Over the past few days, ESPN has been dropping their projected player rankings for the 2022-23 season. While the intention may purely be to spark up a conversation, it leads to players around the league feeling slighted and media members going to battle over perceived mistakes in the rankings. This has been the case thus far as Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and James Harden found themselves in the top 100 list. With just the top five players waiting to be announced, it was not a question of if Joel Embiid would also make this list but rather where he would land on it.
This was put to rest Friday morning as ESPN dropped the top five player rankings with Embiid finding himself as the fourth-ranked player in the NBA.
Why Embiid Came in Fourth
This ranking is an improvement for the Sixers superstar as he was seventh on the list coming into last season. These projections are made based on the expected output in the 2022-23 season. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps pointed to his impressive offensive production as the biggest reason for his rise. Embiid set a career-high in points last season with 30.6 per game which led the entire NBA. He also averaged the fewest minutes of any player to ever win a scoring title with just 33.8 minutes per game logged.
When looking at reasons for him to potentially rise, Bontemps brought up staying healthy in the postseason as the biggest area for improvement. Embiid played a career-high 68 games last season but suffered a facial fracture and thumb injury in the postseason. If the back-to-back MVP runner-up is able to stay healthy the sky truly is the limit for how good he can be. It was also acknowledged in the article that the leap to the number one ranking is not that far with the improved roster looked at as a source of optimism. As Bontemps put it in the ESPN article:
“After years of having to make up for the deficiencies of a flawed roster around him, this season is the first time Embiid will be surrounded by a team built to optimize his strengths. That will only increase Embiid’s chances of claiming that elusive MVP award and leading Philadelphia to the deep playoff run missing from his résumé.
If those things happen, he could vault to the top of this list.”
Did ESPN Get it Wrong?
It may be stating the obvious but there are a lot of great basketball players in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Donic each have fair arguments for why they are ahead of the Sixers superstar. There also is a strong case for Steph Curry to be above Embiid after securing his fourth NBA title last season with his continued offensive brilliance.
However, there is a sense that Embiid does not receive the national appreciation he has earned to this point. In addition to the NBA-best 30.6 points per game, he also added 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game. The 28-year-old became the first big man since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-00 to win a scoring title, Embiid has consistently been the most important player for his team on both sides of the ball which cannot be said about all of the players ranked above him.
While these rankings are subjective and up for debate, they could serve as further motivation for Embiid and the Sixers moving forward. The MVP runner-up has consistently been plugged into the national media and used it as motivation in the past. His bulletin board must be getting full as there is plenty of doubt for him to look at despite his continued success.
With the most complete roster to ever surround him put in place, look for Embiid to return as focused as ever in 2022-23. The lack of postseason success will continue to be the biggest note against him and changing this in the postseason will be Embiid and the Sixers’ biggest priority.