It’s always so easy to say with Joel Embiid that he should stay in the low post, and the 76ers should continually pound the ball into him.
Centers like Embiid take a pounding down low and once in a while need a break. The problem is that Embiid, as dominating as he is, has frequently spent too much time away from the post even though he is the NBA’s top low-post scorer.
The shot chart certainly didn’t lie during Friday’s 108-101 win over the Orlando Magic that improved the Sixers’ record to 3-1 during the NBA restart. The Sixers had off from practice on Saturday, and resume action with Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Portland.
Embiid had 18 field goal attempts on Friday. According to the NBA.com shot chart, he was 7-for-7 on shots from inside the paint and 0-for-11 outside of it.
There is nothing surprising when looking at his shot chart for the season. Embiid is much more effective from closer to the basket, which makes sense. Most players are.
Again, according to NBA.com stats, Embiid is 217-for-347 (62.5%) from shots nine feet and closer. He is 157-for-430 (36.5%) from shots 10 feet and further out.
He is just so physically strong and too quick for most defenders, which is what makes Embiid so effective down low.
With the NBA restart, teams are doubling him almost every time that he is in the post. Embiid has made great strides in recognizing the double-team.
“One of his areas of noticeable growth is what he has been doing out of the post,” coach Brett Brown said recently. “And it’s probably the single thing that stands out most to me offensively, when you look at whether it’s Jo or just us as a team, I liked his outpost spacing. … His ability to read where the double teams are coming from, I think, has been shown.”
Embiid has been dominant during the NBA restart, averaging 30.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in 33.8 minutes per game. But in two of the four games he wasn’t a major factor in the first half.
During Monday’s 132-130 win over San Antonio, he had just six field goal attempts, four free throw attempts, one rebound, nine points, and was a minus-10 in the first half.
In the second half, he had 18 points and eight rebounds, 11 field goal attempts, eight free throw attempts, and was a plus-7.
Similarly, in Friday’s first half, he attempted eight shots from the field and just one free throw, scoring six points and was a minus-1.
In the second half, he attempted 12 free throws, an indication that he was being more aggressive. Over the final two quarters. he also had 10 field goal attempts, scored 17 points, and was a plus-4.
He was more effective in both games because he made a conscious effort to post up more.
After Wednesday’s 107-98 win over Washington, Embiid talked about the team’s inconsistency.
“We can’t just turn it on and off whenever we want,” he said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We have to be committed 48 minutes.”
Yet, in two of the games, he didn’t turn it on until the second half.
The best way for him to be committed and have the team follow his lead is to punish teams in the post, either by scoring or passing out of the double team.
As Brown correctly asserted after Friday’s win, Embiid set the tone for the team in the second half.
Actually, he sets the tone in every game. With Ben Simmons scheduled to undergo surgery in the coming days to remove a loose body in his left knee, Embiid has to be even more dominant.