Joel Embiid’s postseason performance proves he’s not a top 10 player – yet

NBA Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
NBA Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

 Joel Embiid’s up and down postseason play is the latest proof that the superstar big man is not currently a top 10 player in the NBA

Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers‘ season ended in the most dramatic Game 7 in a long time. Kawhi Leonard went Michael Jordan in the final seconds and drilled a game-winning buzzer beater on a fadeaway jumper in the corner that was one of the most suspenseful shots and friendliest rims in basketball history.

I mean four bounces, come on, we saw a bounce for every time The Claw led Toronto to a win this series so it may have been poetic justice for Toronto hoops after giving up their franchise guy, DeMar DeRozan.

The ending to the season was a devasting one for the Sixers especially because they went all in during the trade deadline wheeling and dealing players, picks and cash for Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, James Ennis, Boban Marajanovic, Jonathan Simmons and Mike Scott to bolster the roster for a chance to the Eastern Conference Finals and eventually the NBA Finals.

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With arguably the most talented starting five in Philadelphia history and the best team since the Allen Iverson era, this loss will probably send head coach Brett Brown on his way out the door.

Brown did a phenomenal job in “trusting the process” and getting the Sixers to over 50 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1984-86, but he likely won’t be the coach to get this core to the next level.

If the Sixers move on from Brown, this move would be similar to Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr in Golden State and David Blatt and Ty Lue in Cleveland. Both moves worked out very well for each team and resulted in NBA titles.

Entering the summer, the Sixers have eight potential players free to hit the open market and will likely have to spend all they have to retain the players they traded for. They’ll continue to build around the one player that is immovable to the franchise, fans, and Elton Brand, that’s Joel Embiid.

Embiid had regular season career-highs and top 10 finishes during his third season. He was fourth in points (27.5), second in rebounds (13.6), tied-sixth in blocks (1.9bpg), and third in player efficiency (32.2) in 64 games played. Embiid played in 63 games in 2017-18 and 31 games as a rookie in 2016-17.

During the first round of the postseason as a three seed, Embiid averaged 19.4 minutes per game in four games of the five-game series versus the Brooklyn Nets. Embiid missed Game 3 in Brooklyn and averaged 24.7 points a game and 13.5 rebounds in the first round.

In the conference semifinals versus the Raptors, Embiid averaged 17.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and two blocks in 33.8 minutes per game.

Embiid’s numbers dropped drastically versus the Raptors compared to the Nets which can be expected. Embiid had a minimal impact in Games 4 and 5 and scored eight of his 12 points in Game 2 from the free throw line. Embiid scored 46 of his 123 points from the line in the series and 46-of-55 from the charity stripe.

Embiid finished 18th in scoring (20.2) during the postseason, Pascal Siakim and Caris LeVert averaged more points than the Sixers big man. Embiid’s 30.4 minutes per game ranked a mere 50th in the league. Embiid did finish fifth in rebounding and second in blocks during is the postseason.

Embiid had a similar postseason during the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs. Embiid made his first postseason appearance with the Sixers, after missing games 1 and 2 versus the Miami Heat. Embiid averaged 18.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3 blocks in 30 minutes per game.

The Sixers won their first-round matchup versus the Heat in five games then lost in five during the semifinals to the Boston Celtics. Embiid posted 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game in 37.4 minutes. Embiid lived at the free-throw line attempting 33 in three games versus Miami during the first round and 28 in five games against Boston.

Embiid’s game is way more effective when he’s getting to the line and that is hard to do when he’s consistently starting his possessions from the three-point line because Ben Simmons isn’t a threat. The Raptors double-teamed Embiid well in the post and kept the Sixers shooting mid-range jumpers and forced Embiid to take fadeaways and floaters rather than the traditional post hooks and layups.

When the Sixers needed Embiid most in the postseason, it was Jimmy Butler who stepped up and put his playoff experience on display. That was why he was brought to Philadelphia – to tie the game up with 4.2 seconds in Game 7 on the road.

Butler became the leader as Ben Simmons was invisible in most of the series, J.J. Redick showed sparks, and Harris played his role scoring 9-16 points in every game and grabbing boards, but all three couldn’t buy a bucket late in games. The Sixers needed more Embiid.

In only his third season, Embiid was supposed to take his game to the next level in the postseason, but he deferred in critical moments and made a few memorable plays in a series dominated by Kawhi Leonard. Ultimately, Embiid’s performance this year, this series and postseason will be remembered by most media and fans for not playing and doing enough.

Here are the top 15 players in the NBA

  1. LeBron James – The King remains on the throne whether or not he missed the postseason for the first time in almost 15 years. James is taking on a project, to say the least with the Lakers drama, their roster revamps, and his midseason injury, but in year two he should have another star on his side to make his life easier. At 34 years old, James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists in 55 games.
  2. Kevin Durant – KD is so close to being the best player in the league and some media personnel like to promote Durant as the league’s best player. That’s what the media is for, LeBron is still the best player on the planet, Durant just plays on the best team in the world. Durant posted 26 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists at age 30.
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo – I had a hard time listing The Greek Freak ahead of Steph Curry, but Giannis is a ridiculous talent that is going to run the Eastern Conference for the next decade. Antetokounmpo is already the best player in the Eastern Conference and will be the NBA’s best player within the next five years. I can’t forget to mention he’ll likely earn his first of many NBA MVP awards this season. The 24-year-old Greece native clinched the one seed in a 58-win season with the Bucks and he averaged a double-double for the second consecutive season with 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
  4. Stephen Curry – Curry revolutionized the game with his shooting talents and he’s been back on the top of his game lately. Curry and the Warriors are on their way to another NBA Finals appearance whether Durant or Cousins play and that’s mainly because of Chef Curry. Curry led the Warriors in scoring again this season at 27.3 a game and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.
  5. James Harden – He will get a lot of MVP votes this season, and he’d have mine with the historic scoring performances, streaks and keeping the Rockets head above water when Clint Capela, Chris Paul, and a few role players went through minor and major injuries. The Beard averaged 36.1 points per game this season, the seventh most in NBA history and most since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. He also scored 30 points against every single team this season, something that solidifies him as an all-time great scorer.
  6. Kawhi Leonard – Well, we’ve seen what playoff Kawhi looks like after he skipped the Spurs postseason last year with a season-long quadriceps tendinitis injury in his left knee. Leonard finally showed emotion after the most epic game-winning basket since Lillard’s Game 3 winner versus the Thunder. Leonard can go anywhere he wants this summer, but Toronto will spend everything to keep the superstar and Raptors basketball alive. Kawhi averaged 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his first season with Toronto. He’s 1-1 in NBA Finals and could be reaching his third this season.
  7. Anthony Davis – Davis almost was a Laker, and this summer he will have another chance for L.A. or wherever the Pelicans decide to deal him. AD is a generational talent when healthy and when he gets a fresh start with a new team, the Unibrow will be back and better than ever. AD finished 10th in scoring this season with 25.9 points per game and eighth in rebounds with 12 a game in 56 contests.
  8. Russell Westbrook – Three-straight seasons of averaging triple-doubles. Three! Westbrook is the NBA’s most intense player, and his shooting dropped off after last year’s offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. With another offseason procedure coming on his finger to repair a torn ligament on his non-shooting hand and a underwent a minor procedure on his right knee. We will see how Westbrook comes back next season after the procedures and the taste of the Thunder’s round one exit courtesy of the Trail Blazers.
  9. Paul George – PG13 had an MVP caliber and Defensive Player of the Year season in year two with Oklahoma City. However, his season ended with a 35-foot Lillard 3 in his face. A tough ending on a great year for George, but if Westbrook isn’t himself next season, George can average 30 points a night while dominating on the defensive end. He already was second in the NBA with 28 points per game this year.
  10. Kyrie Irving – Kyrie will have the chance to ditch Boston after their second-round loss to Milwaukee. If his post game presser is any indication, Irving won’t be wearing the Celtics’ green next season. Irving is one of the leagues best ball-handlers, scorers, and clutch performers. Wherever Irving ends up he will instantly take control of the locker room and continue playing his brand of basketball, except if he’s with the Lakers next season.
  11. Damian Lillard – Logo Lillard has improved every season since entering the league and he and CJ McCollum are on their way to something great. If the Blazers take down the Warriors, Lillard won’t be discussed as a top-10 player in the league, he will be. Lillard played in all but two games this season and averaged 25.8 points and 6.9 assists per game.
  12. DeMarcus Cousins – Just because he’s with the Warriors and he doesn’t have to score, rebound or play as much to be effective doesn’t change his talent and dominance on the court. A literally bully in the paint, Cousins summer will be an interesting one whether or not the Warriors win it all with or without him. Cousins averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds in 30 games and 25.7 minutes per game with Golden State after sitting out over half of the season. With New Orleans, Boogie averaged 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, good enough for ninth and third in the league.
  13. Jimmy Butler – Butler has played for three teams in three years and have been the leader on every single one. The adult in the locker room, Butler kept the Sixers in that Raptors series and it would be hard to imagine Philadelphia lasting more than five games in that series without him. A proven scorer, perennial wing defender, and do-it-all guard, Butler will have all summer to decide if he will stay in Philadelphia and trust the process. This was the first season since 2013-14, that Butler hasn’t averaged 20 points a game. He averaged 21.3 points in 10 games with Minnesota this year and 18.2 with Philly in 55 games.
  14. Joel Embiid – A top-five talent in the NBA, he hasn’t had the opportunity to blossom and be the dominant back to the basket big he is. If the offense is centered around him in the post, Embiid would average 30 and 15 a night. Until then, Embiid’s full potential is untapped and the Sixers will continue to move players around and focus the franchise as he enters his fourth year in the league. Embiid took on average four three-pointers a game and shot 30 percent on the season. That’s can’t be next seasons focus for the Sixers and Embiid.
  15. Nikola Jokic – Jokic and the Nuggets secured the two seed and lost in seven on their home court to the Blazers in the second round. A heart-breaking loss for a talented Denver team, Jokic was a triple-double machine and 14 games in two series are uncommon. The Nuggets centerpiece left it all out there and pending health, Jokic should be a top-15 player in the league with his all-around potential. Jokic had four triple-doubles in the playoffs including one versus the Spurs in Game 7 and recorded five games where he was two assists short to register a triple-double in the postseason.

Next. NBA Rumors: Why the Lakers may present the best option for Kyrie Irving. dark

Feel free to comment below your Top 10 or 15 and where you’d rank Joel Embiid or tweet me @vdalzell_ on Twitter.