It was before the 76ers’ 123-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday and Nets coach Steve Nash was asked a simple question about Joel Embiid and provided an even simpler answer.
What, Nash was asked, has allowed the Sixers’ four-time All-Star center to put himself in the NBA MVP conversation?
“Consistency and shot-making,” Nash said. “He has been incredibly accurate scoring the ball. We know what a dominant physical presence he is, but he has been really accurate mid-range and very capable from three as well.”
Embiid is shooting well from all areas, but he has thrived in the mid-range game (shots outside the paint but inside the three-point line).
According to NBA.com stats, Embiid is shooting 108-for-216 (50%) from mid-range, which is tied for fifth in the NBA among players with at least 100 attempts, entering Thursday’s games. Here are the top mid-range percentage shooters.
Kyrie Irving, 89-158, 56.3%
Kevin Durant, 60-114, 52.6%
Chris Paul, 143-279, 51.3%
LaMarcus Aldridge, 66-123, 51.2%
Joel Embiid, 108-216, 50%
Luka Doncic, 66-132, 50%
This is pretty select company.
Defenders have a major dilemma when Embiid is open in mid-range territory. Since he has been so accurate, teams are burnt if they give him the shot, but if they come out to guard him, Embiid has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to basket.
“That is a big part of my game,” Embiid said after Wednesday’s game. “Obviously if you give me that space, I am more likely to make that shot. If you are trying to be aggressive and eat up that space, I guess I am quick enough to get by you.”
Embiid is averaging 29.8 points, so he has been effective from all areas.
Embiid leads the NBA in post-up points (10 per game) by a wide margin. Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who is second, averages 6.0.
Embiid is also shooting a career-best 38.9% from three-point range, above the NBA average this season of 36.7%.
There’s more: Embiid leads the NBA in free-throw attempts per game, 11.6, and free-throws made per game, 9.9. He is shooting a career-best 85.3% from the foul line. Embiid has always been a good foul shooter, but he has taken it up another level this season. He entered the year shooting 79.3% from the free-throw line.
His mid-range game has set up so much else for him offensively.
The Sixers (38-17) lead the Nets by a game in the Eastern Conference standings and also own the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same record after winning the season series, two games to one. On Friday the Sixers will host the Los Angeles Clippers (39-18), another NBA title contender.
With Embiid the Sixers are 29-8; without him, they are 9-9.
After totaling 39 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday’s win, Embiid was again asked about the MVP race.
“I am not going to try to push myself. But I know I have been dominant all season,” he said.
And then he pushed himself for the award.
“We’ve got a No. 1 seed,” he continued. “When I get the ball it is either a foul or bucket. … So I feel I am right there. I feel that is mine.”
He always ends any MVP discussion with this disclaimer.
“That is not what I am focused on,” he said. “I am focused on winning every single game and getting to the playoffs healthy, trying to win what matters the most and that is the NBA championship.”