31 G | 25.4 MPG | 20.2 PPG (46.6 FG%) | 36.7 3FG% | 78.3 FT% | 7.8 RPG | 2.1 APG | 2.5 BPG
• At this point, pretty much everything there’s been to write about Embiid’s breakout but brief rookie campaign has already been written. In an effort to put things as succinctly as possible without cheapening any of the his accomplishments, no player in NBA history had ever scored, rebounded, and blocked shots at the rate the center did in 31 games. During an end-of-season press conference, Bryan Colangelo made clear that, in his view, Embiid had done enough, saying, “He is a game-changer, he is an All-Star level talent. He is one of the foundational pieces that we look to build with and around. There’s no doubt.”
• Quickly – as in first game of the regular season quick – Embiid asserted himself as a dominant two-way threat, racking up 20 points and seven rebounds in just 22 minutes against Oklahoma City. Once again, before the Cameroonian had come along, there had never been a player who hit those marks in so few minutes in his professional debut. Embiid’s efforts versus the Thunder October 26th represented – literally and figuratively – just the beginning, as he would go on to open his career by compiling a streak of 15 straight double-digit scoring games. Amid this stretch, he registered five double-doubles as well. Only once in 31 appearances did Embiid tally fewer than 10 points, doing so December 14th, when he notched nine points, six rebounds, and five assists in a home outing with Toronto. In all, Embiid reached or topped 20 points 19 times, highlighted by a pair of 30-point performances, and manufactured nine double-doubles.
• Behind Embiid, the Sixers, for the first time in franchise history, produced a Rookie of the Month award winner in each of the first three months of a season. The big man took home the Eastern Conference’s top first-year player prize for games played in October / November (18.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg), December (19.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg), and January (23.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg). At the time Embiid participated in what eventually proved to be his last contest of the season, a January 27th 32-point outburst against Houston, he was pacing all rookies in scoring, rebounding, blocks, double-doubles, and free throws made and attempted. The Kansas product underwent surgery to address a torn meniscus in his left knee March 24th. Bryan Colangelo later said, “What [was discovered during surgery] was to the delight to really everyone. It was less significant than what was potentially thought as a worst-case scenario.”
As potent as Embiid was offensively, his defensive impact proved vital to the uptick in success the Sixers achieved during the first half of the season. With the 7-foot, rim-protecting force on the court, the team posted an elite defensive rating of 99.1 points allowed per 100 possessions (for context, no club this season finished with a defensive rating below 100.0). Conversely, when Embiid was taken out of games, that same defensive figure jumped to 108.1. Just as noteworthy as Embiid’s defensive statistics was his attitude – he genuinely wanted to make a difference on that side of the floor, with the clip below capturing the essence of his hustle and fearlessness. Upon sustaining knee injuries that cut his season short, Embiid ranked second in the NBA with 2.5 blocks per game (0.1 block off the league lead held by Utah’s Rudy Gobert).
There were plenty of reasons to be intrigued by Embiid’s skill set this season. Specific to his offense, he displayed an array of scoring moves – driving dunks, soft hooks, smooth elbow jumpers, and, of course, a rare 3-point touch. On the same afternoon he delivered the punishing block on LeBron James shown above, Embiid also canned four 3-pointers. For the season, he went 36 for 98 from beyond the arc.
Many games were more than worthy of being spotlighted here, but we settled on Embiid’s 22-point, 13-rebound, five-block effort against the Milwaukee Bucks January 16th. The 23-year old’s fourth-quarter output was crucial to helping the Sixers earn a come-from-behind victory. Of particular note, Embiid converted 13 of 18 free throw attempts overall, including 8 of 10 tries in the final frame.
Statement for the Summer:
“I look at Joel’s foundation as completely scratching the surface of what he is going to be… That is the single-most attractive quality for me that he has. The development part of his body, the development part of his game, whether it’s a Tim Duncan package that he would know what I’m talking about, whether it’s just the recognition of defensive rules, whether it’s the complete attention to his body and what weight he feels comfortable playing at. He is just at the infant stages of where he is going to end up. And those infant stages, as we all see, are just incredibly unique.”
– Brett Brown