Are the Sixers wasting Embiid’s finest hour?

In recent days a debate has permeated the Philadelphia 76ers fans. It is curious, because this type of controversies usually appear when the results do not accompany, but this time the team is immersed in a positive streak. Joel Embiid’s latest performances are bordering on MVP level and the question many Sixers fans are asking is clear: is the franchise doing everything possible to take advantage of the Cameroonian’s form?

The controversy is based on a premise: today the 76ers are still far from the title. As much as Daryl Morey and Joel Embiid himself insist on saying that it is not necessary to improve the squad, the majority of fans think otherwise. The dependence on its star player, together with the high level shown by the leading teams in the Eastern Conference, make the challenge of winning the ring with this raw material a utopia.

At the center of all eyes is the dilemma Ben Simmons. From the sports management it has been repeated on numerous occasions that there is no rush to transfer the player who has been in absentia since the beginning of the season. In addition, in the last few hours the journalist from The Athletic, Shams Charania, has reported that the franchise prefers to wait until the end of the season to seek a transfer for James Harden or another star. Leaving aside an asset as valuable as Simmons and not taking advantage of its market value, which is getting less with each passing day, seems risky.

Meanwhile, Embiid has put the team on his back and, after a hesitant start, has managed to get the Sixers to string together good results. Philadelphia has won 11 of its last 14 games and Joel has averaged more than 34 points per game in this time span. So far in 2022, it has only been left on one occasion without reaching 30 points. It has become a scoring machine and there are already several rivals who succumb helplessly to such superiority.

A dream season

Beyond results and sensations, the numbers reflect Joel Embiid’s immense season. The center is the only 76ers player who has positive figures within the rating defensive and offensive according to the RAPTOR statistics, one of the most reliable indexes. The team has pieces that complement each other perfectly in both areas, such as Matisse Thybulle in defense or Seth Curry in attack. However, no one comes close to as complete a contribution on both sides of the court as Embiid.

76ers Players in the RAPTOR Index (FiveThirtyEight)

The high level of dependency of the Cameroonian is increasingly evident. This season he has been uncovered as the fourth player in the entire league with the most Win Shares he is averaging 48 minutes (0.257), only surpassed by Jokic, Antetokounmpo and Gobert. This statistic measures the responsibility of a player within the victories of his team, with the league average being approximately 0.100. The Sixers’ next-ranked player, Tyrese Maxey, trails far behind at just 0.119, contributing less than half as much as Embiid.

To continue highlighting positive aspects of his game, it is worth mentioning that Joel would be part of that list of players that are most difficult to defend or practically unstoppable. The pivot is the second who has visited the free throw line the most times in the entire NBA, only behind Giannis. Being also the one who has scored the most from this position. This data speaks volumes and well of what rival defenders suffer when they have to face him. We are talking about a player who receives an average of more than 8 fouls per game, a completely absurd statistic that he shares with Antetokounmpo.

Season PTS ws/48 VORP PER FOOT
16/17 20.2 0.117 1.3 24.1 17.4
17/18 22.9 0.155 2.6 22.9 17.7
18/19 27.5 0.194 3.8 26.1 19.6
19/20 23.0 0.192 2.5 25.8 19.4
20/21 28.5 0.266 3.8 30.3 20.3
21/22 28.7 0.257 3.2 31.2 21.0

This year we can talk about Embiid reaching the maturity of his career. The 2021/2022 is being the best season of his life by numbers and sensations. It is true that the team’s results are not as good as, without going any further, last season. But it’s just as true that the level of his rivals in the East has risen and Joel doesn’t have another star by his side. If last year earned him to be a finalist for the MVP award, this year he is on the way to repeat it, who knows if with different luck.

looking for helpers

The truth is that Embiid’s physical condition does not invite you to make medium-term plans with him. His daring style of play, his physiological conditions and a worrying injury history do not ensure that he will play at this level in several seasons. Players of his stature and so corpulent tend to accumulate more injuries. All these ingredients make the Sixers find themselves against a rock and a hard place, with the need to move and find the right pieces that can complement them.

The most feasible is that, in one of those movements, Ben Simmons will be included as a bargaining chip. One team that seems interested in him would be the Trail Blazers, who have two interesting assets: Lillard and McCollum. However, Lillard’s attractive option loses credit with his injury. Other teams that could be interested in a transfer would be the Sacramento Kings or the Indiana Pacers, although it seems that they do not have pieces that the Sixers management is interested in.

Knowing which player profile can best fit Embiid is a difficult task for Morey. If we look at the numbers of net rating From previous seasons it can be seen that the Cameroonian has complemented himself very well with players like Korkmaz, Burks, Redick or Belinelli. This context may open the door to options like CJ McCollum’s. On the other hand, the Blazers player doesn’t seem to have enough of a poster to fit in as a second star either.

from the optics sixers, the option not to move Ben Simmons is understandable. It is difficult to part with a player of such caliber without receiving fair compensation. However, the feeling that his movement is beginning to be more necessary than ever has increased. It is not easy to know if in any season a window like this will open again. Pairing this Embiid with another great talent could be the ultimate step closer to the coveted Finals. Regardless of what he says in front of the gallery, Morey knows that in the coming weeks he could pull the trigger and he is prepared for it.

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

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