For all of the lottery-pick whiffs during “The Process,” the Philadelphia 76ers landed an absolute star in Joel Embiid. His ascension to superstardom has eased the pain of misses in Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, and Michael Carter-Williams.
Over the last two seasons, Embiid has blossomed. The back-to-back MVP runners-up might sting, but just to be in the conversation and that close has to count for something. Further, it bodes well historically for Embiid to have fallen short twice: no player has ever been MVP runner-up twice in their career and not also gone on to actually win.
Embiid also finished last season as the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to win the league’s scoring title. The center is in the middle of his prime and is a sight to behold.
But the Sixers want everyone to know that Embiid’s stardom isn’t a recent development.
“@JoelEmbiid IS different,” the Sixers tweeted after the Kansas Men’s Basketball team tweeted a video of the Embiid dominating along with the caption “@JoelEmbiid was different.”
There’s no doubt Embiid is different on the court. But recently, Sixers GM Daryl Morey opened up about Embiid’s contributions off the court as well.
Morey Describes Embiid’s Help in Roster Building
GMs often consult with their star players when constructing a roster. In some cases it works out perfectly: it’s an olive branch to the star to give them a stake in team’s future. But in other cases, like the recent Kevin Durant-Brooklyn Nets debacle, it can backfire dramatically.
But excluding a star from the conversation altogether? That’s a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Morey has regularly sought input from the Embiid to help round out the roster. In fact, Embiid had some say in who the Sixers targeted this summer in free agency.
“It just so happens that obviously we have James now. There are certain players who work well with James, so it’s natural to maybe look for that fit. Similar with Joel. Just finished playing a series (against) P.J. Tucker. P.J. was able to really impact that series in a lot of ways with his toughness, with his high-level defense, with his energy on the floor, with his offensive rebounding. And Joel correctly said, ‘Hey, we could use a guy like that.’ But at no point did Joel Embiid say, ‘We have to have P.J. Tucker,” Morey said on an episode of The Take Off with John Clark earlier in September.
But will the additions be enough to get Embiid over Philadelphia’s playoff hump? Or what about securing his long-awaited MVP award?
Embiid: ‘Still Another Level That I Can Reach’
If Embiid is going to finally get an MVP award and if the Sixers are going to make a Finals run, one thing must happen. Embiid must elevate his game to yet another level. Fortunately, the big man has some experience in that department.
“Every single season, I feel like I’ve gotten better, and there is still another level that I can reach,” Embiid said in May. “I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago; Every postseason, I’ve seen adjustments that have kind of made me want to make changes in what I work on during the summer.”
If Embiid can pair his 2021-22 offensive numbers with his earlier-career defensive stats, he might be an undeniable candidate next season.