Over the past few days, ESPN has been dropping their projected player ratings for the 2022-23 season. While the intention may be purely to spark conversation, it results in players across the league feeling humiliated and members of the media going into the fray over perceived errors in the rankings. This has been the case so far as Therese Maxi, Tobias Harris and James Harden have found themselves in the top 100. With only the top five waiting to be announced, it wasn’t a matter of whether Joel Embiid would make that list as well but rather where he would land on it.
This was put to rest Friday morning as ESPN slipped down the top-five ratings as Embiid found himself as the number four player in the NBA.
Why Embiid came fourth
This ranking is an improvement for the Sixers star as he finished seventh on the list coming into last season. These forecasts have been made based on the expected output in the 2022-23 season. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps cited his impressive offensive production as the biggest reason behind his rise. Embiid scored a career high last season with 30.6 points per game leading the entire NBA. He also had the lowest average number of minutes for any player to win the scoring title with just 33.8 minutes per game recorded.
When considering the reasons for his rise potential, Bontemps put forward his post-season health maintenance as the biggest area for improvement. Embiid played 68 games last season but suffered a broken face and a thumb injury in the post-season. If a back-to-back runner-up in the best player can stay healthy, the sky really is the limit to how awesome he can be. It was also acknowledged in the article that the jump to number one isn’t too far off with the improved roster being a source of optimism. As Bontemps said in an ESPN article:
After years of having to make up for the shortcomings of a flawed roster around him, this season is the first time Embiid has surrounded a team determined to improve for him strength point. It will only increase Embiid’s chances of claiming the elusive Player of the Year award and lead Philadelphia to the missing deep playoff of his résumé.
If these things happen, he can jump to the top of this list.”
Did ESPN get it wrong?
It may be obvious but there are a lot of great basketball players in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Donic all have fair arguments as to why they are ahead of the Sixers star. There is also a strong case for Steph Curry to be above Embiid after claiming his fourth NBA title last season with his continued offensive brilliance.
However, there is a sense that Embiid is not receiving the national recognition that he has earned up to this point. In addition to his 30.6 best NBA points, he also added 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 cuts, and 1.1 steals per game. The 28-year-old became the first big man since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-00 to win the scoring title. Players rank higher than him.
While these rankings are subjective and debatable, they can serve as additional motivation for Embiid and the Sixers going forward. The runner-up for the MVP award has been linked to the national media and used as a catalyst in the past. His billboard must be full as there is a lot of doubt about him despite his continued success.
With the most complete list of his surroundings ever made, look for Embiid to return to focus as ever in 2022-23. The lack of post-season success will continue to be the biggest note against him and changing this into the postseason will be Embiid’s priority and the Sixers’ priority.
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