For months, the only footage we had of Joel Embiid came from inside an empty gym, showing him tirelessly working out with a trainer—and no one else. We fawned over those videos, a product of the anticipation that built up over two years of waiting for Embiid to participate in actual basketball. We were mocked for our excitement. It was just a man in a gym, playing against someone half his size and half his weight. Of course he was going to look like a legend. Then the regular season started, and our otherworldly projections for Embiid don’t look so far off after all.
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As we’ve documented here numerous times, Embiid spent much of his summer with trainer Drew Hanlen working on his moves out of the mid-post, from stepback jumpers to putting the ball on the floor to create space to shoot or drive to the hole. Against the Utah Jazz on Monday night, all that work came to fruition.
In the outrageous play above, Embiid took the ball above the 3-point line, crossed over Jeff Withey (who had the unfortunate assignment of guarding him), and hit Withey with a nasty ball fake before tossing in a floater. That play, which earned audible gasps from the crowd at Wells Fargo Arena, encompassed everything that Embiid can do. He can dribble like a guard, move with speed, and finish with an array of moves in the post and around the basket—everything scouts were drooling over when he came out of Kansas three years ago, before injuries reared their ugly head.
To see Embiid execute the moves he worked so hard on all off-season so early in the regular season is not only encouraging, but exciting for what the future holds for the kid who patiently waited his turn for two years. This is only the beginning.