I had a lot of optimism in regards to the Sixers’ franchise players — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — when the team found better fitting players via the draft, the trade market, and free agency. Danny Green and Seth Curry in particular would allow the duo to thrive in the best versions of their respective games.
We are now six games into a young season, and we’ve gotten to see how much the Sixers’ new additions have benefited their young star duo. Joel Embiid, in particular, has benefited a ton from the better-fitting roster and has taken some major steps in his development as he approaches his basketball prime.
Most people will first look at Embiid’s stat line and come away impressed with him thus far. He’s points-per-game has increased back to up to 25, a positive-2.0 difference compared to the down year he endured last season. He has also been rebounding the ball at a very high rate, averaging 12.6 rebounds-per-game.
While those are both impressive totals, they don’t do Embiid justice in regards to his most improved areas of development, and full encompass the massive steps he has made on both sides of the basketball. Embiid isn’t just scoring a tremendous amount of points, he’s doing so on a career-high in efficiency. He has maintained a true shooting percentage at over 64%, which is higher by a significant amount when compared to his previous-best number at just over 59%. While a six-game sample size isn’t large by any means, it’s important to note such an impressive start to the season. The Sixers will want to manage Embiid’s minutes and availability to protect such impressive production.
This is an awesome move by Joel Embiid.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) January 1, 2021
This play also shows the value of a shooter like Seth Curry. Fournier can't commit to a double team because Embiid will just pass to Curry for 3, which lets Embiid go to work one on one. pic.twitter.com/ZGFrWFPnxC
Of course, shooting will always be the most discussed topic in regards to having a core of Simmons and Embiid. Joel has gotten off to a terrific start shooting the ball from 3-point range as well, clocking in at an impressive 40 percent from behind the arc on three attempts per game. While this percentage will likely decline with time, it’s promising. It’s no secret that Joel Embiid has worked on his shooting in the past few offseasons. If he can manage to keep it around or above the 37 percent mark, it would do wonders for his individual game and team offense.
The most impressive feat to Embiid’s young season in my eyes would definitely relate to his turnovers per game. Embiid is a dominant player, and we’ve seen him struggle when teams attempt to double or even triple team him. He has had a hard time passing out of double teams or just flat out turning over the ball.
This season has been an outlier in those trends. Before Philadelphia’s most recent game against the Charlotte Hornets, Embiid was only been averaging 2.5 turnovers-per-game on the year. That’s more than one turnover per game fewer than last season, and nearly a 50 percent improvement compared to his other seasons. I don’t believe this is just a phase either; it really seems like he’s taken a step further in ball-handling and passing out of double teams. There have been many instances where he’s had successful passes or even assists to some of the new Sixers’ shooters.
Really nice skip pass from Embiid to find Maxey on the weak side for a floater.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) January 3, 2021
Impressed with Embiid's passing and handling of double teams so far this season. pic.twitter.com/l8cPkPw4qU
Joel Embiid has also been a major factor in the Sixers’ one-two punch on the defensive end of the court — along with Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 1st in points allowed against them, compared to ranking 6th in the previous season. That’s a pretty impressive increase considering the Sixers traded away two above average defenders in Al Horford and Josh Richardson. It speaks volumes to both the likes of Simmons and Embiid in regards to holding down the team defense.
When you put together the offensive and defensive qualities of this team, it bodes well for team success, which the Sixers have had aplenty early in their young season. They currently rank 4th in the entire NBA in NET rating, outscoring teams by a plus-8.0 point average.
While 6 games isn’t a massive sample size by any means, the Sixers — and Joel Embiid —have shown a lot of promise in their young season. The improved spacing has been a big factor into their success. Embiid has been thriving on both ends and looks to be in the MVP conversation thus far.
Joel Embiid was openly upset over his absence on All-NBA and All-Defensive team ballots. He even said he took it personally, and would vow to make big strides in the upcoming year. So far the Sixers’ big man hasn’t disappointed. He’s been arguably the best player (not just big man) in the entire NBA and is the primary reason the Sixers are first in the Eastern Conference. There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the lack of development with some of the Sixers’ players over the past few seasons. It seems like Joel Embiid is finally breaking that discussion. It’s time to give him his props.