Joel Embiid is Adapting to Doc Rivers’ System Perfectly

NBA: MAY 05 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 3 – Celtics at 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates after a dunk in the first half during the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 05, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

After another MVP level performance, Sixers’ big man Joel Embiid is lifting his team to their early season success.

There has been constant chatter about Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid not being a good fit together on the floor for the Sixers. This season, though, those rumors have been shut down. The two budding stars are understanding their roles. Joel is limiting his three point attempts, which last season seemed to be almost every time he touched the ball. He’s playing within the offense and letting the points come to him. The best part, though, is that Embiid can take over when he realizes he has to, which exactly happened last night against the Wizards.

Joel Embiid is getting comfortable, but he’s not happy. He wants to be in the conversation for both defensive player of the year and MVP. Based on the start of this season, there’s no reason that if he keeps up this level of play, he shouldn’t be considered for both at the end of the season. 

The Win Over the Wizards

Early on

During Wednesday night’s win over the Wizards, Embiid started off 0-6 from the field and looked out of step. Along with this, Embiid made some poor decisions to go along with missing those shots. Simply put, it looked like it wasn’t going to be his night. After taking a seat and most importantly, not sulking, Embiid came in and decided that it was his game to take over.

Ben Simmons and Seth Curry had put up 21 of the Sixers 32 first quarter points. Embiid did not need to carry the team then, but he kicked it into hyperdrive. After returning from the bench, he went 6-8 from the field. It started with him taking a free throw on a technical foul and then proceeded to hit five straight shots. He was moving well with and without the ball. His impact increased as his energy level was through the roof while running the floor, crashing to the ground, and blocking some shots. 

The Second Half

Last night, the second half was owned by Joel Embiid. After starting 0-6, Embiid hit 11 of his next 14 shots including three of four from beyond the arc. As the game went on and the Wizards clawed their way back into the game, Embiid had a few plays that have summed up the change in him this season.

First came a run down block where he didn’t give up on the faster Raul Neto streaking down the court. While the play resulted in a foul on Danny Green after the rebound attempt, it showed Embiid’s fitness level increased. Despite running and gunning for nearly an entire game by that point, Embiid had the extra gas to keep the pedal to the floor at both ends of the court.In years prior, Embiid wouldn’t have had the energy or stamina to make that play. This year is different.

Then, with the Sixers clinging to a five point lead, the big man took a pass from Simmons. Here, he proceeded to knock down a critical three that gave them a nine point lead late in the game. This, of course, was just another example of Embiid playing within the offense and taking good shots. Immediately after that, Embiid had the ball about 15 ft from the basket and instead of trying to force his way in, found Simmons underneath with a brilliant spinning pass that put the Sixers up eleven and virtually sealed the game for them. 

Sixers’ Success on the Horizon

This is not last year’s Joel Embiid. Before this season, Embiid would have been trying to do it all and back down a defender, most times resulting in some poor dribbling and turnovers. This year, he’s on another level. He recognized the Simmons mismatch and immediately made the turn to get the ball, quickly, to Simmons for the easy bucket. 

This season, Embiid is ready to take his game to another level. His commitment to playing all aspects of the game is obvious. In a game when the Wizards and Sixers were just playing a pickup game, Embiid came through on both ends of the court. Finishing with a season high 38 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds is a good night for the centerpiece of the Sixers. Even last night against Brooklyn, Embiid dropped a casual 20 points and 12 boards- and it was one of his off nights. The more important part is that he finished with three blocks and three steals.

That right there shows that Embiid is playing much better defense and staying in his zone. Embiid knows where he should be, anticipates the plays and reacts correctly instead of being overzealous and trying to do too much. Limiting his minutes and having him out there at the right times is something that Doc Rivers is working on, but it’s seems to be working so far. Keeping Embiid healthy and active when he’s needed will be key to a deep playoff run.

Mandatory Photo Credit: Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire