‘Tom Brady-ish’: Sixers’ Doc Rivers Has GOAT Praise for Star Big Man

Joel Embiid, Sixers

Getty Joel Embiid, Sixers

Three games into an obviously bizarre NBA season for the Sixers, star Joel Embiid has posted some bizarre numbers. Teams have been throwing junk defenses at Embiid with exceptional frequency, but Embiid has responded with an alteration in his game: he is passing more than ever.

Embiid is averaging a team-high 5.0 assists for the Sixers this year, which also represents a career high, by a significant margin. Embiid’s standing career high in assists is 3.7 per game, in 2018-19. His scoring has dropped from 28.5 points per game last year to 21.0 this year, but his ball movement has been superb.

In fact, Embiid was so sharp passing the ball in the Sixers’ last game, Sunday’s win over Oklahoma City, that coach Doc Rivers gave him a pretty impressive comparison—GOAT quarterback Tom Brady.

Rivers was tempted to go with a certain Green Bay quarterback at first but seemed to remember that he’s from Chicago, and no self-respecting Bears fan could give credit to any Packer.

“It’s just great to watch,” Rivers said. “They kept walking over, coming together and he was just patient, was directing, picking people apart. Aaron—no, Aaron Rodgers, can’t use that one because he’s in Green Bay. But any other good quarterback. Tom Brady-ish, that is what he was today.”

Embiid Has Been Sixers’ Real Point Guard

In the absence of Ben Simmons and with second-year player Tyrese Maxey starting at point guard, Embiid has taken on a bigger role as a ballhandler and fulcrum of the offense. His assist percentage, 25.9%, is the highest on the team and the most of his career. The Sixers have made an effort to run offense through Embiid and rely on his court vision to create plays for others.

“I thought Joel was every bit as much the point guard tonight as anyone else on the floor,” Rivers said.” I thought he got Seth shots, I thought he got Danny shots. When he does that, he becomes unguardable because, you trap him, we get a 3. You don’t trap him, he scores. That was great. He saw it and I love that he did.”

Embiid leads the league this season in post-up plays, getting 7.0 such plays per game. He has not been that efficient when he shoots in the post himself—he is making only 43.8% of those shots, according to NBA.com/stats—but he attracts the attention of the defense and opens up the floor for everyone else when he does.

“He works on his game,” Rivers said. “He worked on it all summer. That’s the part people feel like they can get to him on and now he is proving them all wrong. You trap Joel, he’ll make you pay. That’s what he did today.”

Embiid Leadership Has Been ‘Absolutely Wonderful’

And, in a situation in which the impasse between Simmons and the organization has threatened to derail the Sixers’ season altogether, Rivers said Embiid has stepped up with his leadership, as well the physical conditioning he needs to take on an even bigger role with the team.

“He’s been absolutely wonderful, he really has,” Rivers said. “He’s just, not just with his play but verbally, on the floor, knows he has a young point guard on the floor. He’s in great shape too. The blocks that he is having, just his being able to take guys—we got a 7-1 guy doing Eurosteps. It’s incredible watching him play.”

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