Whenever Joel Embiid launches a three-point shot, there are inevitably a few groans in the stands.
“Why are you 25 feet away from the basket? Get in the post!”
“You gotta be kidding me! You’re 7-feet tall!”
Unless Embiid suddenly acquires JJ Redick’s shooting ability, there’s always going to be angst about his three-point attempts. Yet Brett Brown has said he wants Embiid shooting more from long range.
“I really want him to shoot six to eight threes per game,” Brown said on March 2. “So how does that happen and he’s still an interior presence, a paint-catch guy? If you look at our team, I’m convinced that the three-point line is where the sport is heading and I think it’s going to rear its head in the playoffs, and our point guards don’t shoot threes. So already, you’re kind of dealing with zero with Ben (Simmons) and with T.J. (McConnell)."
At his end-of-season press conference last Thursday, Embiid explained where he sees the three-point shot fitting in his offensive arsenal.
“Threes have never really been a big part of my game,” Embiid said. “If I’m open, I’m going to take them. I feel like it’s kind of disrespectful to leave me. I might make some, I might miss some. Last year, I was a better three-point shooter. This year, not being able to work during the summer kind of affected that, and with all the injuries and stuff. But this summer is going to be a big one, and I know what I need to correct and my trainer does, too. So we’re going to fix a lot of things.”
Embiid shot 31.3 percent on 3.4 long-distance attempts per game this past season, down from 37.5 percent on 3.1 attempts his rookie year.
Like Brown, Embiid feels that the Sixers’ offense is better when opposing defenses have to respect his shot. But while Brown cited the need to compensate for lack of three-point shooting from McConnell (27 for 62 from deep during the regular season) and Simmons (no made three-pointers), Embiid had a different rationale.
“Obviously, I want to be a beast inside,” Embiid said. “It’s also not just about me, because if I spend all my time on the block, it kind of clogs up the paint. You have to allow guys to drive and score at the rim. I don’t want to always clog the paint, so sometimes you have to spend time at the three-point line just to open things up because I feel like I attract a lot of attention and guys are not going to leave me open, so it just opens the whole offense.”
As anyone who watches the NBA could tell you, the modern game is all about scoring at the basket and from behind the arc. So while it may seem ludicrous on the surface to have the player who finished second in the league in post-up points per game (9.1) shooting regularly from three-point territory, Embiid isn’t going to stop shooting threes just because he wasn’t very good from long range this season.
That said, it doesn’t sound likely that he will ever launch six to eight times per game, as Brown desires. It’s just not his identity as a player.
“[Three-point shooting] is definitely a part of my game,” Embiid said, “but the biggest part of my game is to be a low-post, dominant scorer.”