We’re Running Out of Words to Describe Joel Embiid
Amazing. Incredible. Dominant. Elite.
After the first half Joel Embiid just produced, we’re all going to need thesauruses.
Embiid put an exclamation on an MVP-caliber first half with another absurd performance in an overtime win against the Jazz Wednesday night. The Sixers go into the All-Star break with the best record in the East – with Embiid’s elevated play being the biggest reason why.
Going up against a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert and the team with the best record in the NBA in Utah, Embiid’s outing was especially outstanding. In a season full of these Herculean efforts, it’s hard to even gauge where this one ranks on the list.
“He was amazing,” Dwight Howard said. “I think he dominated his matchup, so he did his job. I’m proud of him. I’ve been saying this all year, his effort, his energy to dominate every night has been amazing. I’m glad to see that. He’s playing ferocious. Everything is like, ‘Ahh! I’m going to dunk on you, I’m going to finish, I’m going to shoot the fadeaway.’ He’s doing everything and I’m really proud of him.”
He scored 40 points and pulled down 19 rebounds. It was his fifth game this season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. The rest of the league has four combined. It was the 13th 40-point, 10-rebound outing of his career, tying him with Charles Barkley for the second-most such games in franchise history.
Embiid also hit a preposterous three with time winding down in regulation and a hand in his face to send the game to OT. To add to his other ridiculous stats, Embiid is shooting a career-high 41.6 percent from three this season. His field-goal percentage (52.1) and free-throw percentage (85.6) would also be by far career marks. All that while averaging 30.2 points a game.
Only one player in NBA history has averaged over 30 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 85 percent from the free throw line: Stephen Curry. Curry did it in 2015-16, the second straight season he won MVP.
The last true center to average over 30 points a game in a season was former Sixer Moses Malone as a member of the Rockets in 1981-82. Malone received the first of his two MVP awards that season.
The last player to average at least 30 points and 10 rebounds a game was Russell Westbrook in 2016-17, his lone MVP season.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Embiid has been at the forefront of the MVP conversation during the first half of the season. While he reiterated his years-long desire to be Defensive Player of the Year, he knows individual accolades generally only come with team success.
“Without winning, you’re not part of those conversations of Defensive Player of the Year and MVP and all that, so that’s the first thing,” Embiid said. “I want to win. That’s all I care about.”
While Howard described Embiid as “ferocious,” Embiid was a little feisty during his postgame availability.
He called out a reporter for a claim that he hadn’t played against “elite” centers in the league and that he purposely avoided those matchups. In his last two games, he’s played what many consider Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Myles Turner and Gobert.
Embiid averaged 32 points and 16 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game.
“As we saw tonight, it looked like I was very, very scared of [Gobert],” Embiid said sarcastically. “[Gobert is] a great player, he does a lot for his team that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. But when you go against those guys it brings something else to my game.
“I want to dominate on the offensive end, but mainly on the defensive end because that’s the goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the year and obviously I’ve got another one of my teammates that has that potential to be Defensive Player of the Year. But those are the matchups you want to go out there and just dominate and prove to everybody that as a team we have a great team and that individually I should be up there when it comes to those rankings and stuff.”
This past offseason, Embiid voiced his displeasure for not being named to any of the All-NBA teams, specifically saying he should’ve made it over Gobert. On Wednesday, Embiid’s comments about Gobert were respectful.
While he’s not consumed by the perceived snub last season, he is using it as motivation.
“The past is the past,” Embiid said. “It’s unfortunate the way things happened last year when I wasn’t on [any All-NBA teams]. It plays a huge role in my mentality this year just wanting to destroy everything in my path.”
That mentality has led Embiid to a special start to the season. His ability to make dominance look routine could earn him hardware – and the Sixers as well.
“He was absolutely unbelievable,” Doc Rivers said. “Just got what he wanted when he wanted it.”
By the end of the season, we might just need three letters to describe Embiid.
*All stats courtesy of Stathead