CAMDEN, N.J. -- There is still more of Joel Embiid’s game to be seen.
In only 11 contests, the rookie big man has proved he can score (team-high 17.8 points per game), block shots (2.4), rebound (7.6) and knock down threes (46.2 percent).
In spite of those numbers, he hasn’t come close to what he wants to do at the basket.
“I don’t know if it’s because I don’t really have my legs yet, but I haven’t really been able to finish around the rim like I want to,” Embiid said Saturday after practice.
Even though he is playing at a high level, Embiid is a work in progress after missing the last two years with foot injuries. The 22-year-old is continuing his strength and conditioning to get in better shape after a long layoff.
So what does Embiid have to do to get his legs back, as he put it?
“I felt like was I bouncy in college, so getting back to that level,” Embiid said. “I feel like I can push myself to be more athletic. I haven’t really been able to really when I attack the basket go up and try to dunk on someone because I don’t have that yet. So it’s just about me getting in the weight room every day, just lifting, working out, making sure I stay strong.”
Embiid has attempted 44 shots in the restricted area (59.1 percent made). By comparison, Jahlil Okafor has gone for 63 attempts and Ersan Ilyasova also has attempted 44 in the same zone.
Breaking down Embiid’s other shot locations, he has attempted 37 from mid-range (43.2 percent made), 26 from three (46.2 percent made) and 25 in the non-restricted area of the paint (40.0 percent made), according to NBA.com.
While Embiid works on his body, he studies film of former bigs. Embiid didn’t begin playing organized basketball until his later teenage years, so watching tape of those who played before him is helpful as he learns the league.
On his list of must-sees is Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Patrick Ewing, Kevin McHale, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. He points to McHale and Ewing as examples of those who succeeded around the rim. Embiid also has been paying close attention to Garnett’s vocal defensive leadership.
“I just watch all of them and try to see how they played, the type of intensity, the type of impact they had on the game, and try to pick up on that,” he said.
Once Embiid gets to the point where he can attack the basket more, he will have a visual encyclopedia of former NBA greats to help execute those moves on the court.