Be still my heart.
After having Joel Embiid, the reigning MVP and two-time scoring champ, ranked sixth coming into the season, The Ringer has seen the error of its ways. In the latest Top 100 NBA Player Rankings, the outlet ranks Embiid third behind two-time MVPs Nikola Jokic and Steph Curry.
The updated blurb by The Ringer’s Zach Kram:
“Embiid started this season embroiled in James Harden’s trade drama, with the sour taste of yet another early playoff exit still lingering. A month later, he’s on pace for his third scoring title in a row, leading perhaps the East’s second-best team, and dishing way more assists than ever before. Even after winning an MVP award, Embiid is still adding elements to his skill set.”
It is crazy to think about: Embiid is coming off an MVP season and actually looks like he’s playing the best basketball of his career under Nick Nurse.
While he still leads the league in scoring (32.0 points per game) and boasts the league’s highest usage rate (36.0), Embiid is flourishing in Nurse’s system predicated on ball and player movement. He’s averaging 6.6 assists, which would easily be a career high and ranks 13th in the NBA. He’s also 11th in assist percentage.
Another aspect of his game that’s been noticeable is his activity level. He’s averaging 3.3 offensive rebounds per game, a number that again would easily be a career high and ranks seventh in the NBA. He’s also averaging 1.9 blocks, his highest since 2018-19 and good for eighth in the league.
Aside from Nurse, the ascension of Tyrese Maxey has surely helped give Embiid a boost.
And the young guard finds himself in excellent company sitting at No. 27 in these rankings — leaping all the way up from his preseason rank of 52. That ranking was reasonable considering nobody was 100% sure how the James Harden situation was going to play out and how it would affect Maxey. Now, Maxey is sitting ahead of other young guards like LaMelo Ball and Darius Garland.
As Kram writes, it’s going about as well as anybody with the Sixers could’ve hoped:
Who needs James Harden? Not the 76ers, when Maxey’s a better, younger, more dynamic point guard than the departed star. Now with the ball in his hands, Maxey’s showing that he—not Harden, not either of the guards the 76ers selected with no. 1 overall picks—might be the costar Embiid needed all along.
Another thing that’s crazy to think about: this version of Maxey feels like the best sidekick Embiid has ever had this side of Jimmy Butler. The young guard is 12th in the NBA in both scoring (27.0) and assists (6.6) while taking excellent care of the basketball (1.6 turnovers).
Maxey’s efficiency has dipped a little, but that’s to be expected with such a large leap in shot attempts. Still, the shooting splits are excellent (46.4/39.6/89.9), all things considered. Maxey is averaging over 20 shots a game, including over eight threes. For those of you into advanced metrics, Maxey is 14th in BPM, 11th in VORP and sixth in win shares. He’s looking like an All-Star lock.
In other Sixers-related rankings, Harden comes in at 45th, a big plunge from No. 19 when the 2022-23 season ended (he was 36th when the 2023-24 season started). Tobias Harris checks in at 65, up from 83 to start the season. In the last couple weeks it feels like both players might be trending in the opposite direction with Harden getting more comfortable in L.A. and Harris really struggling when Embiid is out of the lineup.
If you’re wondering where potential trade targets sit: Pascal Siakam is 36, Zach LaVine is 50 and OG Anunoby is 59.