Fresh off another appearance in the NBA All-Star Game in which he mingled with some of the world’s finest talent gathered in one arena, Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid believes he has identified the best basketball player in the world.
Joel Embiid has a very high opinion of himself
Joel Embiid has started three straight NBA All-Star Games and appears on most lists purporting to identify the top 10 active players in pro basketball. Now in his third full season – or what passes for full seasons for Embiid in light of numerous injuries since being drafted No. 3 overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014 – he’s performing close to his career averages of 24.1 points and 11.5 rebounds a game on 47.8% shooting from the field.
He posted 22 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes at last weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on the heels of scoring 26 to help the 76ers defeat the highly regarded Los Angeles Clippers.
And then Embiid went off for 39 points and 16 rebounds in his first outing since the break as Philadelphia defeated the Brooklyn Nets, 112-104. Maybe it was the adrenaline talking, but Embiid reached a conclusion following Thursday’s overtime victory.
“The game against the Clippers was a good starting spot, but the All-Star game was just proving that I’m here, I belong, being the best player in the world,” Embiid said.
Joel Embiid gets to put his theory to the test right away
Proclaiming yourself the best player in the world is a bold move, one that must be supported just about every night in head-to-head matchups with others ranking among the NBA’s elite.
Joel Embiid gets to test his theory almost immediately since the Philadelphia 76ers’ next game is Saturday against the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, himself coming off 25 points and 11 rebounds as the All-Star Game captain for the Eastern Conference.
Like the 25-year-old Embiid, Antetokounmpo makes the cut on lists of the top current NBA players. Now in his seventh pro season, he has improved his scoring and rebounding averages every year in the league.
This is the first year that Antetokounmpo’s shooting percentage from the field hasn’t followed the same progression, but he’s still shooting 55% while getting to the free-throw line more than ever and averaging 30.0 points and 13.5 rebounds.
Antetokounmpo, also 25 years old, does all that with a target on his back each night as the reigning league MVP.
Can Embiid and the 76ers reach the next level?
Ranking the best players in any sport is a subjective exercise and results in places on the list being highly fluid. That’s not so much the case in evaluating the best teams since retired NFL coach Bill Parcells had it right by famously pointing out, “You are what your record says you are.”
The Philadelphia 76ers are a modest fifth overall in the Eastern Conference standings, which isn’t good enough to guarantee the home-court advantage in any playoff series.
They’re 26-2 at home but just 9-19 on the road, something that Joel Embiid will have to help fix to truly rate alongside or perhaps above the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.