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HomeBasketballNBANBA Power Rankings: Is Joel Embiid a smoke ducker?

NBA Power Rankings: Is Joel Embiid a smoke ducker?

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Joel Embiid is the best offensive big man since Shaquille O’Neal.

The Philadelphia 76ers star and reigning NBA MVP through 33 games played this season is averaging an unreal 36 points per game, along with 11.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists — all improvements on numbers Embiid put up in his MVP season. Embiid is on track to repeat as League MVP, assuming he meets the 65 game/20 minutes per game thresholds recently established by the NBA.

So why does it feel like he ducks his toughest competition?

Embiid’s absence in Philadelphia’s Jan. 27 showdown with the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic was anything but inconspicuous. The 76ers center was available until about 15 minutes before the nationally-televised game tipped at 5:30 p.m. eastern until it was announced he’d be out with a knee injury. It marked the fifth straight year Embiid did not suit up for a game in Denver. Philly fought admirably, with Embiid backup Paul Reed putting up a 30-point double-double, but would lose by 6 despite being a 13-point underdog.

Embiid so far this season has missed 12 games. He can only afford to sit five more to remain in consideration for the MVP award.

Saturday wasn’t the first marquee game Embiid has missed. He sat out a Christmas Day loss in Miami — three days after putting up 31/10/9 in a win over Toronto. He skipped a 13-point loss in Minnesota in late November in a game that was the second leg of a road back-to-back. Embiid at that point had played in two Philly back-to-backs. Ironically, Philly’s 5-point Jan. 16 home win over Denver came on the second leg of a back-to-back.

That was a home game, though.

There’s no denying Embiid’s talent. I have questions about his competitive spirit, though, as it relates to doing battle in hostile environments. That will remain the case for the rest of this regular season, and the playoffs, where his numbers fall off drastically.

NBA Power Rankings
1. Boston Celtics (1)
2. Denver Nuggets (2)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves (3)
4. New York Knicks (8)
5. LA Clippers (4)
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (5)
7. Milwaukee Bucks (7)
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (9)
9. Philadelphia 76ers (6)
10. Sacramento Kings (18)
11. Phoenix Suns (10)
12. Indiana Pacers (14)
13. Dallas Mavericks (12)
14. New Orleans Pelicans (11)
15. Utah Jazz (17)
16. LA Lakers (16)
17. Orlando Magic (15)
18. Miami Heat (13)
19. Houston Rockets (21)
20. Chicago Bulls (29)
21. Golden State Warriors (22)
22. Brooklyn Nets (24)
23. Atlanta Hawks (20)
24. Memphis Grizzlies (25)
25. Portland Trail Blazers (26)
26. Toronto Raptors (23)
27. Washington Wizards (29)
28. San Antonio Spurs (27)
29. Charlotte Hornets (28)
30. Detroit Pistons (30)

Previous rankings

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