76ers' Daryl Morey: Joel Embiid 'Is an Unfair Advantage in This League'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid plays during an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Joel Embiid is having an MVP-worthy season in 2020-21, and Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has noticed.

"Joel is in the rare group of players in NBA history where most of the time, when you watch him, you are wondering if there is a higher level basketball league he can be promoted to, as he is an unfair advantage in this league," Morey told Derek Bodner of The Athletic. 

Embiid, 26, is averaging 29.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from three. Few players can both carry a team's offense and anchor its defense, but Embiid wears both hats for Philly. 

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Joel Embiid made only 33% of his dribble-jumpers last season. Now, he's hitting 53.5% of his midrange jumpers off the dribble and 33.3% of 3s, per @nbastats. Embiid looks more fluid than ever facing up & shooting. More on Embiid in my new power rankings: https://t.co/YW7Mqqoxl7 https://t.co/lwMFxXPZw6

"I think he realizes how dominant he is," Ben Simmons said of Embiid. "He continues just to get better, especially with his passing and his patience. He lets the game come to him a little bit more now. He's just been dominant. I haven't seen anybody who can stop him. I don't know if you have."

No, not really. The Sixers are 16-3 in games Embiid has played this year and just 1-4 when he sits.

Morey did well to get Embiid more complementary players this offseason, adding shooting and spacing to the starting lineup (Danny Green, Seth Curry); a legitimate backup center (Dwight Howard); an intriguing young point guard via the draft (Tyrese Maxey); and ditching otherwise good players who simply didn't fit next to Embiid and Simmons (Al Horford, Josh Richardson). 

The result has been that Embiid has had more room to operate in the post. It's helped that he's improved as a passer when the doubles come, no doubt.

Lauren Rosen @LaurenMRosen

Doc Rivers says his mission for the @sixers' offense has been to let Joel Embiid play in space: “When you put Joel in space, it’s very difficult to guard him.”

But when they don't, the big man absolutely cooks his defender, utilizing a deadly elbow jumper, a flurry of post moves, the ability to bully his way close to the basket, range to the three-point line and the James Harden-esque ability to get to the line to put points on the board (his 11.3 free-throw attempts per game lead the league).

It's fair to argue that he's emerged as one of the toughest matchups for any individual defender. No big man in the league combines his unique package of size (7'0"), strength (280 lbs), finesse and athleticism.

"It's not sort of [MVP-caliber play]. It's for sure MVP-caliber play," teammate Tobias Harris said in January. "Night after night, he controls the game, controls the paint. More than anything, defensively he's just a force for us. His activity in pick-and-rolls, his presence out there is huge."