We are truly blessed to be witnessing the pure dominance of Joel Embiid. He has not hit age 30 yet, but he already has 6 all-star appearances, 5 all-NBA selections, 2 scoring titles, and an MVP. Philadelphia might not see another player of this caliber for decades. Even after an MVP season, he continues to get better. He is currently averaging 33.3 points (career high and league leader), 6.4 assists (career high), and 11.5 rebounds. As Embiid continues to get better, so does the team around him. Maxey, Batum, Oubre, and Harris all have an eFG% above the league average of 54%. Having players that shoot efficiently when called upon will only continue to make Embiid a better player as defenses are forced to be give him more space to cover the threat of shooters around the outside.

Batum’s Impact

Nico Batum has been an incredible addition as one of the lethal shooters that Embiid has around him. The Clippers threw in Batum to a trade when he was averaging less than 3 points a game for them. They most likely believed that he would not be missed. Maybe he isn’t missed on a team that already has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the wings, but the Sixers sure do enjoy having him. He is now averaging 55.3% from the 3-point line as well as an absurd 82.3 effective field goal percentage. That is really good.

Not only does Batum shoot the 3-ball so efficiently, he has a very quick trigger from anywhere on the floor – especially the corners. No matter where around the line he is, Batum is always ready to shoot. He seems to start his shooting motion before the ball gets to his hands, then continues the shot while catching the ball. Not only that, but he maintains incredible balance with his feet.

Batum’s shooting ability has been one of the factors that has allowed Embiid to average his career high in assists this year. So far this season, he has opened that floor as well as anybody Embiid has ever shared the floor with: including JJ Reddick and Marco Belinelli.

Embiid’s Start to December

During the start of the easy stretch of games this December, Embiid has absolutely dominated. Even on a night where Luka Doncic had a 40-point triple double, Embiid’s 50-point performance was still graded higher. He has averaged 40.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists to begin December. Two of those games were against the Wizards, but nonetheless, not many people in history could do what he’s been doing.

In each of the three games, Embiid scored more points than minutes played. He averaged 1.17 points per minute. Obviously that is a very small sample size, but it does not matter because Embiid is still the NBA’s leader in points per minute since the merger. Yes, that means not even Michael Jordan scored more points per minute than Joel Embiid, and he shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Managing Embiid

Speaking of minutes, Embiid has averaged 34.8 minutes played per game. This is slightly higher than last year, and unfortunately his career high. This is not good news for Sixers fans. Embiid dominating in the regular season does not come as a surprise to anybody that watches the NBA, but Philadelphia hopes for this dominance to one day make it past the second round of the playoffs.

As everyone has grown accustomed to, injuries have cursed Embiid early in the playoffs year after year. From wear and tear on his knees to freak fractures of his orbital socket, Embiid has managed to find himself in less than ideal situations to be the best player on a championship team. Every minute played presents an opportunity for Embiid to get hurt. Hopefully, with the continued improvement from Maxey, Embiid can play less minutes. If that can’t happen, hopefully the minutes played are at least less strenuous than in the past. Maxey has carried the team to victory on some nights and hopefully he continues to do so in order to preserve Embiid for the playoffs.

Let’s Still Enjoy It

No matter what happens in the playoffs, Embiid is still such a phenomenal player. Sixers fans need to enjoy it. Great players that lead the league in points per minute do not come around very often. Occasionally Sixers fans can get fed up with Embiid’s antics on the court. Sometimes he can get mopey and complain about missed calls, but even on his worst nights he still puts up better numbers than the best players on other teams.

Embiid is such a great fit for Philadelphia: Loyal, dominant, and a troll. Whether the fans and media like when Embiid trolls, it fits with this great city. The fanbase gets very reactionary (and that’s what makes it such a great sports city), and Embiid fully embraces it. Before Embiid, the 76ers were nothing. Literally. Embiid wins more games in one season than teams before him won in four. With Christmas season here, let’s be thankful for the continual gift of great basketball that Embiid provides for this city.

 

 

Photo: Getty Images

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