When it comes to drawing fouls, few players in the NBA are better than Philadelphia 76ers‘ star Joel Embiid. Over the years, he has perfected the craft of getting himself in the right spots to force officials to make a call. The results of this are the All-Star center regularly being among the league-leaders in free throws attempted per game.
In the Sixers’ game 1 win over the Toronto Raptors, Embiid got to the free-throw line 11 times. In comparison, Toronto got to the line 23 times as a team.
Things tend to get more physical in the postseason, and it was apparent in the first meeting of these teams. While both sides brought the intensity, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse felt Embiid got away with some things he shouldn’t have. He voiced his displeasure with how the MVP finalist was officiated following game 1.
“I don’t care if you’re 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, if you beat him to the spot and he runs you over, it’s a foul. I thought he threw three or four elbows to the face. He got called for one. We’re going to stand in there.” According to USA Today.
Containing Joel Embiid Is A Tough Challenge
Early in his career, Embiid struggled against Toronto and their ever-changing defense. Nurse would throw an array of different looks at him and appeared to be his kryptonite. That being said, this version of Embiid has presented a whole new challenge for opposing defenses.
Since emphasizing his health and conditioning, Embiid is now one of the league’s most dominant forces. Very few teams have the frontcourt personnel to match him physically around the rim. While Nurse is aware his squad is at a size disadvantage, he doesn’t see things ending well for the Raptors if the refs continue to officiate Embiid this way.
“If we’re legal defensively, then we gotta have them call it or we don’t have a chance. Period. Nobody can guard that guy if they’re just gonna let him run you over time and time again. We’re gonna stand in there and we’ll see.” According to USA Today.
Embiid is easily the most physical force the NBA has seen at the center position since Shaquille O’Neal at his apex. His blend of strength and graceful footwork makes him almost impossible to defend. Unfortunately for Nurse and the Raptors, Embiid should not be zeroed in on by officials simply because he has such a physical advantage in this matchup.
Opponents Main Dilemma With Embiid’s Foul-Drawing Skills
Embiid’s ability to get to the line has always been a topic of conversation, but it’s moved to the forefront since the addition of James Harden. Now that Philly has two players who rack up a large number of free throws, multiple coaches have given their thoughts on the matter.
In reality, the reason opposing teams groan about Embiid drawing fouls is because of how efficient he is at the line. Game 1 is a prime example of this. Along with getting to the line 11 times, Embiid converted nine of those attempts.
When looking at the numbers, Embiid averages about the same number of free throws per game as Shaq did in his prime. The only reason there were few complaints back then is the Hall of Fame center only made 52.7% of his attempts. While with Embiid, going to the line is almost guaranteed points.
Drawing fouls is a skill few superstars in the league have mastered. Following Nurse’s comments, how the refs handle Embiid moving forward will be a key thing to watch as this series unfolds.