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Joel Embiid Must Play Even Better To Secure A 76ers Title

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on in the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors during Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round at Wells Fargo Center on April 25, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

 

As long as Joel Embiid is around, the Philadelphia 76ers will be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

And with James Harden officially back in tow for the upcoming season, they could contend for the Eastern Conference crown.

While no splashy moves were made, Daryl Morey had a solid offseason.

Outside of Embiid, Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris, the Sixers lacked reliable players in the postseason last year.

Their perimeter defense took a hit with Ben Simmons no longer in the fold.

And their wing depth, in general, was weak with Harris and Danny Green being the only viable two-way wings.

Those issues, on paper, are solved for the upcoming season.

De’Anthony Melton, P.J. Tucker, and Danuel House were all brought in this offseason.

All three players figure to be key cogs in the Philadelphia rotation, both in the regular season and playoffs.

The debate has already started over whether this is the best team of the “Process-Era” Sixers.

The 2018-19 team has been the best team to date, pushing the eventual champion Toronto Raptors to seven games only to lose on a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater.

Only time will tell if the 2022-23 team will best the 2018-19 team.

And while the added depth pieces certainly help, the deciding factor will be the play of Philly’s superstar.

If the 76ers want to win a title, Joel Hans Embiid must lead the way.

 

The Best Ability Is Availability

Injuries have certainly defined the first eight seasons of Embiid’s career.

He completely missed the first two years and has not cracked the 70-game mark in the previous six.

Last year was his best by far with Embiid appearing in 68 of a possible 82 games.

While missing 14 games isn’t ideal, nine of those were due to contracting COVID-19.

Embiid has emphasized being healthier in the past few years, and the results are beginning to show.

He averaged a career-high in minutes per game last year and looked more energized at the start of the playoffs.

As luck would have it, Embiid would suffer two unfortunate injuries in the first round against the Raptors.

A torn ligament in his right thumb and a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion severely hampered his play in both the first and second rounds.

The silver lining found in those injuries is that they were unavoidable.

Tearing a thumb ligament was a freak accident while the orbital fracture came from a Pascal Siakam elbow.

Outside of that, Embiid did not appear to be as worn down as he had come playoff time in recent years.

If Embiid continues to improve his conditioning this offseason, he seems poised to have a breakout postseason next year.

 

Embiid Continues To Improve

In early July, Embiid’s trainer Drew Hanlen responded to a tweet asking what Embiid could add to his game offensively.

Hanlen said, “Driving, shooting & creating off the bounce.”

Per a Kevin O’Connor report on June 6, Embiid had already been “working this offseason on perimeter attacks and finishing with touch at the rim.”

All signs point to Embiid trying to better his ability to self-create on the offensive end.

And based on previous offseasons, there is little reason to believe he won’t add these skills to his repertoire for next year.

If Joel can become a more efficient scorer off the dribble, it would add just another dynamic skill to his incredibly gifted offensive skillset.

He can shoot from all three levels effectively and is truly dominant in the paint.

Being better suited to take his defender off the dribble will make Embiid better suited to handle playoff defenses.

Embiid can also better his decision-making coming off the short roll in the pick-and-roll.

Jackson Frank of Liberty Ballers did a deep dive already, so I won’t go too into the weeds.

But being able to operate quicker out of the pick-and-roll with Harden will make their attack even scarier than it already is.

Embiid has become an effective passer but can occasionally take too much time to make a read when receiving the ball from Harden.

Making quick, decisive reads when he gets the ball will break defenses down and force rotations, leading to quality looks for the 76ers.

It is hard to believe a player of Embiid’s caliber can add more to his game.

But if he improves in the two areas mentioned, it will be a scary sight for playoff opponents.




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