Amid all of the buzz around what the Sixers should do with the third pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, not enough attention is being paid to last year’s third pick Joel Embiid. The 76ers’ rebuilding effort is aimed at obtaining a superstar, and Embiid is without a doubt the Sixer with the most superstar potential. Embiid showed in his lone season as a Kansas Jayhawk that he has the tools to be a dominant two-way player at the next level. We will get a closer look at Embiid in July when he plays for the Sixers’ Summer League team, but for now we can only examine his spectacular college performance.
Considering he only picked up basketball six years ago, we can only marvel at JoJo’s success with the ball in the post. When it comes to post moves, Embiid has displayed fluid footwork and a scoring knack few in the NBA possess. This savvy in the post was best demonstrated when Embiid used a dream shake to confound a New Mexico defender.
This ability to put up points in the paint will lead opposing defenders to leave their assignments to double-team Embiid, which in turn will open up space for perimeter shots, something that was sorely lacking for Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, et al. this past season. According to SportVU player tracking data at NBA.com, 21.7 percent of the Sixers’ shots were taken with a defender within two feet of the shooter, the fourth-highest mark in the league. Essential to being able to unlock more open shots is passing out of double teams effectively, a skill Embiid greatly improved over the course of his season at KU.
Embiid himself has not fully demonstrated an ability to consistently knock down deep jumpers, pre-game workouts notwithstanding, but his shot form is smooth and pure, indicating he could become a successful shooter in the league. I am approaching Joel’s outside shooting with tempered expectations since most of his offensive work should be done around the hoop. That being said, if Embiid can hit the occasional long ball, this would be a huge boon to the team because it would ease how he fits offensively with Nerlens Noel or another non-shooter big man.
On defense, there is arguably even more to be excited about, as Embiid has shown he has the potential to be an elite rim protector from day one in Philly. In college, he was an absolute menace challenging shots in the paint and averaged 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes. Rim protection is considered by many around the NBA to be the most important skill, and the Sixers have it in bulk. A lineup featuring Noel and Embiid could be suffocating for opposing offenses. This is especially true when considering Noel’s ability to guard out to the perimeter, which he could do while Embiid stays home to protect the paint.
Joel Embiid clearly has the potential to be a dominant NBA big man on both ends of the floor, and he could help transform the Sixers from cellar-dwellers into perennial contenders. This has been a mere glimpse into the game-changing player Joel Embiid is and will become. For a comprehensive video breakdown, check out DraftExpress’s scouting video of him.