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How 76ers’ Joel Embiid tailored his offensive sport to maximise pairing with James Harden

There are a plethora of potent pairings in the NBA today, but none have been as productive this season as Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden. Embiid is the league’s leading scorer on the season, averaging 33.4 points per performance, and Harden is the top assist man in the Association with 10.8

How 76ers’ Joel Embiid tailored his offensive sport to maximise pairing with James Harden

There are a plethora of potent pairings within the NBA in the present day, however none have been as productive this season as Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden. Embiid is the league’s main scorer on the season, averaging 33.4 factors per efficiency, and Harden is the highest help man within the Affiliation with 10.8 dimes dropped every sport. Unsurprisingly, these two talent units have confirmed to be fairly complementary.

No participant has assisted one other participant extra this season than Harden has Embiid, and it isn’t notably shut. On the time of typing, Harden has 210 whole assists to Embiid — 194 2-point pictures, and 16 triples. The subsequent closest pairing is in Indiana, the place Tyrese Haliburton has 135 assists to Buddy Hield. That is a distinction of 75 assists between Harden and Embiid and the following duo. 

It is thanks nearly completely to the growing two-man sport between Harden and Embiid — and the area created for others by the eye they attract and across the painted space — that the Sixers have the third-ranked offense within the league after ending exterior of the highest 10 in that class in every of the previous two seasons. 

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In an effort to maximize their potential as a pair, Embiid has made a serious adjustment to his sport by changing into a prolific roll man within the pick-and-roll motion — one thing that he did not do practically as typically over the course of his profession previous to this season. 

On the present marketing campaign, Embiid is serving as a ball-screener on 6.9 possessions per sport — the overwhelming majority of that are screens for Harden close to the highest of the important thing. That quantity leads the league by a large margin. The subsequent closest participant is the Suns’ Deandre Ayton, who serves as a screener on 4.7 possessions per efficiency for Phoenix. Embiid additionally leads the league in factors per sport as a curler with 8.3. Anthony Davis is second in that stat with six factors per sport.

General, Embiid is screening on 23.6 p.c of his offensive possessions. That quantity is way increased than it has been in previous seasons. Final yr, Embiid served as ball-screener 16.6 p.c of the time — a quantity that received bumped up after Harden’s arrival in February. The season earlier than, Embiid operated in that method simply 12.5 p.c of the time, or 3.2 possessions per sport.

On account of his excessive utilization in PNR’s, Embiid is enjoying out of the submit so much much less. Through the 2020-21 marketing campaign, Embiid operated out of the submit 36.5 p.c of the time. That quantity dipped to twenty-eight p.c final season, however he nonetheless led the league by a large margin. This yr, Embiid is working out of the submit simply 16.7 p.c of the time — that is a 20 p.c drop in comparison with simply two seasons in the past. 

That large quantity is indicative of how huge of a change Embiid has made to his offensive method so as to maximize his match with Harden. The magnitude of this adjustment appears to have flown beneath the radar a bit on the nationwide degree, maybe as a result of Embiid has made the change so seamlessly. 

What makes the motion so lethal is simply the sheer variety of ways in which the Sixers can damage you with it. Watch any Sixers sport and you may see an array of alternatives generated by Embiid setting a display screen for Harden on the high of the important thing. If the defenders observe Harden, Embiid will roll to the rim for a simple dunk, or come out for a jumper from his candy spot on the nail. If the assistance defenders are pinched in, Philadelphia’s nook shooters will get open alternatives. If an excessive amount of consideration is paid to Embiid off of the roll, Harden will exploit that and get to the basket. If you happen to go beneath the display screen to forestall the drive, Harden can pull up for 3. It is an actual riddle for defenses. 

If Embiid continued to function out of the submit at such a excessive clip, Harden would have been largely relegated to an off-ball man, which is not the place he is at his finest (although he has labored to enhance as a catch-and-shoot man alongside Embiid).

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Having Embiid function a screener far more maximizes Harden by permitting him to do what he does finest — orchestrate an offense, and generate open alternatives for the massive fella, and others. The profit for Embiid is that he would not should combat practically as arduous to get open seems to be. As an alternative, he can merely slip a display screen and discover himself broad open for a 15-footer courtesy of The Beard.

Embiid’s skill to adapt has paid dividends and offered Philadelphia with a dependable, extraordinarily environment friendly go-to play. The Sixers are averaging 1.2 factors per possession when Embiid serves because the roll man this season. That is greater than they’ve ever averaged with him enjoying out of the submit. For comparability’s sake, the Sacramento Kings have the very best factors per possession common for a staff on the season at 1.18. 

Subsequent time you are watching the Sixers, take note of how typically Embiid screens for Harden on the high of the important thing to provoke offense. The efficiency of the play makes it a useful weapon for Philadelphia, and one thing that whomever they face within the postseason must take care of.

All stats on this article courtesy of and PBP Stats. 

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