12 Players – Heroic Labors: Joel Embiid

With the NBA playoffs beginning, the challenge that the players will face in their quest for a championship becomes clearer. While it’s foolish to argue that this restart will decide the legacy of an NBA player or organization, it certainly can help to build up one should they go the distance.

Just as Hercules had to overcome 12 challenges or labors in order to prove himself to be worthy, NBA superstars will be taxed in a way they never have before. Superstars will be responsible for carrying their teams on the court like usual but they will also have to keep their groups focused, engaged, and united in their quests for a championship. Here are the biggest challenges that 12 NBA superstars will face as they seek to win the title. Here we look at…Joel Embiid.

Joel Embiid is one of the few true physically imposing centers that remain in the modern NBA. He has the ability to completely dominate a game on both ends with his physically…

…yet too many times he just doesn’t. Whether it be a lack of focus or a disdain for the physical toll it takes to dominate a game from inside the paint, Embiid does not consistently impose his will on games.

By any metrics or any way you look at it the Sixers have been a disappointment this season. They finished 43-30, good for 6th in East. Ben Simmons is now out for the foreseeable future. A team that had title aspirations, now seems poised for a first round exit at the hands of their long-time rival Boston Celtics. Not only has the season been a disappointment for them collectively, statistically for Embiid its been a down year. In every major statistical category Embiid was worse than last year save for his three point percentage, which went from 30% to 33%. Embiid’s reluctance to dominate inside is not only evident while watching live but also by his shot frequency. Per Cleaning the Glass, last season 44% of his shots were at the rim and 38% were from mid-range. While this season 34% were at the rim and 48% were from mid-range. Some of that is a product of the clunky fit with Al Horford at starting at forward and that the Sixers are just dreadful at post entries, but those things can’t account for that significant a drop.

Take Game 1 Monday night, Embiid finished with only 15 field goal attempts and per NBA.com’s tracking data (which can be shaky), Embiid only logged 7 post ups. SEVEN! That is simply mind-boggling. Embiid is an MVP caliber player when he’s engaged. With no Simmons, the offense must consistently run through Embiid if for no other reason than to slow the game down and limit the Celtics possessions.

Admittedly the Sixers have been disjointed throughout the season and the fit between Embiid and Simmons — really the fit of the entire roster — has been continually questioned. Going into the restart Embiid declared, “…I know I’m capable of carrying the team, so it’s all about me being assertive. If I feel like I’m not getting the ball, I just got to talk to them and do what I have to do. But at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about getting the ball, just because of who I am. I believe I can carry the team, and I believe being able to do that, I just got to take matters into my own hands. And obviously, I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I believe my teammates are going to help.”

This is not the first time he’s declared that the offense should be going through him. Embiid is more than comfortable in doing the talking, it’s time for his play to represent that assertion. Night in. And night out. For the Sixers to do anything positive in this post season the burden will fall on Embiid to carry the offense — from the interior — and to anchor the defense. He has the talent. He has the physical tools. It’s time to see it translate to production and playoff success.

by Frank Greco (@fgreco12)

Jimmy ButlerDonovan Mitchell — Jayson Tatum — Pascal Siakam — Nikola Jokic — Giannis Antetokounmpo — Kahwi Leonard — Lebron James

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