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I don’t need to see any more.
Wrap up Joel Embiid and get him ready for the season opener.
When you do this in your first game since January…
— NBA (@NBA) October 12, 2017
…then you’re ready to play a real one.
Sure, it’s still preseason, and I’m not gonna go overboard in a lopsided win against the Nets, but if you watched even five minutes of last night’s contest then you saw Embiid passed the eye test with ease.
1) Redefining a role
There’s not much I can say about Embiid that hasn’t already been said.
The obvious takeaway is how much he improves the defense as a 7’2″ rim protector.
Case in point, this block:
Joel Embiid dropped 20 in his first preseason half … and he brought his help defense. pic.twitter.com/VA9YkIOs8f
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 12, 2017
Embiid shot 18 foul shots last night. 18! And he hit 14 of them. Six of ten starters didn’t even score that many points in total last night.
Joel will spend a lot of time at the line this season. He’s already unguardable, and now he’s adding things like this to his game:
Looks like Embiid’s been watching some Dirk footage this offseason. pic.twitter.com/UnM3Bs1vz6
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 12, 2017
No one defends that unless the officials whistle the forearm shrug.
The thing with Embiid is that he’s not really one of anything. He’s not just a stout defender. He’s not just a low post scorer. He’s not just a pick and roll player. He does all of that and more, which essentially makes his designation as a center somewhat of a wash. It’s sort of like Ben Simmons playing the point at 6’11”. We can shoehorn guys into roles as a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, but this team has a couple of players who blur those lines to the point where it almost becomes comical to even think about.
Case in point, the “center” assisting the “point guard” in this fashion:
Who's the point guard and who's the center? pic.twitter.com/hTFXU9P2CZ
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 12, 2017
The only negative thing I saw from Embiid last night was a couple of fouls in the post, when he was just a tad late to shuffle his feet and slide. He moves with great fluidity but smaller guys will be able to squirt past him at times. D’Angelo Russell hit a really nice floater over Embiid with a quick release in the paint.
But on the offensive end…
"They can't f***ing guard me!"
Joel Embiid 22 points (14-18 FT), 7 boards, 3 assists & 1 block in 15 minutes. pic.twitter.com/RYv4HEPsRn
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 12, 2017
2) Rajon Rondo?
Rookie moments for Ben Simmons, who continues to find his feet.
He shot 4-8 inside the key and 0-2 outside of it. Most of the stuff he’s finishing is right at the rim. His jumper is pretty much nonexistent at this point.
Does he need one right now?
No, not if he’s kicking the ball out to Embiid, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and JJ Redick:
— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) October 12, 2017
Simmons can improve offensively first by becoming a better finisher at the rim. He’s not going to need to shoot from 12 to 15 feet if he’s hitting 4-5 shots in traffic per game. That puts him on track for 8-14 points per game, considering the fact that he’s probably going to be the second-most fouled player on the team behind Embiid. A couple of buckets, a couple of foul shots, and a bunch of assists get you a double-double every night.
I’ve read some super hot Twitter takes out there, that Simmons is just a “6’10 Rondo” right now. Is that the worst thing in the world for a rookie with four preseason games under his belt? Rondo won a ring, went to four All-Star Games, and was honored multiple times for his defense and assist numbers. If Rajon Rondo is the “floor” for Ben Simmons, then what’s the “ceiling?”
3) Let’s find minutes for this guy
It’s T.J. McConnell, a guy who plays every possession like it’s game seven of the finals.
I just feel like there’s better ball movement when he’s out there, whereas Jerryd Bayless isn’t going to hesitate to take that three-point shot. That’s fine if he’s knocking them down, but McConnell is doing more to involve his teammates, dish it around, and wait for the higher percentage play.
Are there enough minutes to go around? I have no clue. You’ve got Simmons, Bayless, and McConnell in the logjam, and I didn’t even mention first-overall draft pick Markelle Fultz.
McConnell is an NBA guard. Nice find of Embiid for the And1. Embiid is better than any other center pic.twitter.com/806a1uhIqA
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 12, 2017
4) The sixth man
Overshadowed by Embiid’s brilliance was the fact that Dario Saric was actually the leading scorer on the night.
He’s similar to Simmons and Embiid in that blurring of the lines that I mentioned earlier. He can play some spot 5 this season. A “stretch-center?” Call it whatever you want. He contributes in a variety of roles in a variety of situations. If he plays anywhere close to how he played last night, the sixth-man award is already wrapped up.
He’s also a good judge of talent:
Saric on Embiid: "If he stays healthy, I hope I will be on his team…because of that I can start to celebrate one championship earlier."
— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) October 12, 2017
Eleven points, four rebounds, and a couple of steals in 15 minutes for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. He shot 57% from the field and went 1-2 from three-point land.
I thought he played a nice game, adding some defensive bite on the wing and doing a little bit of everything.
He only recently was upgraded to full health, so it’s a situation similar to that of Jahlil Okafor, where there’s probably gong to be some rust knocked off. If he can continue to improve his shooting and hit a couple of those open looks that come his way, he’ll be a solid backup for Covington off the bench while Furkan Korkmaz gets tons of minutes in Delaware.
Think about a second unit of Luwawu-Cabarrot, Fultz, Saric, Anderson (?), and Amir Johnson or Richaun Holmes (or Okafor?). That’s better than the starting lineups the Sixers were rolling out a few years back.