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Warriors' Steve Kerr Lauds 76ers' Joel Embiid as 'A Unique Force in Our League'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid "a unique force in our league" ahead of the team's matchup Monday night.

Kerr was full of praise for the big man, who is one of the front-runners for this year's MVP award:

John Clark @JClarkNBCS

I asked Steve Kerr about how much Joel Embiid has improved shooting Steve said Joel is “a unique force in our league” Steve says he doesn’t know if he’s seen anybody who can shoot like him and the Eurostep and also back somebody down in the post like an 80s/90s center https://t.co/WSocRWCtgy

Embiid, 27, is having a monster season. He's averaging 30 points, 11.1 rebounds, three assists, 1.4 blocks and a steal per game. The Sixers outscore opponents by 12.3 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court, per NBA.com, and are outscored by 0.7 points per 100 possessions when he sits.

And Philly is 30-8 when he plays and 9-9 in games he's missed.

That, of course, is the rub against Embiid's MVP candidacy—his missed games. Denver's Nikola Jokic, by comparison, hasn't missed any games.

For many MVP voters, that disparity in games played might be enough to tilt the scales over to Jokic, despite the fact that Embiid leads the Eastern Conference's top team (the Nuggets are fourth in the West), has arguably been just as impressive offensively as Jokic and is the superior rim-protector and defensive player.

"I got to stay focused," Embiid told reporters last week when asked if he sees himself as the MVP. "I want to win and as far as MVP, I've been dominant all season. I'm not gonna be here to try and push myself, but I know that I've been dominant all season. We got a number one seed, when I got the ball, it's either a foul or a bucket, or if I take whatever the defense gives me so I feel like I'm right there. I feel like that's mine."

Regardless, Embiid is having an incredible season. And Kerr knows a thing or two about "unique forces" in the NBA. He played with Michael Jordan. He's coached a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry and a one-time MVP in Kevin Durant.

Curry might not be the greatest player of his generation—nobody's touching LeBron James in that conversation—but it's fair to argue that no player has changed basketball more in in the past 20 or so years than Curry, whose elite perimeter shooting has led a number of teams to prioritize floor spacing and an increase in three-point attempts.

That's a unique force. Embiid is proving to be one as well, according to Kerr.

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