Sixers 2017-18 Player Evaluation: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Position: Center

Status for 2018-19: First year of five-year extension at $25,250,000

Embiid in 2017-18
Coming into the season, the goal was for Embiid to prove he could stay healthy and be a dominant force at center. Mission accomplished. 

Sure, Embiid missed the last eight regular season games and the first two games of the postseason with an orbital bone fracture, but his legs being healthy is much more important. He also got to experience playing in back-to-back games for the first time. Embiid playing in 63 regular season games and eight more playoff contests is encouraging.

On the court, he showed more of what he did during his rookie season, earning a starting spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and being named a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. 

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He averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The only players to accomplish those numbers in their second NBA season: David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Bob McAdoo and Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid's 21.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the playoffs were only accomplished by McAdoo and Robinson in their second seasons. Pretty good company.

An interesting debate is whether Embiid should shoot more threes or spend more time in the post. His head coach certainly wants Embiid to take them. He shot just 31 percent from three after shooting 37 percent during his rookie season. Either way, it's a weapon in the arsenal. It's helpful for Embiid to occasionally clear the lane for Ben Simmons - and perhaps a new teammate that features a similar skill set to Simmons.

Signature game
This is a tough call because Embiid had so many signature performances, but there is one that stands above the rest. On Nov. 15 against the Lakers, Embiid had the most dominant performance of his young NBA career. The big man put up 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and seven assists. Maybe as impressive, Embiid committed just two turnovers. That felt like the game when Embiid announced to the rest of the NBA that he and the Sixers had arrived.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
This is an enormous offseason for Embiid. He's not rehabbing an injury and can focus on his fitness and the nuances of his game. He'll begin the first season of his huge five-year extension with the bitter taste of a playoff loss.

For as dominant as Embiid was, there are still things he can work on. The biggest thing has to be for him to be in shape to handle at least 70-plus NBA games. 

Another issue is still turnovers. Too often, Embiid forces the action or doesn't recognize double teams quick enough. More game experience is the best way for him to improve in this department, but he can watch game tape and see how teams are defending him.

If the Sixers were to acquire a star wing player(s), it'll be intriguing to see how it will elevate Embiid's game.

On Embiid
"This is my first year going into a summer healthy. I think next year is going to be an MVP-type season for me. I don't feel like taking any time off. I already miss basketball."

- Embiid on his offseason

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