Over the weekend, a quote came out from the Sixers’ star and NBA MVP candidate Joel Embiid in which he referred to himself as “unguardable.”
And while Joel has been one of the most incredible players in the entire NBA thus far this season, that is an extremely bold statement to make. Since this quote has been released, many top NBA players and NBA coverage pages have responded with less than thrilling comments to the Sixers’ center. From the perspective of a Sixers’ fan however, is Joel Embiid truly “unguardable?”
We first have to realize what Joel is saying when he calls himself “unguardable.” What Joel truly means is that he has such a diverse game offensively, that he cannot be stopped. However, as we had just seen in this most recent game against the Toronto Raptors, Joel is capable of struggling. He is not “unguardable” in the sense that no single team or player is capable of shutting him down. Despite scoring 25 points in that Raptors game, he only made six of twenty field goals which would constitute a bad game from the field. And while this should be the end of the argument, there is a different way to approach Joel’s incredible skills.
While Joel Embiid, and no other player in the NBA for that matter, is “unguardable,” Joel does create possibly the greatest mismatch for any defender in the league on average. Joel’s diverse skill set coupled with his size is a difficult ask of any defender in the NBA. First of all, any defender under 6’10” cannot possibly be asked to guard Joel for the duration of an NBA as he is too big and could shoot over them, or too big and strong and could simply go through them. Now assuming the defender is appropriately sized to deal with Joel, his dribbling and overall ball-handling ability makes him a treat to blow right past the defender with various ball fakes and dribble moves. And often times, these big men are not even close to dealing with Joel’s strength in the post.
Think of some of the best big men defenders in the NBA. Rudy Gobert is probably the most capable man to give Joel problems, but even he is not strong enough to deal with Joel in the post. Myles Turner is one of the best shot blockers in the NBA, and is also not strong or fast enough to deal with Joel. Anthony Davis was eaten alive and often times didn’t even guard Joel when they met earlier this season. What about Marc Gasol? Joel is even more-so now forcing him, and all big men, into immediate foul trouble and is tremendously faster than Gasol.
So while Joel Embiid may not be “unguardable,” he may be the greatest mismatch in the NBA for any potential defender.
Photo: via BILL STREICHER/USA TODAY