The famed “Process” associated with the Philadelphia 76ers has had its ups and downs. One big reason why the Sixers have lacked championship results is Ben Simmons, who continues his holdout with no sign of slowing down. But the biggest success story associated with the Process is “The Process” himself, aka Joel Embiid.
The 27-year-old Embiid has been a dominant force for the 76ers, guiding them to a 26-18 record in a tough Eastern Conference. One big supporter of Joel is head coach Doc Rivers, who likened the 7-footer to a pair of Hall of Fame big men.
Joel Embiid is carrying the Philadelphia 76ers
With no Simmons, it was up to Embiid to help Philadelphia contend in 2021-22. The early results weren’t promising, as Embiid missed 10 of the team’s first 19 games. In that span, the Sixers went a pedestrian 10-9.
Fast forward to today, where Embiid has missed just one game since Nov. 27. During that stretch, Philly is 16-9 and continuing its climb up the standings.
Since returning from health and safety protocols on 11/27, Embiid is averaging 30.5 points per game, tied with LeBron James for the most in the NBA. In addition to his high point total, the Cameroonian is averaging 11.0 rebounds while securing 15 double-doubles.
Shortly after ending a streak of eight consecutive 30-point games, Embiid dropped a season-high 50 points against the Orlando Magic. The big man went 17-of-23 from the field and 15-of-17 from the charity stripe in just 27:03 of game time. Only Klay Thompson scored 50 points in less time during the shot-clock era, accruing 52 points in 26:33 of game time back in 2018.
Doc Rivers compares Embiid to two Hall of Fame big men
Given Embiid’s recent play, the Sixers star is in a fight with Nikola Jokic as the best center in the NBA. It’s safe to assume Rivers would side with his own big man if forced to pick between them.
Doc, the veteran coach in his second season with Philadelphia, threw out a couple of highly-impressive names when describing the type of player Embiid is (h/t: USA Today).
“We talk about different guys, bigs that I’ve coached and been around. I was with David Robinson as a player, Patrick Ewing as a player, and I coached Kevin Garnett. … I always say he’s a little bit Olajuwon and a little bit of Garnett. It’s a helluva combination if you can get it.”Doc Rivers
It’s quite the compliment to be compared to Olajuwon and Garnett, two Hall of Famers and former MVPs. But Rivers also specified that at the end of the day, Embiid is still a highly-unique player.
“The difference is Joel can go out to the 3-point line, which sets him apart,” Rivers added. “He’s Joel Embiid, he’s not any of those guys. He’s his own guy.”
“He brings the ball up the floor. He’s just talented. Listen, I said it last year when I got here. I knew he was good, [but] I didn’t know he had all of this. I really didn’t. He had a game against us, I wanna say it was here when I was in LA, [and] he destroyed us. I didn’t know he could still do all of this. It’s amazing.”
Joel Embiid is in the MVP conversation
Much of the MVP talk has been centered around lots of the guys who have already won the award. The reigning MVP Jokic, along with Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LeBron James are all firmly in the mix and seemingly have been since the start of the season.
But those stars need to make room for Embiid.
Embiid is at an inherent disadvantage for only playing in 33 games. But he makes up for that with impressive season-long averages of 28.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. His 49.4% field-goal clip and 37.5% clip from three are the second-highest of his career, as is his 119.0 offensive rating.
As far as how Embiid stacks up to the rest of the MVP candidates, the 7-footer trails only Jokic and Antetokounmpo in player efficiency rating, or PER. He also sits third in box plus-minus and sixth in VORP (value over replacement player). In other words, you can count the number of players who are statistically better than Embiid on a single hand.
Assuming he stays healthy and continues to lead the Sixers up the standings, Embiid’s MVP case will only be strengthened. And perhaps eventually, he too will have the same piece of hardware both Olajuwon and Garnett own.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.