Zach Lowe Gives Hope for ESPN, Accurately Praises 76er Joel Embiid’s Defense
When it comes to some of the big-market sports networks not named The Liberty Line, many fail to truly understand the greatness of guys like Joel Embiid.
They enjoy writing off the big guy due to the record and current standing of the 76ers in the age of the Ben Simmons saga. Luckily, someone at ESPN went out of his way to point out just how dominant Embiid has been. Specifically on the defensive side of the floor.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently published a piece breaking down a multitude of NBA players so far this season, including his description of Joel Embiid’s defense as “Gladiatorial,” a fitting description. Unfortunately, for many of you readers, the majority of this article is hidden behind a paywall. Luckily I took the time to read the piece and have to agree with a majority of the points Lowe makes.
To get the easy stuff out of the way, Joel Embiid is obviously one of the most physically gifted players in the NBA. A seven-footer who put in the work on his footwork and jump shot I mean come on, what is not to love? If you want to look back for a recent performance that truly highlights Embiid’s ability, look no further than Boston earlier this week. While hard to look past the 41 points, this is a discussion on his defense. The big man ended the night with four blocks and a pair of steals, thanks in large part to his gifted athleticism for a big man.
What many look past, however, and Lowe makes sure to highlight, is how Embiid’s defensive IQ makes him such a nightmare as the Sixers’ anchor. Basketball, like many sports, is much more complicated than it looks on TV. Embiid makes defensive adjustments, switches, and rotations look easy. A skill no other big man in the league displays. Sixers fans know all about Embiid’s ability to recover and sometimes dominate switches onto smaller guards. Even general NBA fans can even appreciate the rotations the big man makes, often resulting in great weakside blocks.
The stats don’t lie either. Embiid’s impact on the defensive end for the 76ers jumps off the page. According to Cleaning the Glass, opposing teams are shooting a whopping 7.7-percent worse from the field when Embiid is on the court. He single-handedly forces offenses into fewer shots near the rim, and fewer threes when on the court. The difference in points per 100 possessions with-and-without Embiid on the court is nearly seven points. That is a difference between the top defensive units in the game and a middle-of-the-pack squad.
While true 76ers fans understand the pure defensive gladiator Embiid is, it’s nice to see him get some national attention. Even if Lowe did throw it behind a paywall. Luckily The Liberty Line is here to bring you that content with no cost, and in case you didn’t truly magnify Embiid’s defensive greatness, now you know.
Mandatory Credit: Charles Krupa.