Joel Embiid does a lot of things. Along with being great on offense, Twitter and Instagram, his defense is slowly improving. 

The Defensive Player of the Year award has a long lineage of stars who have taken it home. Since its inception in 1982, nine players have taken home the award at least two times, with Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace leading the way with four apiece. By the end of his career, Embiid wants to be a member of that list.

According to Derek Bodner of Philly Mag, Embiid thinks he can be a gamechanger defensively.

His presence is already felt on that end of the floor, and it’s jarring because of the two seasons he spent injured. The transition from college to the NBA is tough on the defensive end because everyone is bigger, stronger and more athletic, and all of those are amplified with today’s NBA being built on ludicrous athleticism.

The Philadelphia 76ers, as a whole, have the tenth most efficient defense in the league and allow a touch more than 107 points per 100 possessions. Embiid is the team’s anchor. He’s the guy in the middle who protects the paint and is a huge reason why they allow so few points — when adjusted for pace, of course. Expectedly, he has the best defensive rating on the team with 100 points per 100 possessions.

More Sixers: 

His impact goes beyond that, though. Embiid, who’s probably a bit taller than seven-foot, is very athletic for his size and has the length to boot. Even with his minute restriction, the Process swats 2.4 shots a night in just 25 minutes. Because Embiid knows he’s only playing in short bursts, he can give 100 percent on every possession, and his energy helps raise the level of those around him.

Among players who average 10 or more defended shots, Embiid holds his opponents to just 40.2 percent shooting, a mark that ties him for the eighth-lowest with the New York Knicks‘ Kristaps Porzingis, according to

As the shots get closer to the basket, it becomes almost impossible to score. The Sixers aren’t particularly great defending the three-point line, but they do force their opponents to mix up where they take their shots from.

Almost half of Embiid’s contested shots come from six feet or closer, but not even 43 percent of them get made. That number is the league’s best among guys who challenge at least three of those shots a game, per Synergy. Not only is the number strikingly low, but it’s also a differential of almost 19 percent, which is better than any DPOY candidate.

Just some more reinforcement: Philly’s nearly 10 points worse per 100 when Embiid sits.

There are a couple of questions that need to get answered before he’s considered for the award. But he’s still a rookie. After a couple more seasons, Embiid should be mentioned annually for the honor because he’s on his way to becoming a defensive superstar. He has all the intangibles and most of the tangibles to win it, and DPOY historically goes to frontcourt players because they have the most impact on the defense.

If there’s one thing he’ll need to do it’s not foul. Embiid, Porzingis and DeMarcus Cousins are in a three-way tie for first with 3.7 fouls per game. The number of fouls isn’t the problem, but it’s how often they occur. Remember, he plays less than 28 minutes a night, and Michael Cooper and Dennis Rodman are the only two winners to play less than 30. (How they won is confounding. Here’s the voting for 1986-87 when Cooper won; here’s 1989-90 when Rodman won. Just bizarre.)

Committing more than three fouls on a consistent basis is OK when the minutes are above 35, and the block numbers are equal to the fouls.

There are a couple of guys in the league capable of bringing home multiple DPOY awards, and Joel Embiid will be there soon enough. After his second or third season, he’ll have a chance to be a defensive superstar who inhales boards and blocks shots at an astounding rate.

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