Joel Embiid Looking Like, Learning from a Legend Early On
Over the first twenty-plus games of his young NBA career, Joel Embiid has looked like a versatile big man with the potential to dominate for decades.
Fitting that he is learning from one.
Embiid is learning leadership skills – and other valuable kernels of information - directly from a multiple-time NBA champion; and not Hakeem Olajuwon, who Embiid modeled his early game after, and is often compared to. Rather, Embiid is learning tricks of the trade from Tim Duncan; bared fruits from Brett Brown’s 12-season stint in San Antonio as an assistant with the Spurs.
“Coach always talks to me about being a leader, and I want to be a leader,” Embiid said recently of growing his role within the Sixers. “[Coach and I] always talk about Tim Duncan. Sometimes I text him, and he always gives me advice.”
Like Duncan did, Embiid will thrive will surrounding will a few pivotal, enabling pieces: an attacking point - a la Tony Parker - who can initiate and execute an offense and make it easier on Embiid, knock down shooters – the Spurs had a plethora of them over Duncan’s run – and a complementary perimeter playmaker; a Ginobili to Embiid’s Duncan.
While discussing the recently-retired legend in Duncan, and the legend-hopeful in Embiid, it is worth noting that Embiid’s per-36 rookie statistics compare favorably to Duncan’s:
27.6 points per game 19.4 ppg
3.4 blocks per game 2.3 bpg
10.6 rebounds per game 11.0 rpg
2.7 assists per game 2.5 apg
The most exciting part – or scary for the rest of the league – is that Embiid is just starting to scratch the surface of his on-court potential. He has only been playing the game for seven years. Imagine when the shackles of a minute restriction are lifted, and he gets a couple years of experience under his belt – health willing – look out league.