Now that the dust has settled from the Philadelphia 76ers’ disappointing finish in the 2022-2023 season, let’s discuss Joel Embiid’s legacy and where he ranks as franchise player of all time.
Joel Embiid was drafted with the 3rd pick in the 2014 NBA draft from Kansas by the Philadelphia 76ers. After missing his first two seasons due to persistent knee injuries, the great man finally made his debut in 2016. This season, Embiid averaged 20.2 points per game on a 46% shooting percentage, finishing third in Rookie of the Season. The voting year is largely due to the fact that he only played 31 games.
The 2016-2017 campaign was just the beginning for Embiid. In the six seasons since his rookie year, Embiid has compiled one of the most impressive resumes in Philadelphia 76ers history. He made six All-Star teams, five All-NBA teams, and three All-Defensive teams, and was the leading scorer in each of the last two seasons.
Embiid’s biggest achievement to date is winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award for his performance in the regular season this year. Of the 66 games he played that year, he scored over 30 points in 44 of them, including 59 points on November 13. All told, Embiid averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, becoming the first Sixer to win the award since Allen Iverson in 2001.
There is no doubt that the Embiid 76ers are a generational talent.
However, there are doubts about his ability to perform when it matters most, in the playoffs. The 76ers made the playoffs six years in a row, which is an impressive achievement in itself. However, the team failed to make it past the second round, losing three times in a winner-take-all game.
While the Sixers’ playoff woes aren’t limited to Embiid, his postseason performance leaves much to be desired. He averages just 24 points per game on 46% shooting in the playoffs, which pales in comparison to his regular season average of 27.2 on 50% shooting. In qualifying games, he struggled with shooting as low as 38% and averaging 5.3 turnovers per game. This year’s performance was the most disappointing as Embiid scored only 15 points on 5-18 shots and had +/- -28. Due to his struggles in the playoffs, many fans are beginning to wonder if the process is over.
While Embiid’s legacy has been stunted by his lack of post-season success, the impact the great man has had on the 76ers organization is hard to overlook. In seven seasons, he climbed the ranks as one of the best players to ever wear a Sixers uniform. Embiid ranks eighth in franchise history in points with 10,718. This year he surpassed Andre Iguodala and Maurice Cheeks on the all-time list, despite only playing 394 games compared to 615 for Iguodala and 853 for the Cheeks.
In terms of points per game, Embiid’s average of 27.2 ranks just behind Hall of Famers Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 27.6. Ranks first in team history in Player Efficiency Ranking (27.9), which includes positive and negative player stats. Despite occupying a position historically not known for taking multiple three-pointers, he ranks seventh in team history with 455, 450 more than quarterback Ben Simmons.
As for the all-time Philadelphia 76ers, Embiid deserves a spot in the top ten.
He can jump even higher if he continues to perform at a high level and stay healthy. Right now, I’d rank Embiid seventh behind Allen Iverson, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, and Hal Greer (in no particular order). What sets these players apart from Embiid is their post-season success. Erving, Chamberlain and Greer won the title during their tenure with the team, with the latter two teaming up to win in 1967.
Although Iverson and Barkley did not win the championship, they both advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, further ahead than ever in Embiid’s Sixers team history. Barring an unthinkable trade, he will likely finish his career atop most of the team’s individual stats. He is on track to become the fifth Sixers player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Right now, every MVP in NBA history has been inducted into the Hall of Fame, making Embiid’s chances very likely if he stays healthy.
Ultimately, Embiid’s legacy will be shaped by his ability to lead the 76ers to post-season success and a potential championship win. While the disappointment of recent playoff eliminations may overshadow his current standing, his talent and potential for future achievement make him a significant figure in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise.