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Joel Embiid Looking Like, Learning from a Legend Early On

Joel Embiid
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. (Mike Ehrmann, getty images)

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:

Embiid                                             Duncan

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.

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