November 29, 2016
Thanks to Basketball Reference’s handy Play Index tool, we can see that Joel Embiid has scored 111 more points than Jamal Murray, the second-highest scoring rookie. For a frame of reference, Embiid has played 101 minutes fewer than Murray.
That’s a lot of points.
Some may make the argument that Embiid, technically in his third NBA season, should not be eligible for rookie of the year. I understand that point, because he was able to get all of the Shirley Temples out of his system while he wasn’t playing. That said, the NBA makes Embiid eligible and even after sitting out for a couple of seasons, he is miles ahead of everyone else in the class.
If you look at the other top scorers, none of them come particularly close to matching Embiid’s .593 true shooting percentage. The first player that tops Embiid in shooting efficiency is #FormerSixer Willy Hernangomez, who is the 14th-overall scorer and averages eight shots fewer than Embiid per-36 minutes.
In the NBA, there are players that take a lot of shots and players who are efficient with the shots that they take. Finding someone who can do both at the same time is rare, and Embiid looks like he’s well on his way to doing that. Heck, he’s already doing it. And among his rookie peers, Embiid is head and shoulders above everyone else at putting the ball in the basket.
It doesn’t just stop there, though. Among the 42 rookies that have played over 50 minutes total, Embiid is the best defensive rebounder. He’s the best shot-blocker and also possesses the third-best defensive rating.
And believe it or not, five of those players are turning the ball over more than Embiid.
This isn’t a matter of simply compiling stats on a bad team, either. The Sixers are the worst team in the NBA, but that isn’t the case when Embiid plays. When the rookie center has been on the floor, Philadelphia has played to the level of the 19th-worst team in the NBA. When he sits? The Sixers are far and away the worst team in the league. Embiid is not only playing well for himself, but he’s also making his team better.
There are many players who are younger than Embiid in the rookie class — 19-year-old Brandon Ingram is the one who particularly sticks out — and it would be nice if his minutes and games played become more consistent as the season moves along, but it’s worth pointing out as we approach the quarter pole: Embiid isn’t just out ahead, but he also can’t see anyone in his rearview mirror.
If he can stay healthy (which is still an if), the rookie of the year appears to be all his for the taking.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann