The Sixers haven’t had the best start to their 2018 campaign. After five games, they sit at 2-3. If the ball bounced their way in a few of those losses, they could’ve easily been 4-1 at this point.
They still don’t know how to close out games against good teams, something that haunted them last season and in the playoffs. They’re still one of the youngest teams in the NBA though, so the ability to close out games will come with time and maturity.
Despite the slow start for the Sixers, Joel Embiid has played the best basketball of his career. He’s coming off his fourth straight game with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, making him the first Sixer to accomplish that since Charles Barkley did it back in 1988. He’s also the first Sixer to put up at least 20 points in each of the first five games of a season since Allen Iverson did it in 2006.
Through the first five games of the season, Embiid has put up 148 points, 62 rebounds and 21 assists. There are only seven players in NBA history who have accomplished that feat: Boogie Cousins, Shaq, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. That’s pretty good company to be in if you ask me.
Embiid has also cut down on the turnovers so far this season, averaging just two whereas last year he averaged nearly four per game.
His game isn’t perfect though and he could still use some improvement in certain areas. He is one of the best defensive assets in the league, but at times his defensive awareness seems to be non-existent. A perfect example of this happened at the end of their gut-wrenching loss to the Pistons a couple nights ago.
Blake Griffin and Embiid were trading blows all night and were the two best players on the court. With the game on the line and the Pistons getting ready to inbound, it was no secret who they were trying to get the ball to.
As Griffin caught the inbound, Reggie Bullock (the player who inbounded the ball) ran around Griffin at the top of the key for a fake handoff. Embiid was covering Griffin on this play and completely bit on the fake handoff, giving Griffin an easy lane to the basket to notch his 50th point of the game and the win.
It’s the little things like this that Embiid really needs to focus on.
I have no doubt that he’ll eventually get this corrected. He’s only 24 years old, and he’s the best big man in the game. He has all of the big, more important things down, now it’s time for him to refine and fine tune his game. If he does that, he’ll undoubtedly be a future Hall of Famer and could possibly end up as the best big man the NBA has ever seen.
Embiid is off to an historic start this season, now we’ll just have to see if he can maintain this level of play for an entire season. If he does there’s no question he’ll be in the running for the MVP at the end of the season.