Saturday was a relatively quiet night for Joel Embiid. He notched 27 points and 14 rebounds, went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and blocked two shots in the Sixers' 105-103 win against the Charlotte Hornets — and he did it all on a recently rolled ankle.
That's how it's been for the Sixers center in the early days of this season: He can fill a stat sheet with impressive numbers and it's considered normal.
With the team's record at 3-3, the inconsistent shooting and defensive performances from complimentary players, and all eyes on the development of Markelle Fultz, Embiid's performance has been glossed over. But, what he has done in just six games is nothing short of spectacular.
After his first healthy offseason, Embiid has come into the 2018-19 season in the best shape of his life. On multiple occasions when asked what his weight is, Embiid has joked and brushed the question to the side by saying, "I'm 6-11 and 230."
The 7-foot center (or 7-2, depending on where the listing is or who you ask), was tasked with improving his footwork, his ballhandling, and his shooting in the offseason. The goal was for him to increase his strength, cut down on turnovers, and become even more effective in the post. That's most likely going to be the same approach heading into the next few summers for Embiid, but at this rate, it won't take him long to perfect his craft.
In the first six games this season, Embiid is averaging 29.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 2.2 turnovers. For comparison, in his first six games last season he averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1 block, and 4.5 turnovers.
Of course, this season Embiid is playing more minutes, he's older, more mature, and more developed. That's all true, but it's not just natural growth as a basketball player. In just the first few games, Embiid is quicker, using more intricate footwork, is more composed, and more dominant than before.
Additionally, the 24-year-old is shooting 82.1 percent from the free-throw line, up from 79.2 percent to start his rookie season, and 81.3 percent in the first six games of last season.
While his increased minutes would tend to favor higher production, the Sixers' added defensive wrinkles have brought him away from the basket more often; still, even when switching onto the opponents' guards, Embiid has found his way in to fight for rebounds and square up for blocks.
Saturday marked Embiid's 100th NBA game. With his league-leading sixth double-double of the season, Embiid became the first Sixer ever to notch a least 20 points and 10 rebounds in six straight games to begin a season.
The hot start to the 2018-19 campaign is encouraging not only because the Sixers need him to be dominant while the rest of the team heals and finds its way, but when looking at the future: If this is where Embiid is starting the season, one can only imagine what he will be capable of when the playoffs are on the horizon.