Should be a doozy between two of the NBA’s best bigs.

Maybe they are the NBA’s best bigs. I guess that depends how you feel about Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams and other guys hovering around the top-five.

Either way, welcoming Anthony Davis to Philly on the night before Thanksgiving is the perfect barometer to determine just how far Joel Embiid has come this season. The Pelicans have won six of seven and find themselves three games above .500. The Sixers are on a three-game winning streak and have yet to lose at home. There’s a little bit of a “something’s gotta give” vibe surrounding this game.

When you look down the NBA statistical charts, Embiid and Davis appear frequently.

They both rank:

  • top five in points per game (Embiid 3rd, Davis 5th)
  • top eight in rebounds per game (Embiid 4th, Davis 7th)
  • top five in blocks per game (Davis 2nd, Embiid 5th)
  • top eight in double-doubles (Embiid 1st, Davis 8th)

Davis is 6’10”, about 250 pounds, so he gives up just a slight height advantage to Joel. He’s normally listed as a power forward on most charts, though he really falls somewhere between. You’ll see Nikola Mirotic at the four tonight while Julius Randle spells both bigs. Cheick Diallo is called on when necessary.

When you compare Embiid and Davis’s per-36 numbers, Davis is slightly more efficient across the board. He shoots at a higher clip and doesn’t turn the ball over as frequently:

Joel does put up more a few more points on the strength of his free throw numbers. Davis is a 79% free throw shooter but Embiid gets there a couple more times on average.

Both guys have put up some ridiculous individual performances this season.

Davis has logged two 40 point games during the win streak, averaging 37, 11, and 6. He’s putting up 2.4 blocks per game while only committing 2.4 fouls. Joel is averaging 29, 13, and 4 over his last five games.

Joel shoots more than double the amount of three pointers than Davis, but hits at four percentage points lower. Davis does more work at the rim, where he’s easily above NBA averages, and he can do some damage from the elbow and the top of the foul line as well:

Joel’s chart is more expansive.

He likes that turn and face on the low block and isn’t as smooth near the free throw stripe, but you see the higher percentage of straight-away three pointers that he takes and makes:

Davis certainly has the better handle. He moves fluidly for a big guy and I think that’s probably where you see the biggest gap between the two players right now – turnovers, dribbling, protecting the ball, and passing.

For what it’s worth, the Sixers split with the Pelicans last season, winning 100-82 at home and losing 134-121 on the road. Embiid did not play in the loss due to back stiffness, and Davis went for 29 and 8 on and 11-19 shooting night.

In the return game at the Wells Fargo Center, Davis really struggled, shooting just 6-19 in 28 minutes of action. He went for 44 the next night in Brooklyn, which kicked off an 11-game win streak.

According to NBA.com tracking stats, Davis was matched up against Embiid on 25 offensive possessions and scored four points on 2-7 shooting. He scored 10 of his 14 points on 4-8 shooting against Amir Johnson and Ben Simmons. On the other side of the floor, Embiid scored 14 points against Davis on 6-11 shooting over the course of 28 possessions.

Revenge game for Davis tonight? Probably not, but you never know. Either way, should be a fun one. We only get to see this matchup twice a year, and this is one of those times.