Can we all just take a moment and appreciate the fact that Joel Embiid is ours? As he predicted during the offseason, Joel Embiid is making a strong case for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year this year. His numbers on the court have been jaw dropping, and it’s frightening for the rest of the NBA to think about how many areas Joel Embiid can still improve upon. The Sixers currently sit at 18-9 and have the second best record in the Eastern Conference. If the Sixers continue winning at the current rate, there is zero doubt that Joel Embiid will be in the running for multiple awards this offseason. In this report, I’ll be providing an analysis on Joel Embiid’s performance in the 2018/19 season and briefly explain how it compares to last year and the other top NBA big men this season.
***Note: These stats are solely for fun and talking purposes only. I recognize that advanced statistics are not usually the best for straight up ranking or comparing players. We are over the quarter mark of this NBA season, so let’s take a break, have some fun and glance over the numbers…
LET’S TALK OFFENSE
|2017 Joel Embiid||9||11.7||76.9%||.442|
|2018 Joel Embiid||8||10.1||79.1%||.545|
|Karl Anthony Towns||4.0||4.6||87.8%||.294|
This one is no surprise. Joel Embiid’s free throw attempt rate is up considerably this year, and he ranks number one in the NBA in free throws made and attempted. Anthony Davis is the big with the second most in the NBA, but has 43 free throws less than Embiid.
|2017 Joel Embiid||22.9||57.3%||106||33.4%|
|2018 Joel Embiid||26.3||57.2%||112||32.1%|
|Karl Anthony Towns||21.3||60.2%||111||26.4%|
While Joel’s true shooting percentage is nearly identical to last year, Joel’s offensive production has increased in points per game and offense rating, while having slightly less usage. Anthony Davis currently leads all bigs in points per game, while Rudy Gobert features the highest true shooting percentage and offense rating. In fact, Rudy Gobert has the second highest offensive rating in the NBA. Anthony Davis leads the way, sitting at 4th in the NBA in points per game, while Joel Embiid has the highest usage percentage of any big man in the game. Why is Rudy Gobert’s offensive rating so high? Individual offensive rating tends to favor low usage big men because they don’t shoot except right under the basket and have less opportunities to turn it over.
Three Point Shooting
|2017 Joel Embiid||1.7||5.4||30.8%||.203|
|2018 Joel Embiid||1.2||4.1||29%||.222|
|Karl Anthony Towns||1.9||4.6||41.2%||.292|
Many have clamored that Joel should be shooting less from the perimeter this season, as his shots from long distance have increased compared to last season. As you can see in the chart, Joel’s long distance shooting rate is lower than Karl Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic. Towns wins this one and shows he is the most proficient from beyond the arc.
|% of FGA By Distance||0-3||3-10||10-16||16<3||3P|
|2017 Joel Embiid||29.3%||17.6%||22%||10.6%||20.3%|
|2018 Joel Embiid||31.3%||22.6%||16.1%||7.9%||22.2%|
|Karl Anthony Towns||24.8%||30.7%||8.2%||7.2%||29.2%|
To sum this up, Embiid is shooting more from 3 and less from between 16 feet and the 3 point line this season. No surprise regarding Rudy Gobert, who does most of his damage under the rim. The chart indicates that Jokic shoots the most from beyond the arc out of the group, while Anthony Davis shoots the most from 16 feet to the 3 point line and between 10 feet and 16 feet.
Assists and Turnovers
|2017 Joel Embiid||3.2||18%||3.7||15.6%|
|2018 Joel Embiid||3.6||18%||3.1||11.9%|
|Karl Anthony Towns||2.3||11.3%||3.4||16.1%|
The good news: Joel Embiid is averaging less turnovers per game and has a lower turnover percentage compared to last season. The semi-bad news: Joel hasn’t progressed much in terms of assist percentage. From reports during the offseason, this was an area that Joel worked on extensively this summer. As can be seen in the chart above, Jokic clearly wins in the assist category. Anthony Davis’ ridiculously low turnover percentage is just incredible. Davis doesn’t have the highest usage percentage (33rd) in the NBA, but 9.4% is still so impressive considering everything he does on the court and how much he means to the New Orleans Pelicans.
LET’S TALK DEFENSE
|2017 Joel Embiid||100||3.8||2.5|
|2018 Joel Embiid||103||1.6||1.9|
|Karl Anthony Towns||106||1.2||2.1|
This goes along with the eye test that shows that Joel Embiid is not playing the same level of defense as last season. However, I think a lot of this can be attributed to the significant increase in minutes per game Joel is currently playing. Nikola Jokic continues to be an analytics darling in regards to his defensive rating and defensive box plus/minute rating. Rudy Gobert is currently 6th in the NBA in defensive box plus/minus, while Jokic leads the pack in defensive rating. He is ranked 12th best overall in the NBA.
|2017 Joel Embiid||11||8.4%||29.7%||19.4%|
|2018 Joel Embiid||13.3||7.3%||32.8%||20.6%|
|Karl Anthony Towns||12.0||10.3%||27.5%||18.9%|
While Joel’s rebounds per game are up, his rebounding percentages have somewhat maintained this year compared to last season. Despite the maintaining trends, Joel is currently 10th best in the NBA in total rebound percentage. In the group, Gobert continues to be a rebounding monster and features the highest rebounding percentage, which is 7th best in the NBA. Gobert clearly wins this category in the area of rebounding.
|2017 Joel Embiid||0.6||1%||1.8||4.8%|
|2018 Joel Embiid||0.5||0.6%||2.0||4.4%|
|Karl Anthony Towns||1.0||1.4%||1.7||4.4%|
Joel’s blocks per game and block percentage have essentially maintained this year compared to last season. The best rim protector in this group is clearly Anthony Davis, who features a 6.2% block percentage which is good for 7th best in the NBA. Anthony Davis currently leads the NBA in total blocks and blocks per game.
LET’S TALK MVP
|Player||BPM||WIN SHARES||TOV||4TH Q PPG|
|2017 Joel Embiid||2.5||6.2||1.1||5.5|
|2018 Joel Embiid||3.0||3.4||0.8||6.8|
|Karl Anthony Towns||3.8||2.6||0.8||4.8|
Clutch scoring and turnovers were major issues for Joel Embiid last season. While he’s still got a lot of room to improve, Joel leads the group in terms of fourth quarter scoring per game by a decent margin. Even better, Joel is also averaging less turnovers during fourth quarters. Joel’s offensive win shares is what is hurting him the most. While Joel is 4th in the NBA in defensive win shares, he’s not in the top 20 in regards to offensive win shares. Anthony Davis is the winner here. Davis is 3rd in the NBA in offensive win shares, 12th in defensive win shares, and 1st in the NBA in overall win shares.
We’re a little over the quarter mark of the season. Among big men, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and Nikola Jokic are certainly making this a fierce competition for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Ultimately, these races will come down to wins and losses. As great as Joel Embiid has played this year, he needs to continue to play at this rate and then some (especially on offense) in order to win these awards this summer.