76ers James Harden-Joel Embiid pick & roll is a force to be reckoned with
The dreams of James Harden and Joel Embiid running a two-man game has become a reality for 76ers fans, and it is just as marvelous and potent as we all imagined.
Simply put, Joel Embiid and James Harden in the pick and roll action is unstoppable. There’s no other way to put it, but when the deal for the Beard was official there were a fair share of skeptics.
Most of the hesitation and doubt when discussing the Embiid-Harden half-court offense came with the difference between Joel and the centers Harden had played with in his career. James had made a career in Houston off centers that could pick and roll hard to the basket for alley-oops. Clint Capella was the best example of this, and his five-year 90 million dollar contract he signed with the Rockets displayed that.
Joel Embiid in his career hasn’t been in pick-and-roll action too often. The reason for that lies in the level of guard play he’s had during his time in the league, considering most of his ball screens were for a guy with no outside jump shot. Embiid got used to popping off those ball screens, and developed his game in the mid-range and three point territory to make himself a threat to pop off the screen.
Some close minded NBA fans thought that because of Embiid’s tendency to pop off ball screens and Harden’s comfortability with rolling big men the two wouldn’t synergize. Two games into their partnership, it is safe to say that is far from the case and the Knicks game showed that.
What many forgot to factor in is the elite playmaking ability both bring to the table, and how both Embiid and Harden’s offensive game are far from one-dimensional. Pairing Joel with an elite point guard that actually forces defenders to respect the threat of a shot off dribble allows Embiid to roll for easy buckets.
On the other side, the defensive attention Joel Embiid brings when popping off a screen allows Harden to get downhill to an open basket easily. Add on top Harden’s elite passing ability (28 assists in two games) to find guys like Maxey or Harris when help comes over and the tandem are working just fine.
The half-court high pick and roll is one of the staples of basketball, a play you will see at one point or another in every NBA game you watch this season. What makes the Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll so much deadlier comes down to the variance the two can bring to such a simple basketball concept.
Joel and James are so dynamic in their offensive skillset that defense’s just can’t prepare for their offensive exchange. Embiid has the option to roll hard to the hoop, pop out for a triple, or flare out to the elbow for a mid-range. Harden has the option to step-back into a triple, turn down hill to finish at the hoop, and pass out of the help defense for a wide-open shot.
Sure these options are available in theory for any two players in the pick and roll, but the fact that both Harden and Embiid are so deadly taking any one of those options is what makes them truly un-guardable.
Embiid is a 37-percent three point shooter, averages a league-high 29.8 points a game, and shoots 50-percent from inside the arc. James Harden is 8-14 from deep since joining the 76ers, averages nearly 23 points a game, and is second to only the point god Chris Paul in assists with 10.3 a game.
Oh, and not to mention the two look pretty explosive in transition offense as well.
It may be only two games in, but it is safe to say the Embiid-Harden pick and roll offense is exactly what 76ers fans imagined. While it may be too early to call them the most dangerous duo in the league, the big man and the Beard are right on their way to the top, and I fear for every defense in the league trying to guard them for the rest of the season.
Mandatory Credit: Associated Press