Embiid, who was drafted third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft has been named to two All-Star teams and he is one of the top five scorers in the league. He’s averaged 20 points per game over the last three seasons while playing just 31 minutes a night.
Credit: USA TODAY Sports/John E. Sokolowski
Joel Embiid had a fantastic game against the Toronto Raptors, scoring the game-winning basket in overtime to give the 76ers a 3-0 lead. Embiid won the scoring championship this season and will almost certainly finish second or first in the MVP vote. He’s continued that form into the playoffs and is now looking forward to the second round, when he just needs one more victory.
Embiid’s accolades has been pouring in from all sides. However, athletes value some viewpoints much more than fans. Those are the thoughts of past MVPs and winners of the game. Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith are among the panelists on TNT’s Inside The NBA.
The team has already chastised Embiid for his lack of aggression in previous seasons. Despite the presence of previous MVP James Harden, they were the first to present Embiid with flowers for his performance today and how he has definitely been the 76ers’ leader.
Shaq has been one of the most outspoken critics of Joel Embiid in recent years, and he had a straightforward message for Joel’s performance.
“He seems to be in excellent shape. To me, you seem to be an MVP. Doc did an excellent job drafting the play, and they executed it well. “With the shot, the MVP does what he does.”
Kenny Smith mentioned the one complaint of Embiid that the panel has had for years: his proclivity to shoot the ball rather to go in the post. Even though Embiid could have taken the ball into the post and gotten fouled or scored an easier shot under the basket against the undersized Raptors, the game was tied when he opted for a three.
“Watching Philadelphia win the game was really frustrating.” For whatever reason, Joel prefers the ball to be near the top of the key rather than in the box. They were already doubling him, but they were able to get the ball inside the area. It’ll open things up for the players around you, and that’s how you improve them by giving them wide-open shots. They did, however, pull one off against a Toronto squad that was short-handed. “There’s one more to go.”
Barkley did address Kenny’s remark regarding Embiid’s ability to shoot, but not before comparing him to Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon and delving into how Embiid’s talent enables Philadelphia to thrive.
“In the millenium, he’s the closest thing to Shaq or Hakeem.” You must double him or foul him in the box because he is unstoppable. You can’t foul him at the conclusion of the game because he can shoot free throws. They’re backing off, so you’ll have to double him, leaving other men vulnerable. Either you must double or he must score. I’m not sure why they put the ball there (at the top of the key), and they’re lucky because it might have been a 2 to 1 situation.”
It’s acceptable to criticize Embiid’s style of play, but when he hits the daring three-pointer, it should be irrelevant. We may speculate about what would happen if he missed it, but the fact that he made it should enough to silence that narrative. He has the ability to make critical shots in the same way that other players do, and if he is confident, he should play as he wants. It’s encouraging to see the squad and coach have faith in Embiid.
Tyrese Maxey’s development and the arrival of James Harden have given this squad a new sense of confidence. Tobias Harris’ success in this series is aided by the team’s greater trust in the players surrounding him. So far, Harden has not been aggressive and has been feeding Embiid. Maxey had a quiet game in Game 3, but the Raptors had no response for him until today.
The Inside the NBA crew’s critiques of Embiid are reasonable, but they are unnecessary when the recipe is working. Their appreciation far surpassed their criticism, and if Embiid can maintain his current form and bring success to Philadelphia, he may be considered an all-time center.