Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has established himself as a repeat All-Star. How did NBA Draft profiles project him prior to the 2014 draft?
With a surprise break in NBA action, it’s a great time to take a retrospective look at the last 100, er, six years of the Philadelphia 76ers rebuild and rise to competitiveness. Joel Embiid has been at the center of it all.
Nicknamed (by himself, which is something only someone like Embiid can do) ‘The Process’, Embiid is one in the same with the Sixers rebuild. He is the prized piece of the rebuild, also referred to as ‘The Process’ envisioned by Sam Hinkie.
The idea with the Embiid selection at third overall in 2014 was simple. Take a player who had legitimate top overall pick potential and bank on him reaching that potential, despite the concerns dropping him to third overall.
Though it’s just two slots, the difference between the best player in a draft class and the third-best player is often stark. If it paid off, it could be a huge get for Hinkie and the Sixers, all it would take was patience.
For what it’s worth, Embiid Nikola Jokic is the second-best player in this draft and was selected at 41st overall. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker went before Embiid.
Let’s look back at an Embiid draft profile and see how he’s fared since.
NBADraft.net was highly complimentary of Embiid’s game, citing more development than many other places would give Embiid credit for. He was noted to not panic when double-teamed and calling out his potential at the free-throw line given his foul-drawing and free-throw sinking rate was prescient.
That holds true still, Embiid attempts the most free-throws per game of centers and of centers who have played at least 30 games makes them the sixth-most (81.4 percent).
He was compared to Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon, which in retrospect might have put Embiid into too strict of a box.
The main call-out in weaknesses was his inability to stay on the court due to fouling and injury struggles. The injuries being a concern is no surprise, it was a major talking point for Embiid and the primary reason he fell to the Sixers in the first place.
"“He should pursue shot blocking opportunities more actively, as well as improve his timing… To this same point, Embiid should focus on being very loud defensively and becoming an “anchor” a la Kevin Garnet, Tyson Chandler, and other impact defensive bigs. He is in a unique position where he possesses the physical tools to do so.”"
Embiid is an incredible defender, showing a shocking ability to guard quicker and more nimble players for an athlete of his size. Most notably, he contained Pascal Siakam in last year’s NBA Playoffs when called upon by Brett Brown (one of Brown’s finest game-planning maneuvers).
As a rim protector, he’s not the best. He falls well short of the deterrence that Myles Turner and Rudy Gobert offer, forcing opponents to shoot just 3.3 percent worse within six feet of the rim (Turner forces nearly 11 percent worse, Gobert over 12 percent worse).
Embiid has proven to be more than just a rim protector though, so to measure his defense just by way of his shot-blocking abilities undersells his potential.
Embiid likely could be a defensive anchor — and some might argue he is already an anchor — but the Sixers are an extremely capable defensive team across the board, which has prevented them from needing to rely on one player alone.
"“Should polish his back-to-the-basket moves… His frame is very good for a 17-year-old, but he will need to continue to work on his body and strength to compete physically in the post at the next level.”"
Due to missing his first two seasons with a broken foot, Embiid had plenty of time to work on his upper-body strength and played his first game with a more filled-out frame. His back-to-the-back game is arguably the best in the league now, and his soccer background has helped him refine his footwork.
Embiid averages a league-leading 7.4 points per game on 9.7 posts-ups per game.
"“Going forward, he will likely rely on mid-range jumpers and back to the basket post moves. However, he is already confident taking face up shots out to the college three point line with decent (but not great) form.”"
Embiid’s shooting is another part of his game that Embiid had plenty of time to work on while out with injury. Building out the mechanics of a working shot was one of the only things Embiid could do without putting strain on his foot, and he credits his improved mechanics to studying the shooting of “white people.”
His true shooting falls just short of 60 percent.
Did Joel Embiid live up to his projected strengths?
Absolutely. Embiid is a three-time All-Star and likely to be a three-time All-Defensive player by the time this season’s awards are announced.
Averaging 24.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, Embiid has the propensity to take games over on both ends and, when focused and determined, can be the best player on the floor. Very few centers in the league have shown the capabilities to slow or stop him.
Did Joel Embiid ameliorate the concerns about him prior to the 2014 NBA Draft?
In general, yes. Joel Embiid hasn’t exactly shaken the “injury-prone” label yet, though it’s a bit unfair that it’s still attached to him. Embiid hasn’t endured a serious structural issue on his body in some time, playing above a pace of 60 games per season the last three years.
His presence and play was diminished against the Toronto Raptors last season due to an illness — some speculated it might be due to his diet, the jury is out on that matter –but the fact of the matter is Embiid hasn’t had a notable issue with his body in quite some time.
Embiid was also able to get past the foul-prone issues, he’s hovered around 3.5 fouls per game throughout his career, a manageable amount for such a defensively-focused player.
This pick at third overall will go down as one of the most prescient of all-time. It was an extremely high risk for Sam Hinkie and the Sixers, but one that absolutely has paid off.