Joel Embiid’s growth as a leader has saved the Sixers from an implosion

NBA: MAY 05 Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 3 – Celtics at 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 05: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) looks on during warmups before 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)

Joel Embiid’s leadership has hit another level this year. With All-Star point guards missing in action and highly-paid players playing worse than ever before, Joel’s leadership and maturity have been two of the most impressive developments in not only his game, but the overall growth of the team.

Joel Embiid has gone from a social media troll who’s good at basketball to a true leader for a Philadelphia 76ers team in desperate need of one. The 76ers have been playing fantastic basketball as of late (winners of 7 straight) and in large thanks to both Embiid’s on-court performance and off-the-court leadership.

The Cameroonian has publicly supported his teammates and done his best to encourage them to shoot more often, reflecting the trust he has in those around him to take and make shots. With no Ben Simmons in sight and Tobias Harris being Tobias Harris, there is more weight on Joel’s shoulders than ever before. Instead of crumbling under the pressure though, Embiid has taken this time to improve another facet of his game: His leadership.

With a season that could have been rudderless amid the Ben Simmons drama, Embiid has used his time to mentor his younger teammates and step up as a figure for a roster of young players to turn to. Embiid has gone as far as calling out his teammates to take more threes and to shoot more often.

It’s not just in how Embiid calls out his teammates, but it’s the fact that they respond to him. When Joel called out Matisse Thybulle in their pregame interviews, Thybulle showed Embiid he was listening and responded by jacking up a season-high 5 threes in his next game against the Houston Rockets, a sign of growth for the 76ers defensive ace.

The 27-year-old did something similar to Tyrese Maxey after Maxey’s career game against the Brooklyn Nets. Embiid encouraged Maxey’s shot and Maxey responded with a 5 for 8 three-pointer explosion against Kevin Durant and his Nets. After the game, Embiid took to post-game to talk about and praise Maxey for his excellent performance.

This Sixers team responds to Embiid’s leadership because of his commitment to the Sixers and those around him. Each player in the locker room knows the type of player Joel is and knows that he wants each and every one of them to succeed. He holds them all to high standards, just as he does himself. Embiid has spent this season hyper-focused, especially since returning from missing games earlier in the season.

How easy would it have been for this Sixers team to fall apart at the seams? No Ben Simmons. Tobias flailing. Constant COVID setbacks that have seen Embiid carry the burden night in and night out, surrounded by very raw talent with high upsides. Because of his leadership and continued drive, those players have found a level of confidence in themselves and those around them, lifting the team out of what could’ve been a very dark hole.

Over his last 10 games, Embiid has averaged a jaw-dropping 32.6 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, and 1.6 blocks per game. His shooting splits over the last 10 have been phenomenal as well, shooting 53.7% from the field, 41.4% from three, and 83.8% from the line. Embiid’s play does more than just boost his own numbers, but it shows the rest of the Sixers team that he is committed to winning.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

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