Joel Embiid is the truth. Though The Process has yet to enjoy full, starter-type playing time—he’s on a 28-minute restriction to protect his health, and rides the bench for back-to-backs—he’s posting eyebrow-raising numbers in his 25.2 minutes per game. The flashiest figure might be his scoring per 36 minutes: 28.0 points, a mark not achieved by any rookie since Wilt Chamberlain’s first year in the league. He seems poised for two-way superstardom, too: with his springy rim protection and quickness on rotations, he’s singlehandedly shoring up their defense.
How do the Embiid-anchored Sixers lineups put up a better defensive rating than the league-best Warriors? It starts with Embiid allowing opponents to shoot just 42.5 percent on shots he is defending that take place less than six feet from the rim. No big man in the league is doing a better job at protecting the hoop.
The 13-26 Sixers already surpassed last year’s win total (granted, 10 was a low bar) and smell slightly less putrid as of late, going 6-4 over their last 10 games. Meanwhile, Embiid is the only player on the entire roster with a positive plus-minus rating this season, according to Basketball Reference. He’s a cumulative +53; at the shit end of the list sits fellow center Jahlil Okafor, with a pretty -196. When Embiid is off the floor, Sixers units lag behind their opponents by a cumulative -277, per nbawowy.
As you pour one out for Vine today, remind yourself that Embiid was a blessing to the medium:
Especially at the rim:
Earlier this year, the Sixers’ logjam at center looked logistically unresolvable and frequently hideous to behold (see the ungainly Okafor-plus-Embiid units), but after half a season, the fates of these three players have crystallized quite a bit. Nerlens Noel, nursing injuries and reportedly out of game shape, supplies enough rebounding and defense to earn a starting spot elsewhere in the league, if he can wrangle an escape from the bench. Lead-footed Okafor might never prove useful in the modern NBA. And Joel Embiid is one of the three or four young players you’d most salivate over the chance to build a franchise around.