I’m sure you’ve read about the Markelle Fultz and Drew Hanlen craziness by now and probably seen the horrendous free throw all over social media and ESPN.

So let’s talk about Joel Embiid instead, because I feel like I really haven’t written much about him this year. In every recap, it goes something like, “oh yeah, by the way, Joel had 32 and 12 last night, he’s just been so good in 2018.

I guess the reason for the lack of words is because Joel is a known quantity. You expect him to go for 28 and 15 in every game now, and in the early part of the season, we’re focused on things like Markelle and Ben and their shooting and some of the new faces on the team.

Joel is on pace for a historic season. He put up 35 and 18 last night with six offensive rebounds. He shot 8-15 from the field, 3-4 from three, 16-20 (!!!) from the foul line, and turned the ball over twice while committing just one foul. That is a ridiculous basketball line, just elite in so many ways, especially for a 7’2″ center in the modern day NBA.

This is a 24-year-old guy who didn’t even start playing basketball until he was a teenager. The minutes restriction is a thing of the past. He is fully healthy and he is certainly an MVP candidate if he keeps playing this way.

Year to date, Joel is playing about five more minutes per game. His shooting is up and pretty much everything extrapolates to an improvement when you run his per-36 numbers.

Lemme give you the raw stats first:

His field goal percentage holds steady from last year, but you see a lot of improvement from the foul line. He’s getting there 11 times per game and hitting at 80%.

Here’s what it looks like if you run last year’s numbers on 36 minute parameters:

29 and 14 per 36 minutes. That’s wild stuff.

He’s averaging more points on fewer two pointers, and you see the increase in three point and free throw shooting.  His turnover numbers are down significantly and his rebounding and block numbers look good. I think the improvement from the foul line has been a really pleasant surprise.

League-wide Joel is now:

  • 2nd in points per game
  • 5th in rebounds per game
  • 6th in blocks per game
  • 1st in double-doubles

The only area where other centers are truly outplaying him, if you really want to go there, is in three-point shooting. Guys like Nikola Jokic and Nik Vucevic are hitting almost 10 percentage points better from deep, and it wouldn’t be much of a sidebar at all if Joel wasn’t attempting 4.3 deep shots per game. Still, he makes up for that from the line, where he shoots better than the likes of Anthony Davis, Jusuf Nurkic, and Marc Gasol.

Right, so Joel is in elite company this year. He’s having a fantastic season, and his performance last night was key in getting the Sixers a good road win over a decent Miami team.

Some other notes from last night:

Popping the Kork

Was it a mistake to decline Furkan Korkmaz’s rookie option?

He poured in a career-high 16 points last night on 5-9 shooting while going 3-6 from deep and 3-3 from the line.

Furkan has some game. He really does, and he’s not just a catch and shoot guy off the bench. He’s shown some savvy on the floor, which you saw last night on that nice give-and-go backdoor play with Ben Simmons that got him a layup at the rim.

More than anything, you could always use shooting off the bench. Brett Brown says he doesn’t know what happens with Furkan’s minutes moving forward, and Korkmaz complained about his lack of playing time about two weeks ago, but at this point would you rather trade for a 37 year old Kyle Korver or give Furkan a chance to be the guy coming off the pine?

Something to think about.


If you didn’t see it:


Markelle told reporters after the game that the ball slipped out of his hands.

Seems like there was a lot of backlash against trainer Drew Hanlen last night, and maybe rightfully so, because I’m 99.9% sure that this was given to Alex Kennedy as a way of Hanlen distancing himself from Fultz:

Here’s the thing to remember: Markelle showed some really smooth jumpers in the preseason and even in the regular season. He was not consistent, no, but for all intents and purposes, it seemed like the mechanics were back to where they needed to be.

So is this purely mental? Yeah, probably. People still seem to think there’s some kind of injury here, but I’m not sure how something like that would not be fully diagnosed and rehabbed by now. For what it’s worth, Brett Brown was asked last week if Markelle had any lingering health issues, and the answer was “not that I know of.”

Say whatever you want about Hanlen, but he’s a basketball skills trainer and not a sports psychologist. He can teach Markelle everything he needs to know about his shot, but it’s on Markelle and nobody else to just go out there and get it done. It’s nice that the fan base and front office and coaching staff are all throwing their unconditional support behind him. The media has more or less been restrained in the questions we’ve asked him. It’s time for him to take the next step forward, because he’s the only one who can walk through that door.

Other notes:

  • Miami’s City Edition uniforms are fantastic, though the pink baselines were kind of trippy. Felt like I was on acid last night.
  • On FIOS, the broadcast went silent about halfway through the first quarter and was not fixed until halfway through the second quarter. My wife became so irritated that she took over the TV, turned on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” and made me put the game on my tablet instead, which also did not have sound.
  • Mike Muscala took ten three pointers and hit three last night. I’m fine with that. If you’re open, shoot it. If he can give the Sixers important stretch-four minutes in the post-Dario era, that would be a really nice surprise.
  • Wilson Chandler started last night and played a conservative game. He logged 23 minutes with five points and three assists on 2-3 shooting. He was a +6.
  • JJ Redick poured in a “quiet” 25 with Embiid dominating the game on both ends of the floor.
  • Hassan Whiteside, who I think is a slug, actually had a decent double-double game. You just see how special Embiid is though when you compare his output to Whiteside’s output.
  • Last, and certainly not least, the Sixers only turned the ball over 9 times last night. It’s their lowest total of the season and first time they finished in single digits this year. They were 5-1 in six games last year where they coughed up the ball fewer than 10 times. Add in 39 free throws and 10 offensive rebounds, and that’s the formula for limiting opponent possessions and winning on the road.