An alien. Thanks for reading.
But in all seriousness, it’s difficult to ultimately peg a label on someone with the unending amount of talent that Joel Embiid has. He protects the rim, shoots threes, scores in the post all while dominating Twitter. When the Sixers selected Embiid with the third pick in the 2014 draft, many wondered if his injury issues may out-due his talent. The 2016-17 season gave fans just a small sample of how good this guy is and could be. What it also gave was a point reference to compare aspects of his game to the league’s best. Comparing the different facets of his game to other NBA elites may be the only way to try to figure how dominant this guy is, so let’s give it a try.
Rudy Gobert/ Nerlens Noel
Woah. Now it may seem bold to compare Joel to two of the best defenders in the league but it’s truly justified. Joel, when healthy, was one of the most dominant rim protectors in the league. Just for a point of reference, Joel had a defensive field goal percentage of 41% which was the best rating in the league. This means that Joel was quite literally the best rim defender in the league. It’s as the old saying goes: “Men lie, women lie, Twitter DM’s lie, Numbers don’t”. Something like that.
Like his former teammate, Joel was exceptionally comfortable switching on to the perimeter on to guards. Nerlens Noel was an absolute menace at that for the Sixers so it’s fair to wonder if he was charging Embiid for side lessons during their tenure together. Whether he was switching on to John Wall and forcing him into a tough miss or smacking a Kyrie Irving jumper back to Flat Earth, Joel showed he was capable. His ability to do this could lead to the Sixers matching other teams smaller line ups without sacrificing their defensive savant center.
This is a butt-smacking-good reference in my opinion. Bad jokes aside, this seems to be the most accurate comparison. Cousins recently added the 3 point shot to his arsenal making this an even more apt comparison as both players have a knack for getting defender to bite on their pump fake and attacking on close outs. Players their size being able to attack competently from the perimeter is also a large factor in their sky high rate of drawing fouls as teams have few options when they get a head of steam to the basket. In the high post, Joel follows Demarcus’ lead with a series of pump fakes, jabs and quick first steps that allow them to consistently get to the basket when they face up. To keep defense’s honest both players have a mid range pull up jumper that has to be respected.
Big Man Shooting
The adrenaline rush that came over the Wells Fargo center as Joel hoisted and made his first three attempt against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the home opener is hard to forget. A guy Joel’s size with the ability to hit from behind the arch at 36.7% is just unfair, yet here we are. A fair big man sniper to compare Joel to is Channing Frye of the Cavaliers. Frye may be the superior shooter as of now, but both players can bend defenses as they must honor each players ability to stretch the floor. TJ Mcconnel and LeBron James, players who are nearly impossible to tell apart, are running pick and pops to death as if it’s not broke don’t fix it and Joel and Frye’s three point jumpers are far from broken.
Post Up Game
Marc Gasol has become one of the premier big men in the NBA with his blend of shooting, post scoring, passing and defense. Sound familiar? Both Gasol and Embiid are capable post scorers that have an array of moves and counters to constantly keep defenders guessing. Jump hook, up and under, turn around fadeaway; these players have it all and allow them to be a teams go to option when they need to score. The Memphis Grizzlies have counted on the ability to dump the ball in to Gasol in the post so he can create scoring opportunities. Joel will be capable of much of the same providing a luxury of half court scoring with an elite and evolving post game.
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