Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.
Contract Status: $33.6 million for 2022-23; three-year extension kicks in in 2023-24 (player option for 2026-27)
The player profile series comes to an end today with who else but the big man. Over the last two seasons, the 76ers fanbase has watched Joel Embiid establish his dominance as not just one of the best big men in the NBA, but one of the premier players in the league. That’s evident by his back-to-back finishes as runner-up in the Most Valuable Player race behind Nikola Jokic, with quite a large numbers of folks (including me) believing he deserved to win the MVP award at least one of those years. This past year, he became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-00 to win the scoring title.
This past season, Embiid truly elevated his game, setting career-highs in games played (68), minutes played (33.8), free throw attempts (11.8), assists (4.2) and finally, points (30.6). It was beyond refreshing to not have to deal with him sitting out every second game of a back-to-back, and instead continue watching him terrorize the opposition on a nightly basis.
Obviously, there’s no questioning Embiid’s toughness either, after playing with a torn thumb and broken face in the playoffs. Once again, it just reiterated how lucky this city is to have a player who would play through anything to give his team the best chance at winning.
Season outlook: As mentioned in the James Harden profile, lineups with both he and Embiid on the floor scored 124.1 points per 100 possessions in the regular season, per CleaningtheGlass. That is despite not recording many reps together due to the timing of Harden’s acquisition.
Heading into this upcoming campaign, the excitement continues to build at the prospect of how dominant the Embiid-Harden duo can be in a full season. It was obvious at times that the pick-and-roll offense between the two was borderline impossible to manage, with defenders required to decide which player to follow, opening up avenues of offense that just weren’t there prior to Harden joining the team.
Before the franchise-altering trade for Harden, Embiid’s main backup was Andre Drummond, who was shipped to Brooklyn and left a void (again) in the backup center role. Yes, Paul Reed is, and will be, a viable option, but the offseason additions of P.J. Tucker and Montrezl Harrell just adds much-needed depth that will provide Embiid with the opportunities to catch his breath every once in a while.
Getting back to his stats last season, seeing those assist numbers and watching him develop the ability to pass out of double teams and find an open man was encouraging. The addition of Tucker provides Philly with another solid perimeter shooter, which in turn provides Embiid another outlet if he finds himself doubled. Between Harden, Tucker, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris, opposing teams will have to figure out which risk they’re more willing to take: leave Embiid open down low in a 1-on-1 battle, or double him and leave open another player who Embiid will most likely be able to find for a high-quality shot.
Ranked by ESPN as the No. 4 player in the NBA Top 100, Embiid will surely be in the MVP conversation yet again. He obviously has come out and discussed his thoughts about being MVP, but it’s safe to assume his No. 1 goal remains the same, and that’s winning an NBA championship.
The surrounding pieces are there to support the big man, with head coach Doc Rivers arguably having the best team he’s had in Philly. With that said, priority No. 1 is feed the beast.
Let’s get that man the award he deserves.