Around the Globe: Joel Embiid making his Kia MVP case

Philadelphia's star center leads the way in our latest look at standout international performers throughout the season.

Joel Embiid has answered the bell all season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

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We’ve passed the halfway point of the 2021-22 campaign and the Feb. 10 trade deadline is closing.

There have been quite a few standout performances from less notable players who have been thrust into crucial roles. And along with that, several familiar faces have carried their teams through rough patches and kept them afloat as the playoff chase continues.

Here’s the latest edition of the Around the Globe report:

*All stats through Thursday, Jan. 13

This Edition’s Standout 

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Cameroon)

Stats over last 2 weeks: 31.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 6.0 apg

Joel Embiid scores 31 points and grabs 8 rebounds as the 76ers get the win.

Talk about consistency. Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Philadelphia’s star center has scored exactly 31 points in every game to basically build off a fantastic December. It’s not just empty scoring, either, as the Sixers are 4-1 during that stretch. Philly has faced roster instability all season long, but Embiid’s consistency has stabilized the team and has them surging in the Eastern Conference standings.

One noticeable improvement? Embiid has mostly foregone the long-range game and has instead continued to punish teams inside. He is taking less than two 3-point attempts per game in January, doing most of his work on the block where his size and footwork make him nearly impossible to guard. That has resulted in him shooting a crisp 54% in his last five games and, on a night-to-night basis, few players are more valuable around the league.

Other Notables

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (Lithuania)

Stats over last 2 weeks: 24.8 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 6.6 apg

Domantas Sabonis scores a career-high 42 points in an impressive win against the Utah Jazz.

The Pacers have sputtered all season but it’d be hard to point the finger at Sabonis. The Lithuanian forward is the hub from which Indiana generates the majority of its offense. His no-nonsense style and brute force led to a 42-point effort in a win against Utah where he shot 18-for-22 from the field. He also provided a do-it-all performance in an overtime defeat against Boston, contributing 11 points, 22 rebounds and 10 assists.

Indiana has hinted at being active in the trade market, and whether they continue to build around Sabonis or flip him to a new team, the big man figures to continue putting up gaudy numbers.

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (Canada)

Stats over last 2 weeks: 24.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 apg

Relive RJ Barrett's 32-point game vs. Dallas

Barrett started the season slow after a strong sophomore campaign and illnesses and time off due to protocols may have played a part. However, things have turned around for him since 2022 began. He’s found his shot, and it has provided the Knicks plenty of scoring punch to go along with another notable performer, Evan Fournier.

New York is 4-1 in its past five games thanks in large part to Barrett, who has dropped 30-plus points on three occasions during that timeframe. And when he wasn’t shooting the ball well, he still found ways to win games. It’s easy to forget that Barrett is still just 21 and maybe he will unlock even more of his game now that the Knicks have reunited him with his former college teammate, Cam Reddish.

Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Cameroon) 

Stats over last 2 weeks: 23.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 6.3 apg

Pascal Siakam dropped 29 points on the Pelicans in a Jan. 9 game.

The Raptors are fresh off a six-game win streak and as good as Fred VanVleet has been during the run, Siakam has paired with him to form a formidable duo (the second round of All-Star voting backs this up). The versatile forward has also moonlighted as a stretch-five, providing spacing and playmaking from the frontcourt as evidenced by his assist totals and outside shooting (40.9% 3-point shooting during that stretch).

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Greece)

Stats over last 2 weeks: 32.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 8.0 apg

Giannis Antetokounmpo's triple-double helps elevate Milwaukee past Golden State.

To be honest, “The Greek Freak” could presumably be the standout performer every time we write this. The one knock against him this period? His team’s 3-3 and record. To be fair, Giannis has done everything he could in that span and leads all scorers since the start of 2022. He even dropped in 43 points in a loss to the Hornets where he sank 18 of 20 free throws!

Antetokounmpo continues to evolve his game and ever since the Bucks waived DeMarcus Cousins, he has become a force at center. He was listed as the starting point guard in Milwaukee’s rout of the Warriors, a night where he notched another historic triple-double. Aside from consistently knocking down 3’s there’s not much the reigning Finals MVP can’t do on the court.

Shooting Star 

Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia 76ers (Turkey)

Stats over last 2 weeks: 15.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg

Furkan Korkmaz finishes with 24 points and 11 rebounds vs. Houston on Jan. 3

The formula in Philly is simple: surround Embiid with shooters. Korkmaz has responded to increased playing time by increasing his scoring without sacrificing efficiency. After a rough start shooting 3-pointers to open 2021-22, Korkmaz is up to 38.7% over his last five games to help give Embiid space to operate. The Turkish sharpshooter knows his role too. Despite an uptick in minutes (and usage), Korkmaz has been responsible with the ball (1.0 turnovers per game over his last five games).

Under The Radar

Facundo Campazzo, Denver Nuggets (Argentina) 

Stats over last 2 weeks: 8.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 7.6 apg

Facundo Campazzo delivers 12 assists against the Blazers on Jan. 13.

Don’t let the stats fool you — Campazzo has been a crucial cog for the Nuggets all season. He works best as a high-energy reserve, but with Denver’s rash of injuries he has shined with the the starters. The Argentinian’s penchant for flair has paired well with the “not-so-sexy” game of reigning Kia MVP Nikola Jokic. Campazzo is tied for 14th for the month in assists per game, the only player in the top 20 to average less than 30 minutes per game. In short bursts, Campazzo has proven deadly. He’s a passing wizard, somehow handing out more dimes than “The Joker” in January. Oh, and he also averages nearly a block a game as a 5-foot-10 point guard. He’s also the pound-for-pound highlight king — just check out the Must-See Plays below.

Rookie Spotlight  

Omer Yurtseven, Miami Heat (Turkey) 

Stats over last 2 weeks: 11.8 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 3.7 apg

Omer Yurtseven rings up a double-double on Jan. 12 vs. Atlanta.

The Heat have been injury-riddled all season, but they have managed to stay in the East’s upper tier thanks to standout coaching from Eric Spoelstra. Lots of credit has to go to Yurtseven, who is quickly becoming another diamond in the rough spotted by the Heat. The undrafted big man from Turkey has been cleaning the glass, averaging a double-double in place of All-Star big Bam Adebayo. Most notably, Yurtseven’s court vision has been a welcome surprise as he continues to find Miami’s shooters and contribute to his lofty assist totals since becoming a rotation regular.

G League notables 

Jaime Echenique (Colombia)

Echenique became the first Colombian-born player to play in the NBA during his 10-day contract with the Wizards. He’s also averaging 23.3 ppg in the G-League.

Neemias Queta (Portugal)

The Kings promoted Queta to the active roster from their G-League affiliate and he became the first player from Portugal to score in the NBA!

L.J. Figueroa (Dominican Republic)

Figueroa had the most notable G-League play in this edition, check it out!

Must-See Plays