Joel Embiid Flashes Potential in Preseason Debut

Joel Embiid finished the first half with 6 points, 4 rebounds in his first taste of NBA action.

Sixers center Joel Embiid goes up for a block against Boston's Al Horford | Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers center Joel Embiid goes up for a block against Boston’s Al Horford | Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid made his NBA (preseason) debut tonight, finishing with 6 points (2-6 shooting), 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in just under 13 minutes of playing time.

Since Sixers head coach Brett Brown announced before the game that Embiid’s playing time would be limited to 12 minutes, his night is likely done.

Here are some quick thoughts on Embiid’s first bit of NBA playing time. We’ll have more throughout the night.

  • Embiid is massive. Absolutely massive. Al Horford measured at just under 6’10” in shoes at the 2007 NBA Pre-Draft Camp and Embiid made him look like a shooting guard.
  • Despite being the tallest guy on the court, Embiid gets up and down the court in a hurry, at least when he’s not winded. Brett Brown said they were going to try to limit Embiid to 4 minute stretches because his conditioning catches up to him after that, and you could see that tonight.
  • Embiid’s first bucket came on a gorgeous post move, where he threw a left-shoulder shimmy then nailed a turnaroud fadeaway over his right shoulder. The beauty of the move is that it wasn’t predetermined: he could have gone over either his right or left shoulder depending on what the defender gave him.
  • Embiid’s second bucket came on a jumper with his foot on the three-point line. This then set up…
  • An Embiid pump fake at the three-point line, where he got his defender in the air, put the ball on the floor, then drew the foul. Embiid has defenders closing out on him 24 feet from the basket from day one.
  • Another bit of respect Embiid received on day one, despite not playing organized basketball in over two years, is getting doubled team mere minutes into his NBA career. Boston sent double and triple teams at Embiid, who struggled with the extra attention. The combination of Embiid’s rust and his teammates lack of movement/communication is probably going to lead to a lot of early season turnovers, of which he had three during the first half.
  • Boston was also a tough team match up against in his first appearance. Boston’s perimeter defense is elite, and they really bothered the Sixers ball handlers and their attempts to get the ball into Embiid in the post. There were a couple of times when Embiid had his man sealed down low, but the Sixers couldn’t get it in to him.
  • On a somewhat related note, I’d like to see Embiid paired with Sergio Rodriguez more, if for no other reason than Rodriguez’s court vision on the pick and roll.
  • Embiid’s two blocks were impressive. He tracked down a Jaylen Brown drive and met him at the rim, then altered a shot out near the free-throw line, really showcasing his length and timing.
  • Embiid settled early, launching three midrange jump shots, none of which went in. Form wise they looked okay, but he definitely seemed to be pressing for his first NBA bucket.
  • Embiid called for the ball in the post on nearly every trip down the court, understandable for somebody playing with as much adrenaline as he surely was. It would have been nice to see him set more screens on the perimeter and for the Sixers to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball on the move, though. Embiid’s size, athleticism, and touch should make him a dynamic pick and roll threat in time.

Overall, that was probably the best (realistic) outcome for Embiid’s first NBA action: flashes of potential mixed with reminders that he just hasn’t played a whole lot of basketball in his life, and none in the last 2+ years. Still, the future is bright in Philly if Embiid can in fact stay healthy.

Joel Embiid’s first points:

Joel Embiid’s second made field goal:

Joel Embiid’s first block:

Joel Embiid’s second block:

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.