Philly Front Office

2018 Player Profiles – Joel Embiid

After almost a month of Player Profiles leading up to the start of the season, we’ve made it. The Sixers opening night is upon us, and we conclude this series with the face of the franchise, Joel Embiid. If you have missed any of our other player profiles, be sure to scroll down to the bottom and follow the links to each of the other players on the Sixers’ roster to start the year.

Joel Embiid, 7’0″, Cameroon

2017-18 Season Review

After missing two full seasons and playing just 31 games in his debut season due to injury, Joel Embiid showed the league what he’s all about last season for the Sixers. If you would have told fans that Embiid would play between 50-55 games, most would have been elated. The big man ended up playing in 63 games, leading his team to 52 wins while also appearing in his first All-Star Game. Turnovers aside, Embiid is arguably among the top 2-3 best big men in the NBA. Anthony Davis might be the only one ahead of him at this point.

Joel finished the 2017-18 season with averages of 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.8 blocks, shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc. He was named to the All-NBA 2nd Team and All-Defensive 2nd Team after the 2018-19 season. Embiid ranked third in the NBA in usage percentage (33.4) and defensive rating (100.5), fourth in blocks (1.8), and seventh in rebounds (11.0).

Embiid was relied on heavily in the playoffs after returning from an orbital fracture injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the Sixers’ series against the Heat. JoJo gave it his all, averaging 21.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.8 blocks during the playoffs. In the series against Boston, his turnover issues were magnified since the Celtics’ defense completely shut down Ben Simmons, leaving Embiid as the primary playmaker all-around.

With the 2017-18 season being the first that Joel was really able to go beyond restriction, we got to see a lot of good mixed with some bad. As the season progressed, Joel became more of a leader on the court, was a feared player in the post, and had no problems running coast-to-coast for a chasedown block. Now, with his first fully healthy offseason complete, we’ll be able to see an even more polished Embiid than last season.

Notable Offseason Points

This offseason was an important one for Embiid. After going through three straight offseasons of rehab, he went into the summer of 2018 completely healthy. Like 2017, Embiid worked out with Drew Hanlen in Los Angeles. The main things that he focused on were ball-handling in the post and having the ability to confidently pass out of double teams. In addition, Brett Brown has encouraged Embiid to instill some “bully ball” into his game, resulting in more free throws, and we got to see a bit of that during the preseason.

“It translates into free throws more than anything, to me,” said Brown. “He gets paint catches, he gets close. It’s bully ball. It’s one dribble, two dribble, gather-step. It’s Shaquille O’Neal. He has the ability to do that.”

“I feel like every time I catch the ball, it [should be] either a foul or a bucket,” Embiid said.

Per Basketball Reference, just over 29 percent of Embiid’s shots came within three feet of the basket last season. He converted those at a 52.7 percent mark. We should expect and anticipate both numbers taking a jump for the 2018-19 season.

Strengths and Improvements

We’ve talked about Embiid’s strengths a few times already, but the main one that sticks out is his size/wingspan, which allows him to do so much on the court. Defensively, he doesn’t back down and is physical with opponents. Embiid also has the ability to guard smaller players. We’ve seen him out on the perimeter guarding a quicker player after a switch, but he doesn’t sit back. Same thing happens on offense. Joel has the ability to hurt the opponent from all areas of the court. He can hit shots from anywhere, whether it be within three feet or beyond the arc.

As for improvements, they seem pretty obvious. Cut down on turnovers and learn how to avoid getting caught deep into double teams. Embiid will get tested right off the bat against Boston on Opening Night.

Expectations and Predictions

If the preseason was any indication as to what we should expect from Embiid (24.5 mpg, 23.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) this year, we’re in for a treat. He was a dominant force, scoring seemingly at will in each of the Sixers’ four preseason games in relatively limited minutes. One thing that Embiid is really starting to show more and more is his leadership on and off the court. When the team plays bad, he says it. He holds himself and his teammates accountable in all aspects of the game and strives to be one of the best players in the league.

Embiid looked a lot more sure-footed in the post; he fared better when double-teamed and showed the ability to enact some bully ball from time to time. In the four preseason games, Joel Embiid played 98 minutes and finished with 92 points, 34 rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, and two blocks. He shot 53.8 percent from the floor. Pretty strong numbers there. Have to feel confident going into the season with him.

The expectation is for Embiid to eclipse his averages from last year. He’ll have no restrictions coming off of a fully healthy offseason. If his preseason numbers are a sign of what’s to come, Joel could potentially be a guy that averages 30 points and 15 rebounds if he’s regularly on the court for 30+ minutes. Off the court, Embiid should continue to remain a vocal leader and face of an organization that has lofty expectations for the first time in a long time.

Editor’s Note: Beginning September 27 and continuing up until the start of the season, we will be profiling each member of the current 76ers’ roster. Be sure to check out our schedule below and hear what our writers expect from our Sixers players.

September 27 Jonah Bolden October 8 Wilson Chandler
September 29 Shake Milton October 10 Robert Covington
September 30 Zhaire Smith October 11 Dario Saric
October 1 Furkan Korkmaz October 13 JJ Redick
October 3 Amir Johnson October 14 Markelle Fultz
October 4 Mike Muscala October 15 Ben Simmons
October 6 Landry Shamet October 16 Joel Embiid
October 7 TJ McConnell

Brandon Apter

Brandon Apter writes about the Sixers and Phillies for 97.3 ESPN and Philly Front Office. A Philadelphia native, Brandon graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania in 2009. After working in Minor League Baseball for nine seasons, Brandon currently does Marketing & Social Media for Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

We've moved to! Go see us there, as this is going away soon.