Sixers Embiid Off to a Blazing Start

Sixers Embiid Off to a Blazing Start
The 76ers haven’t gotten off to the start they had hoped for, but it’s a long NBA season. What has been impressive has been the play of center Joel Embiid who has taken his game up a huge notch.

And that is saying something after he earned his first all-star berth last year.

Embiid’s early injury history has been well documented. He missed his first two seasons due to a broken bone in his left foot. He played just 31 games the next year, seeing his season end in March when he underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Last year he played 63 regular season games, but missed the final eight along with the first two in the playoffs with a fractured orbital bone in his left eye.

Last season he averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots.

In eight playoff games, his stats were similar, 21.8 ppg., 12.6 rebounds, 1.8 blocked shots.

Even though the Sixers won just six of their first 11 games, including none on the road, Embiid was putting up MVP type numbers. He was averaging 28.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots.

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What’s more, he was averaging 34.2 minutes, which is almost four minutes more per game than last year.

One reason he is scoring more is that Embiid has been getting to the free throw line at a high rate. In the first 11 games he averaged 9.9 free throw attempts and he has been hitting 80.7 percent of his free throws.

Embiid is also shooting 30.4 percent from three-point territory. He was averaging 4.2 threes per game.

Some critics have suggested that Embiid takes too many threes and that seems to be valid criticism. There is nobody in the NBA who could handle Embiid for 48 minutes down in the bloks. Yet one can see why he likes to take his game outside at times.

The pounding he takes (and gives) inside is intense, so moving away from the basket lessens that. Even though he has made 30 percent of his three’s, being away from the basket also lessens the chance of an easy point baskets inside.

When Embiid is operating inside and getting the ball frequently he is unstoppable. An example was in the Sixers recent 109-99 win over Detroit, when he scored 39 points and hit 18 of 23 free throws. And that was playing against Andre Drummond, one of the better defensive centers in the NBA.

With Embiid, there will always be durability concerns and the Sixers still will likely give him a game off from time to time even if he isn’t injured.

For somebody who entered the week having played just 105 career regular season NBA games, Embiid’s better days are coming.

And that is impressive because Embiid, who turns 25 in March, has started out this season looking like a viable MVP candidate.

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Author: Marc Narducci


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