Philly Front Office

Joel Embiid – MVP & Defensive Player of the Year Breakdown

Can we all just take a moment and appreciate the fact that Joel Embiid is ours? As he predicted during the offseason, Joel Embiid is making a strong case for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year this year. His numbers on the court have been jaw dropping, and it’s frightening for the rest of the NBA to think about how many areas Joel Embiid can still improve upon. The Sixers currently sit at 18-9 and have the second best record in the Eastern Conference. If the Sixers continue winning at the current rate, there is zero doubt that Joel Embiid will be in the running for multiple awards this offseason. In this report, I’ll be providing an analysis on Joel Embiid’s performance in the 2018/19 season and briefly explain how it compares to last year and the other top NBA big men this season.  

***Note: These stats are solely for fun and talking purposes only. I recognize that advanced statistics are not usually the best for straight up ranking or comparing players. We are over the quarter mark of this NBA season, so let’s take a break, have some fun and glance over the numbers…

Joel Embiid talks about his performance over the past week

LET’S TALK OFFENSE

Free Throws

Joel Embiid’s free throw attempt per field goal attempted and 3 point attempt rate has shown a maintaining trend this season. 
Player FTM FTA FT% FTr
2017 Joel Embiid 9 11.7 76.9% .442
2018 Joel Embiid 8 10.1 79.1% .545
Anthony Davis 7.2 8.8 81.7% .450
Rudy Gobert 3.5 5.9 59.5% .712
Karl Anthony Towns 4.0 4.6 87.8% .294
Nikola Jokic 3.4 4.1 82.5% .321

This one is no surprise. Joel Embiid’s free throw attempt rate is up considerably this year, and he ranks number one in the NBA in free throws made and attempted. Anthony Davis is the big with the second most in the NBA, but has 43 free throws less than Embiid. 

Analytics

Joel Embiid’s true shooting percentage has shown a sharp recent decline while his usage rate has maintained this season.
Video breakdown on the Joel Embiid and JJ Redick two-man game this season.
Joel Embiid’s offense rating has shown a decreasing trend.
Player PPG TS% ORTG USG%
2017 Joel Embiid 22.9 57.3% 106 33.4%
2018 Joel Embiid 26.3 57.2% 112 32.1%
Anthony Davis 27.8 59.4% 123 28.2%
Rudy Gobert 15 68.9% 132 17.2%
Karl Anthony Towns 21.3 60.2% 111 26.4%
Nikola Jokic 16.4 56.1% 118 24.8%

While Joel’s true shooting percentage is nearly identical to last year, Joel’s offensive production has increased in points per game and offense rating, while having slightly less usage. Anthony Davis currently leads all bigs in points per game, while Rudy Gobert features the highest true shooting percentage and offense rating. In fact, Rudy Gobert has the second highest offensive rating in the NBA. Anthony Davis leads the way, sitting at 4th in the NBA in points per game, while Joel Embiid has the highest usage percentage of any big man in the game. Why is Rudy Gobert’s offensive rating so high? Individual offensive rating tends to favor low usage big men because they don’t shoot except right under the basket and have less opportunities to turn it over.

Three Point Shooting

Player 3PM 3PA 3P% 3Par
2017 Joel Embiid 1.7 5.4 30.8% .203
2018 Joel Embiid 1.2 4.1 29% .222
Anthony Davis 0.9 2.7 32.8% .136
Rudy Gobert n/a n/a n/a .000
Karl Anthony Towns 1.9 4.6 41.2% .292
Nikola Jokic 1.0 3.6 29.2% .277

Many have clamored that Joel should be shooting less from the perimeter this season, as his shots from long distance have increased compared to last season. As you can see in the chart, Joel’s long distance shooting rate is lower than Karl Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic. Towns wins this one and shows he is the most proficient from beyond the arc. 

% of FGA By Distance 0-3 3-10 10-16 16<3 3P
2017 Joel Embiid 29.3% 17.6% 22% 10.6% 20.3%
2018 Joel Embiid 31.3% 22.6% 16.1% 7.9% 22.2%
Anthony Davis 37.4% 22.3% 15.1% 11.6% 13.6%
Rudy Gobert 79.1% 17.7% 0.9% 0.2% 0%
Karl Anthony Towns 24.8% 30.7% 8.2% 7.2% 29.2%
Nikola Jokic 32.1% 21.2% 9.7% 9.3% 27.7%

To sum this up, Embiid is shooting more from 3 and less from between 16 feet and the 3 point line this season. No surprise regarding Rudy Gobert, who does most of his damage under the rim. The chart indicates that Jokic shoots the most from beyond the arc out of the group, while Anthony Davis shoots the most from 16 feet to the 3 point line and between 10 feet and 16 feet.

Assists and Turnovers

Joel Embiid’s assist percentage is on a decreasing trend while his turnover percentage has been on a slightly increasing trend.
Player APG AST% TOPG TOV%
2017 Joel Embiid 3.2 18% 3.7 15.6%
2018 Joel Embiid 3.6 18% 3.1 11.9%
Anthony Davis 4.9 20.3% 2.4 9.4%
Rudy Gobert 1.7 8.8% 1.5 12.4%
Karl Anthony Towns 2.3 11.3% 3.4 16.1%
Nikola Jokic 7.7 38.6% 2.8 16.0

The good news: Joel Embiid is averaging less turnovers per game and has a lower turnover percentage compared to last season. The semi-bad news: Joel hasn’t progressed much in terms of assist percentage. From reports during the offseason, this was an area that Joel worked on extensively this summer. As can be seen in the chart above, Jokic clearly wins in the assist category. Anthony Davis’ ridiculously low turnover percentage is just incredible. Davis doesn’t have the highest usage percentage (33rd) in the NBA, but 9.4% is still so impressive considering everything he does on the court and how much he means to the New Orleans Pelicans.

LET’S TALK DEFENSE

Analytics

Video breakdown on Joel Embiid’s early season highlights on defense.
Joel Embiid’s defense rating has shown a maintaining trend.
Bruce Wayne isn’t the only Batman. Jason Blevins takes an in-depth look at how Brett Brown utilizes Joel Embiid on defense in the link above.
Player DRTG DWS DBPM
2017 Joel Embiid 100 3.8 2.5
2018 Joel Embiid 103 1.6 1.9
Anthony Davis 105 1.3 4.2
Rudy Gobert 103 1.5 4.3
Karl Anthony Towns 106 1.2 2.1
Nikola Jokic 102 1.4 4.1

This goes along with the eye test that shows that Joel Embiid is not playing the same level of defense as last season. However, I think a lot of this can be attributed to the significant increase in minutes per game Joel is currently playing. Nikola Jokic continues to be an analytics darling in regards to his defensive rating and defensive box plus/minute rating. Rudy Gobert is currently 6th in the NBA in defensive box plus/minus, while Jokic leads the pack in defensive rating. He is ranked 12th best overall in the NBA.

Rebounding

Joel Embiid’s defensive rebound and total rebound percentages have been on an increasing trend.
Player RPG ORB% DREB% TRB%
2017 Joel Embiid 11 8.4% 29.7% 19.4%
2018 Joel Embiid 13.3 7.3% 32.8% 20.6%
Anthony Davis 12.5 9.5% 25.6% 17.7%
Rudy Gobert 12.4 12.7% 32% 22.3%
Karl Anthony Towns 12.0 10.3% 27.5% 18.9%
Nikola Jokic 9.6 8.7% 26.2% 17.4%

While Joel’s rebounds per game are up, his rebounding percentages have somewhat maintained this year compared to last season. Despite the maintaining trends, Joel is currently 10th best in the NBA in total rebound percentage. In the group, Gobert continues to be a rebounding monster and features the highest rebounding percentage, which is 7th best in the NBA.  Gobert clearly wins this category in the area of rebounding.

Playmaking Stats

Joel Embiid’s block percentage has been decreasing trend while his steal percentage has begun a recent increasing trend since November 2018.
Player SPG STL% BPG BLK%
2017 Joel Embiid 0.6 1% 1.8 4.8%
2018 Joel Embiid 0.5 0.6% 2.0 4.4%
Anthony Davis 1.7 2.1% 2.9 6.2%
Rudy Gobert 0.9 1.4% 2.0 5.4%
Karl Anthony Towns 1.0 1.4% 1.7 4.4%
Nikola Jokic 1.3 2.2% 0.8 2.3%

Joel’s blocks per game and block percentage have essentially maintained this year compared to last season. The best rim protector in this group is clearly Anthony Davis, who features a 6.2% block percentage which is good for 7th best in the NBA. Anthony Davis currently leads the NBA in total blocks and blocks per game.

LET’S TALK MVP

Player BPM WIN SHARES TOV 4TH Q PPG
2017 Joel Embiid 2.5 6.2 1.1 5.5
2018 Joel Embiid 3.0 3.4 0.8 6.8
Anthony Davis 9.0 4.5 0.2 6.4
Rudy Gobert 6.1 4.1 0.4 3.2
Karl Anthony Towns 3.8 2.6 0.8 4.8
Nikola Jokic 9.0 3.4 0.5 3.6

Clutch scoring and turnovers were major issues for Joel Embiid last season. While he’s still got a lot of room to improve, Joel leads the group in terms of fourth quarter scoring per game by a decent margin. Even better, Joel is also averaging less turnovers during fourth quarters. Joel’s offensive win shares is what is hurting him the most. While Joel is 4th in the NBA in defensive win shares, he’s not in the top 20 in regards to offensive win shares. Anthony Davis is the winner here. Davis is 3rd in the NBA in offensive win shares, 12th in defensive win shares, and 1st in the NBA in overall win shares.

We’re a little over the quarter mark of the season. Among big men, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and Nikola Jokic are certainly making this a fierce competition for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Ultimately, these races will come down to wins and losses. As great as Joel Embiid has played this year, he needs to continue to play at this rate and then some (especially on offense) in order to win these awards this summer. 

mrcrockpot

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