Joel Embiid is considered the cornerstone of the 76ers franchise. He is a three-time All-Star center and among the most dominant big men in the game.
After three straight seasons of playoff frustration, there are some who have suggested trading Embiid. GM Elton Brand made it clear that he doesn’t plan to trade Embiid or fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, making that statement on Aug. 25 in his news conference the day after the firing of coach Brett Brown.
New coach Doc Rivers, at his introductory news conference, said Embiid "is a dominant big man, and will be a dominant big man for me.”
That doesn’t sound like anybody who is going to change addresses before next season.
Here are the pluses and minuses of Embiid.
The biggest knock on Embiid is his injury history, which is well documented. After missing the first two seasons due to foot injuries, he has played in each of the last four years, missing an average of 27.5 games per season.
In addition, even when Embiid is on the court, he has often looked fatigued, especially this past season. Despite averaging 30 points and 12.3 rebounds in 36.3 minutes during this year’s opening-round sweep against the Boston Celtics, Embiid often looked fatigued, especially in the fourth quarter.
As outlined earlier, he averaged 11.0 points and shot 68.1% from the field in the first quarters of the series and 8.5 points while shooting 31.8% in the fourth quarter, and that includes a 17-point fourth quarter in Game 4.
He had a minus rating in all four games and averaged a minus-13.5 per game.
One problem is that Embiid relies too frequently on three-point attempts instead of posting up. Yes, Embiid led the NBA during the regular season in post-up possessions per game (8.3). In the playoffs, it increased to 9.8 per game, but with his ability to score down low, it’s something that should be done even more.
Teams would rather give Embiid three-pointers than battle him down low. He hit 4-of-16 from beyond the arc in the playoffs. (In the regular season he shot 33.1% from three-point range).
Embiid has said before how it is impossible to expect him to post up every play, but he is unstoppable when he does it.
He averaged 3.4 three-point attempts per game in the regular season, and 4.0 in the playoffs. Due to taking so many threes, Embiid placed only 93rd in the regular season in effective field-goal percentage (.512), according to Basketball-Reference.com. This statistic adjusts the percentage for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth one more point than a two. The formula: FGM + (0.5 x 3PTM) / FGA.
There are many, starting with the aforementioned success that Embiid has enjoyed as a post-up player. Not surprisingly, he shot 72.5% on shots 0-to-3 feet from the basket during the regular season.
Embiid was eighth in the NBA in player efficiency rating (25.8), according to Basketball-Reference.com. Known as PER, player efficiency rating is a measure of per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15.
Even when Embiid isn’t scoring, he is often drawing double-teams, leaving teammates open.
Embiid is also an elite defender, but this season and especially during the playoffs, he didn’t always put forth his best effort on defense.
Still, he is an intimidating presence who discourages opponents from driving to the basket.
With his ability to alter the game at both ends of the court, Embiid has shown that a dominant center can still have a place in today’s NBA that relies much more on three-point shooting.
Embiid turned 26 in March and should be hitting his prime. In October of 2017, he signed a five-year, $147.7 million extension.
As for trade value, he never will be worth more than he is now, with three years left on his contract and coming off a high-scoring playoff. Yet, it’s difficult to give up on a star too early -- and that would be the risk of trading him.
The Sixers appear intent on giving the Embiid-Simmons pairing another try. If Brand follows through on this, it appears to be the right move.