Joel Embiid: The Point Center
After winning NBA Player of the Week honors, Tobias Harris credited his teammates. The Sixers have been moving the ball extremely well over the first few weeks of the 2021 NBA season and that ball movement is a main reason why the Sixers currently have the best record in the league.
In the past, the Sixers struggled to move the ball and their offense looked dead at times throughout the course of the season. There are many keys that factor into the solution this year but as do most things on the Sixers, it starts with Joel Embiid.
Embiid’s passing out of double and triple teams this year has been elite. His ball movement and ability to identify open teammates this year has caused chaos for opposing defenses that cannot reset quick enough to defend an open shot. Luckily for the Sixers, they now have perimeter shooters with Seth Curry and Tobias Harris, who have both exceeded expectations this year already.
If you’re looking up Embiid’s passing numbers, this improvement isn’t on the stat sheet. Mainly because the stat sheet isn’t showing you “hockey assists”. Embiid’s reaction time and cross-court vision have led to calculated passing sequences where the Sixers are able to swing the ball around the perimeter to find an open shooter. Alongside his MVP caliber offense, this has been the most improved part of Embiid’s game so far this season.
Embiid’s passing was on full display vs the Hornets:
Doc Rivers is on record stating “if you trap us, we will score” and he couldn’t me more correct. Embiid is looking for his outlet pass as soon as he gets fed the ball in the post. This is a change from last year where normally, Embiid was left to create his own shot while teammates stood by the wayside.
Because of Embiid’s newfound court vision, we have watched his turnover rate drop nearly 50% from last year. There was nothing more frustrating in years past when defenses collapsed on Embiid and he could try to play “super hero” and turn the ball over. This year, with teams unable to commit to a double team due to the threat of Embiid passing the ball to the likes of Curry along the perimeter, has helped Embiid limit turnovers when double or triple teamed in the post.
The Sixers are scoring 103.2 points per possession in the half court when Embiid is on the floor which is up from 95.4 last year. In 2018 and 2019, the number was 98.0. It’s early and Charlotte isn’t exactly a beacon of great defense but the development of Embiid’s passing to help the Sixers pick apart opposing defenses and limit turnovers is undeniable.
The season is young. This week, the Sixers will face the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic. That will be a fun matchup to watch as Embiid will finally go against a center who is almost in the same category as him offensively and defensively.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY