The Philadelphia 76ers are playing solid basketball to begin the 2020-21 season. They are 4-1 through five games in the season. One of the early developments has been the play of Joel Embiid out of the post.
Everybody knows how dominant Embiid is down low. He continues to be a monster every time he gets it on the low block. It’s either a bucket or he gets fouled, and that’s the way it always has been.
In order to stop him, teams will send waves of defenders and double teams his way, and those strategies worked in the past. Embiid would not be able to make the right reads, and it would harm his production and slow the team.
However, he has progressed and he now welcomes the doubles. Embiid has been making the right reads with his passing and his decisions have come at a quicker pace as he continues to grow as a player. He’s inviting teams to double him, so he can get the ball out and initiate the offense. That is a huge step forward for him.
“We’ve been working on it every day,” said coach Doc Rivers. “It’s one of the first things we talked to Joel about, that we had to get better as a group, on how we’re going to handle them, and he had to get better on what he needed to look for. We’re giving him really two options to look for every time and he’s doing that. You can see he wanted the ball to get double-teamed, so he can start the offense. I thought that was just beautiful to watch.”
In order to run the offense through Embiid, other guys on the team have to do things a bit differently than in the past. For example, Ben Simmons is used to having the ball in his hands, but he now has to play off the big fella and cut at the right time.
It’s a process to learn all of this, but through the first five games, there are positive signs.
“We’re getting a lot better off the doubles,” Simmons said. “Joel’s making the right reads and he’s playing with the urgency once he sees a double so guys are able to get their shots off off that weak side. We’re getting better at that. I think over time, we’re going to continue to get better, and then see different reads and different options, but so far I think five games in, we’re doing well with it.”
The Sixers will continue to work out the kinks and improve as a team as they head home to host the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday to begin the 2021 portion of their schedule.
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