After the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Joel Embiid received some much deserved recognition in Friday’s National Basketball Players Association Players’ Awards, let’s highlight some of his standout games from the 2016-17 season.
Joel Embiid won the NBPA’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Here are some games that highlighted his rise to prominence.
Oct. 26 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks)
It’s nearly impossible to discuss Embiid’s best games of the 2016-17 season without mentioning his long-awaited NBA début. Although his efficiency waned, shooting just 6-16 from the floor, he displayed nimble footwork, a sublime post game, a fluid jumper and elite defense. As was the case for much of the year, Embiid showed the ability to transform the Sixers into a formidable team as the nearly came away with a win against the Thunder, a perennial playoff contender in the always-tough Western Conference.
Nov. 19 vs. Phoenix Suns (26 points, seven rebounds, two blocks)
Helping lead the Philadelphia 76ers to just their third win of the year, Embiid was far and away the best player on the court despite being listed as questionable prior to the game. The former Kansas Jayhawk exhibited his affinity for 3-pointers from the top of the key, knocking down three such shots, all as the roll man in a pick-and-pop. Embiid went 9-14 from the field, 3-5 from 3-point range and did so in just 20 minutes of action. If his début was a sign of things to come, this was his coming out party.
Nov. 27 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (22 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks)
After fouling out during his first matchup against the Cavs, Embiid went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and Co., nearly leading the Sixers to a win against the defending champions. He continued to show off his uncanny 3-point ability and altered a significant number of shots in the paint. As a “congrats on the new contract” gift, Embiid made Tristan Thompson look downright silly on multiple occasions, proving too big and too quick for the Canadian. Arguably the most impressive play of the night occurred when Embiid went coast-to-coast after a steal, gliding to the basket for an easy bucket. Despite a limited supporting cast surround Embiid, it took strong nights from LeBron (26 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) and Kyrie Irving (39 points) to push the Cavs past the Sixers, a testament to Embiid’s sublime impact on both ends of the floor.
Dec. 18 vs. Brooklyn Nets (33 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, two steals)
In his best game to date, Embiid’s full complement of skills were on display. 3-pointers? Yup. Pull-up jumpers off the bounce? You betcha. Jab right, spin left for the layup? Of course. He terrorized the paint, controlled the glass and put Brook Lopez in a blender with ease during a thrilling 108-107 victory. If that wasn’t enough, he hit two clutch free throws in the closing seconds, finishing 7-8 from the line. With a considerably stronger roster surrounding Embiid next season, expect games like this to occur more often.
Dec. 26 vs. Sacramento Kings (25 points, eight rebounds, two blocks)
Just six days later, as a belated Christmas gift to Sixers fans, Embiid did battle with one of the league’s top big men in DeMarcus Cousins. Embiid was repeatedly too strong for his 6-foot-11, 270 pound counterpart, muscling his way inside for easy baskets. Also on display was Embiid’s high basketball I.Q. as he darted into passing lanes to wreak havoc. Cousins, in the win, was spectacular, ending with 30 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. The strong game earned Embiid lofty praise from Cousins, who said in a postgame interview, “I don’t give a lot of people props, but I like that kid a lot. I think he’s got a great chance at being the best big in the league… after I retire.” Cousins-Embiid round two kicks off Dec. 10 next season
Jan. 27 vs. Houston Rockets (32 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks)
As all compelling narratives do, Embiid left Sixers fans yearning for more in his final game of the season. Going up against MVP runner-up James Harden, Embiid more than proved he belonged, cementing himself as an NBA star — when healthy. Adding to Embiid’s budding celebrity status was comedian Kevin Hart paying a compliment to the big man, saying during an in-game interview with ESPN, “I’m very happy with Joel. He’s a talented guy; you’re looking at a man with a bright future in this league.”
These are just a few of many standout games from Embiid last season. Sixers fans should anticipate The Process to once again dominate in 2017-18 — yielding more recognition from the league — and along with Markelle Fultz and Ben SImmons, help lead Philadelphia back to the postseason.