In the final edition of our Philadelphia 76ers mid-season report cards, it’s time to see how the centers have played so far this season.
The center position may be the best overall position group for the Philadelphia 76ers, and that’s simply because Joel Embiid is playing like a man possessed this season. He’s easily the MVP of the first half of the season and, if all goes well, he’ll be in the conversation for MVP at the end of the regular season.
Dwight Howard has done great as the complementary piece behind Embiid, and even Tony Bradley, in limited minutes, has provided enough to be a depth piece as the season moves on. So here are the grades.
Joel Embiid: A+
30 GMS – 33 MPG 30.2 PPG 11.6 REB 3.3 ASST 1.4 BLK
Joel Embiid has been nothing short of spectacular the first half of the season. He’s stated that he wants to be the best player in the NBA, the DPOY, and the MVP. With the way he’s playing this season, there’s no reason that he won’t be recognized at the end of the year for at least one of those.
He’s shooting 52% from the field, 41.6% on threes, and 85.6% from the free-throw line. Embiid, as a center, is close to joining the 50/40/90 club. That, in itself, is an achievement. Pair that with Embiid taking pride in his defensive play and his actual physical condition, and Embiid has become the unstoppable force that many imagined he would be.
There aren’t many players in the game who can do what he’s doing, and routinely at that. Coaches and players alike have lavished praise on him after playing against him. The one thing that has impressed me this year is his tenacity. He’s back to being himself on the court, something that seemed lost a lot last season. But, this year, he’s really taken it personally that he’s overlooked in the top player mentions.
Rudy Gobert is considered by many to be the best defensive player in the game, and that helps make him one of the best centers in the league; Embiid is taking it personally this year. To show just how much more dominant he is, Embiid put up 40 points, 19 rebounds, and 2 blocks against Gobert. Just to show the NBA that he could.
His shot selection outside of the paint is much better this year, and he’s allowing the game to come to him. Doc Rivers has put him in good spots in the offense but, Embiid is the one that actually has to produce, and he’s done that better than anyone in the NBA this year. His leadership and play are what’s going to carry the Philadelphia 76ers into and on a deep run in the playoffs.
Dwight Howard: A-
36 GMS – 16 MPG 6.1 PTS 7.3 RBS .9 BLK
Dwight Howard has developed quite nicely into a veteran leadership role. He’s aware of his limitations as he’s now thirty-five years old. That’s a hard role to accept for someone that has been regarded as a superstar in this league for as long as he’s played.
What is expected of him, he’s doing. Six points, seven rebounds, and a block per game isn’t bad for your backup center. Especially when Joel Embiid is the starter. Where Howard has really helped the team is his leadership. He’s one of two players to appear in every game.
Howard has taken the younger players, most importantly Ben Simmons, under his wing. He has had players routinely shooting and working immediately after games. He’s showing the players what it takes to get to the championship level. It’s something that took Howard a long time to get to, but when he did last year in Los Angeles, it seems like he’s embraced that role of a veteran leader. His value is higher for the off-the-court leadership than it is when playing on the floor.
He’s a constant cheerleader, still has great energy, and is still quite imposing when he’s playing. The minute limitations he sees benefit him, and there’s never been a question of his strength and durability. Howard will be a vital piece of the puzzle come playoff time. He can still contribute, and the Sixers aren’t as concerned when Embiid takes a rest as they have been in seasons past.
Tony Bradley: C
12 GMS – 10.6 MPG 3.9 PTS 4.2 RBS 56% FG
Bradley was acquired in the Zhaire Smith trade with the Detroit Pistons just prior to the season. It was more than likely a good insurance policy should anything happen to Embiid. He’s appeared in a limited number of games and a limited amount of minutes.
When he’s playing, as a later reserve, he’s producing what you would expect from a team third center. He’s an insurance policy at the moment in time, but he’s not a bad one to have. Hopefully, Bradley isn’t needed much for the season as Embiid can stay healthy and on the floor.
Vincent Poirier: N/A
6 GMS – 3.7 MPG .7 PTS .7 RBS
Poirier was a player that the Philadelphia 76ers took on for a salary in the Al Horford trade. He hasn’t seen hardly any minutes and won’t see any going forward.
The Least Of The Philadelphia 76ers Worries
The health and durability of Joel Embiid have been a question for the first few years of his career. He seems to have become more serious in taking care of himself, and the Sixers, in turn, have taken the right steps in getting him some rest for a few games.
If he can continue to play at the highest levels, maintain his health, and let Dwight Howard clean up the remaining minutes, the Philadelphia 76ers have a great chance of heading to the NBA Finals, and the center position would be the least of their worries.
When your two centers combine for a line of 36/19/4 to go along with 2.5 blocks per game, I’d say the team is pretty well off in that position.