More than two years after being drafted third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid made his highly-anticipated professional debut. In 13 minutes against the Boston Celtics, Embiid was rather impressive for someone who’s been out for two years.
More surprising than how Embiid played was how Philly pulled out a 92-89 victory over a premier team in the East–albeit, it’s preseason. At the end of the night, he totaled six points on 2/6 shooting, four boards, three turnovers, and two blocked shots.
The first thing that jumps out at you is how much bigger he is. Embiid has packed on a decent amount of weight over the time he’s been injured, and it appeared to have no ill effects on his problematic foot. His first bucket came from the low post, an area of his game where he’s been working profusely.
The move was a tough one, and Embiid stayed balanced and kept his footwork crisp as he drove toward the baseline, spun back, and gave a shimmy to Tyler Zeller before nailing the turnaround jumper.
His next bucket showed the versatility that he brings to the Sixers, and Embiid nailed a two with his foot on the line with about one second left in the first quarter.
The mechanics on his shot looked great, and his release is fluid and nice and high, making it nearly impossible to swat.
Embiid’s most prominent highlight, though, came when Jaylen Brown drove to the hoop. Brown is no slouch and is the most athletic player in this year’s draft, so Embiid blocking a dunk attempt by him validates him as a rim protector.
It was a perfect balance of timing and athleticism.
His block was as clean as it could’ve been, and Embiid poked the ball away in such a fashion that Brown was still able to hang on the rim as he descended.
One of the issues with Embiid at Kansas was being in constant foul trouble. As he matures and adjusts to the NBA, silly fouls will become less and less, but he did a solid job of not picking up fouls and was only tagged with two.
Long-term health will be on on-going concern throughout Embiid’s career, but his very first NBA game shows promise–even if it’s only preseason.
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