The two year wait for Joel Embiid has proven to be well worth it for the Sixers, as the third-overall draft pick from the 2014 Draft has emerged as one of the NBA’s best big men in his first season after sitting out all of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with injuries.
Embiid is averaging 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and two assists in only 25.3 minutes per game this season. His scoring as a rookie, on a by possession basis, is something the NBA has never seen.
As his minutes restriction has been stretched out, his production has continued to improve, and he’s starting to do things we haven’t seen out of a rookie since Tim Duncan.
There hasn’t been a better big man in the NBA over the last 20 years than Duncan, so, while this is a bit of a strange stat, it bodes well for Embiid that he’s doing things as a two-way player that haven’t been done by a rookie since the future Hall of Famer’s first year in the league.
To be doing it while on a minutes restriction is even more impressive.
For a Sixers team and a fanbase that have been starved for years, Embiid provides a bountiful feast of optimism and excitement. His ability to glide around the court like a small forward despite being 7-foot, 250 pound behemoth makes him one of the league’s most unique physical specimens. Embiid is more than just a freakish combination of size and athleticism, though, as he possesses tremendous fundamental skills on both ends of the floor that allow him to tap the potential that comes from his frame and natural athletic abilities.
The best news for the Sixers is that Embiid’s incredible play of late hasn’t simply been the best player on a bad team putting up empty stats. Philadelphia has won six of its last seven games and on the season the Sixers are 10-7 when Embiid scores 20 or more points. (Mind you, the Sixers are 13-26 on the season.)
Embiid is a generational talent who also happens to be one of the most fun, interesting, and marketable players in the NBA currently. The Sixers have been wise in bringing their budding superstar along slowly, not allowing him to play 30 minutes in a game so far this season. The minutes restriction will eventually go away, and the rest of the NBA will have to reckon with Embiid on his full scale, which is terrifying.