Embiid’s Double Vision Key To Sixers Chances
The Philadelphia 76ers are 2-1 in the seeding games heading into Friday's matchup versus Orlando. Of particular concern in the first two games has been the Sixers defense, particularly in the 4th quarter of games. In-game three versus the Wizards, the 76ers were able to withstand the loss of All-Star Ben Simmons by getting on the back of All World Center, Joel Embiid. The Wizards scored just 24 points in the fourth and 98 points for the game. The Sixers held Washington to only 42% from the field. So what have we learned so far? Well, The 76ers until at least the playoffs, will go as Joel Embiid goes.
Joel Embiid Double Vision
Joel Embiid must carry the load offensively, with Simmons being out with a knee injury. Embiid was the undisputed focal point of the 76ers offensive attack when Simmons left the game. The team will likely look to slow down the pace to more of a playoff-style half-court pace without the downhill Simmons.
A slower pace will help Embiid on both ends. The 7'2" Center draws double teams on nearly every touch and has focused on "Quarterbacking the gym" from the post since last summer. In training camp, Embiid pointed to an improved handle and ball security as key to his ability to handle double teams. As crucial as that skill may be, more importantly, one may argue, is his ability to spot and hit teammates who are left open by the opposition.
When asked Monday, Joel said that handing doubles is "If I decide to be aggressive. No matter what, I mean you can look at tonight, every single possession. You know I was doubled. The same thing with Indiana, so I just got to find ways to score".
"I've been trying to work on it... It's like us the turnovers." Embiid said acknowledging the criticality of making teams pay for their gambles. "I gotta keep doing a better job, I feel like every team doubles me every single possession." Said Embiid.
So are there signs of progress in that regard? Short Answer? Yes. Embiid has a positive assist to turnover ratio so far in Orlando, heading into Friday. The Center is averaging four assists per game out of the post will be more crucial than ever without Ben Simmons to help initiate the offense. Expect to see Embiid's post touches way up, so maintaining a positive Assist to Turn ratio is vital to punishing teams for relentlessly doubling.
And not all teams will double the same way. For instance, Embiid spoke about the Raptors approach. "Toronto is a little bit different because they don't allow me to actually catch the entries. As soon as it was in the air, they would send someone to get it out of my hand, so that's something I've been, you know, focusing on."
And this is crucial; what you may notice is that Embiid is working on making the first move, not waiting for a double to come. His decisiveness and aggressiveness can make teams react versus act, putting him at an advantage and his opponent guessing. Against San Antonio specifically, Embiid caught the ball, gave a shoulder wiggle, and went directly into a move. Often the result was getting his opponent caught in no man's land and fouling.
Embiid has averaged 20 shot attempts and 12 free throw attempts so far in Orlando. His true shooting percentage is just under 60%, which is simply elite for a high volume scorer. This is the kind of efficiency you want to see continue as his usage rate almost certainly will increase with more touches and the Sixers going to a more traditional half-court inside-outside game.
Embiid so far is averaging just under 33/14/4 for the seeding games. Those raw numbers are Iverson MVP era level, but Embiid is a much more efficient player than Iverson was, even at the height of his powers in 2001.
So if Embiid can continue this production while limiting the turnovers, he has a chance to carry Philadelphia deep into the playoffs even without his superstar partner Ben Simmons.