Yeah, it’s a Small Sample Size, But Joel Embiid is Shooting the Three at a Career-High Clip

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Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If the NBA season ended today, Joel Embiid would very easily take home the MVP award. His numbers are off the charts and defensively there’s no interior player matching what he’s doing right now.

Of course it’s dumb to even think about this, because we’re eight games in, and while the Sixers are 7-1, their wins have come against the Wizards (2x), Hornets (2x), Knicks, Raptors, and Magic. Not exactly murderer’s row there.

But it’s still worth a short post on one of the most ridiculous numbers out there right now, one of the most random statistics you will find, which is this:

Joel Embiid is shooting 40.9% from three

That’s a crazy number for Embiid. Crazy when you think about the fact that he’s a career 32% three-point shooter who hasn’t put together a 35% season since his first year, way back in 2016-2017.

It’s reality though, through seven games against subpar competition. And the funny thing is that he’s not attempting more threes under Doc Rivers; he’s actually attempting fewer. He’s only putting up 3.1 threes per game this season, which is a career low. Shooting a career-high and attempting a career-low is what we’d call efficient, because it means that the rest of his 15 nightly field goal attempts are mostly at the rim, or relatively high-percentage face ups on the low block.

See the chart:

That’s what you’re looking for in a Joel Embiid shot plot. Plenty of looks at the rim, some fringe paint work, and the trailing or catch-and-shoot three pointer, which is wide open whenever he wants to take it.

Ironically, Embiid is shooting the three better than a lot of bona fide, stud scorers.

At 41.9%, having hit 9 of 22 this year, he is shooting at a better clip than:

  • Mike Conley (40.7%)
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. (40.7%)
  • Marcus Smart (40.5%)
  • D’Angelo Russell (40.4%)
  • Jrue Holiday (39.5%)
  • Fred VanVleet (39.1%)
  • Jamal Murray (39%)
  • James Harden (38.8%)

So on, and so forth. It’s a small sample size, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

If you wanted to get a little more specific, we could set the filters to look for centers who have attempted at least 20 three pointers this season. This is what we find:

Interesting company there. A couple of hybrid guys who get the PF/C label via various statistical systems. Embiid and Anthony Davis are the best players on that list, by far, when taking all phases of the game into account.

So yeah, it’s very early in the year, small sample size, though we’re actually 11% of the way through this COVID-shortened season. We should approach this data set with caution, but the fact of the matter is that Joel is shooting the three really well, and that’s not necessarily something we expected to see.

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