There’s no denying that we’re witnessing something special with Joel Embiid.
The All-Star center is having an MVP-caliber season. He’s currently second in the league in scoring, seventh in rebounding and sixth in blocks. He’s also cut one whole turnover off his average from last season, something Embiid worked hard over the summer to correct.
Despite the stellar play of Embiid, the Sixers find themselves at just 6-5 through 11 games this season. Even Brett Brown admitted that his team, which won 52 games last season and was the East’s No. 3 seed, is not “amongst the royalty” in the conference.
It’s far from time to panic, but there are definite concerns for this team. Chief among them is that Embiid needs help.
You have to start with looking at the starting lineup he’s playing with. He’s managed to get off to red-hot starts recently, but the players on the floor with him aren’t providing much help. Robert Covington is making threes, but he’s limited offensively. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are struggling to play together and their presence hurts the spacing for Embiid. Dario Saric is off to an incredibly slow start.
Then there’s JJ Redick, who may be the player Embiid most benefits from playing with. Since hitting eight threes against the Magic, Redick is shooting just 35 percent from three over his last eight games. With Redick’s track record, you can count on him turning it around and they need him to boost the two-man game with Embiid at some point.
“[Embiid] is our crown jewel,” Brown told reporters after practice Tuesday. “He is the centerpiece of everything we do, defensively and offensively. It’s throwback stuff, it’s atypical for the NBA. He’s very different from anybody in our league. And he needs the ball.”
The biggest thing Embiid needs is a fellow shot creator. Either Simmons needs to shoot more, Fultz needs to be more impactful — a big ask right now — or the team needs to acquire a player that can create off the dribble.
It won’t be easy to find a trade. Teams aren’t just going to give up shot creators and makers and the Sixers’ only true assets are draft picks. Other than the team’s untouchable stars, the only current player on the roster that would be attractive is Covington, mostly because of his cap-friendly deal. Maybe Fultz’s upside could attract a team, but the Sixers would be selling him extremely low and there would seem to be more value in trying to allow the 20-year-old to develop.
With all that said, Embiid needs the ball and the Sixers know it.
“I looked back at the tape like, ‘How did I get off 32 shots?’” Embiid said of his game against the Clippers. “Just to learn and see what’s happening. I never want to be selfish. I just looked at it and I learned that I played within the flow of the offense, I was in the right spots and my teammates were finding me. They were able to put me in the best position to be able to dominate. The game is slowing down, I’m healthy, I’m in shape, so I gotta keep improving.”
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