In his return to the lineup following an eight-game absence, Joel Embiid is averaging 28 points, 16 rebounds, and 3.25 turnovers. All three of those numbers are better than his 2018-2019 season averages.
During that four-game span, the Sixers knocked Indiana out of the third seed and claimed the season tiebreaker over the Pacers while handing Milwaukee their 6th home loss of the season and clinching a playoff berth in the process. That’s not a bad week for your town, your team.
You could end the article right there, with the Captain Obvious statement that Joel Embiid is incredibly important to the Sixers, important to the point that any analysis or discussion of what the Sixers look like sans Joel is borderline folly or fruitless. Brett Brown’s squad went 4-4 without him post-All Star Game, which included a three-point home loss to the Warriors and one-point road loss to the Bulls. They’ve looked sleepy at times this year, but the road wins against Klay Thompson-less Golden State and Malcolm Brogdon-less Milwaukee should at least provide hope that this team can do something in the postseason, something more than a second round exit.
Sometimes it’s good to just take a step back and look at Joel’s numbers, because performances like the one we saw Sunday are almost expected, aren’t they? I think we lose focus of how good he is.
For starters, Joel is posting career highs in the following per-36 minute and total number categories:
- 29.2 points (up from 27.2 last year)
- 1,955 minutes played (hit a career high 1,912 minutes in 63 regular season games last year)
- 14.6 rebounds (up 1.6 from last year)
- 3.7 assists (same as last year)
- 81.1 free throw percentage (up 3 percentage points from his rookie year)
- 53.5 two-point percentage (up less than 1 percentage point from last year)
- 59 true shooting percentage
- 3.8 turnovers (improved by more than half a turnover per 36)
Joel’s offensive rating is also at a career high right now, 113, though his defensive rating of 104 is not as good as the 100 he posted last season. The only other areas where he’s down a bit are three-point shooting, where he hits at just 29% and free throw attempts, where his 10.6 per 36 number is down 0.6 from his rookie year.
I like the site NBAMath.com, where they combine offensive and defensive box plus/minus metrics into a statistic called TPA (total points added), which simply serves to show how effective a player is overall.
Here’s the Sixers’ TPA:
That’s a very balanced output. You want those OPA (offensive points added) and DPS (defensive points saved) numbers to be close together to illustrate a player that contributes on both sides of the floor. You see JJ Redick at the bottom, for context, as a guy with insane offensive numbers but horrible defensive numbers.
League-wide, Joel and Ben both place in the top 25 among all NBA players in TPA.
Another way to gauge the importance of Joel’s presence is simply by looking at on/off court numbers, where NBA.com/stats reveals that the Sixers are a +5.9 with Joel on the court and a -1.5 off the court. That’s the biggest +/- swing for any individual Sixers player.
It’s also not surprising that the starting lineup of Embiid, Redick, Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Jimmy Butler is a +52 in just 116 minutes played together since the February trade deadline. They are frontloaded, if nothing else.
And in the most simple terms, the Sixers are 5-6 without Joel Embiid on the hardwood.
He’s the best player this city has seenin many years, and you already knew that, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and put things in perspective.
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) March 17, 2019