On the heels of the 76ers’ breakout season coming to an end in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, we’ll be spending a few days publishing short stories as part of our “More to Do” content series, which will focus on how the team, and its players, can build off the eye-opening success they enjoyed in 2017-2018.
Embiid, MVP Candidate? The Bid Begins With His Body
The big man wasn’t holding back, but then again, that tends to be his way in matters of basketball and confidence.
Less than 24 hours after his season came to an end in the 76ers’ second-round Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics, Joel Embiid emphatically set the table for his next act.
“I feel like next year will be an MVP type of season for me,” he declared, less than two minutes into his May 10th year-end press conference.
That the 24-year old Embiid believes so strongly in his own potential is understandable. He showed quite a lot over the last eight months.
Having entered the 2017-2018 campaign with only 31 games on his NBA resume, Embiid finished the regular season 11th overall in scoring (22.9 ppg), tied for sixth in rebounding (11.0 rpg), and tied for fourth in blocks (1.8 bpg). His 38 double-doubles matched DeMarcus Cousin’s total for the most among players who appeared in fewer than 65 games.
Not only was Embiid named an All-Star in February, he was voted an All-Star starter, the Sixers’ first in eight years.
Yet as easy as the stud center often made his dominance look, he is as conscious as anyone that he boasts loads of untapped potential.
To take his game to the next level, before even addressing any particular area of skill, like footwork or ball security, the Sixers want Embiid focused on his fitness.
“His whole future is his body,” Brett Brown said after Embiid’s exit interview with the team.
Thanks to finishing the year on a relatively healthy note, Embiid will now have the benefit of getting a head start on his off-season training. It’s a luxury he’s never had before, due to injury.
Through weight training, conditioning, and nutrition, he hopes to get quicker, shed a few pounds, and play a full 82-game schedule. Then, of course, after that, there’s the post-season.
This past year, Embiid generated a team-leading 11.6 net rating while on the court. The Sixers were 7.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor, and 4.3 points per 100 possessions worse with him off it.
Simply put, the club has proven to be at its best when Embiid is contributing. He experienced first-hand this season the rewards of sticking to a regimented wellness plan, by exceeding his own expectations and appearing in 71 total games between the regular season and Playoffs.
Moving forward, Embiid seems to be fully confident that the Sixers and their medical staff will continue to help get him into peak physical shape.
“They did an amazing job, just taking care of my body,” said Embiid.
The Sixers even hired a personal specialist to work with Embiid, so that the 7-footer can essentially have someone on call at all times. Embiid took full advantage.
That’s how serious he and the team are about keeping his body right.
“Looking at the big picture,” Embiid said, “the steps that it took for me to get where I am right now, I think it helped me a lot, and for the rest of my career, I think it’s going to help me a lot.”
With a few more steps this summer, the odds look pretty good that more individual and collective success should follow.