series, it was a healthy season for Embiid for the first time in his career. Yes, he is always going to be prone to bumps and bruises because of his style of play and willingness to get on the floor, but he was able to play through them last year.
Health will always be the main concern for Embiid, and for him to produce a successful season, he’s going to need to be on the court. In order for this to happen, Embiid may need to alter his game so that he isn’t always risking health. Far too often, he is diving on the court or landing awkwardly after attempting a block. As he progresses, he will figure out sometimes the reward isn’t always worth the risk. Once Embiid can consistently play more than 60-65 games per season, the rest of the NBA is going to be in big trouble.
When Embiid is on the court, he makes a difference in basically every aspect of the game. He is a mismatch against anyone offensively, and on defense, he is one of the premier shot blocking centers in the league. The only thing truly holding him back, at least on the offensive side of the ball, is his continued sloppy handling of the ball.
Averaging 3.7 turnovers per game last year, Embiid handles the ball in half court sets and with his back to the basket, but when double teamed, he always seems to turn it over. The Sixers don’t need to take the ball out of his hands completely; part of what makes Embiid special is his ability to handle the ball competently for a man his height. The best case scenario is the team cutting back on his usage as a ball handler, using it only once and a while, instead of going back to the well so often.
When Embiid is on, he’s on, and at points the only person that can hold him back is himself. So dominant down low when playing the role of a traditional big man, Embiid can also shoot from deep. It’s nice to have a center who can shoot, but it isn’t necessarily a need. Way too often Embiid forces a shot from deep instead of powering down low, and it sometimes takes him out of his rhythm. If he could just focus on being more of a traditional big man and play to his strengths, then he would be in an even better position to succeed.
Many believe this is the year that Joel Embiid fights for the MVP award, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise. He has steadily improved throughout his career and if he continues to follow his career trajectory, he should at least compete for it. While many think this is the next step, it doesn’t mean he needs to hit this mark to have a successful season. As long as Embiid can put together another healthy year while growing both as a ball handler and selective shooter, he should take another leap towards becoming one of the NBA’s elite stars.