In past years, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid established himself as one of the NBA's most dominant bigs. Last season, the Sixers All-Star not only became one of the league's top centers -- but he grew into becoming one of the NBA's best players overall as he finished second in MVP voting.
Although he got off to a slower start this season as he battled knee soreness, COVID-19, and struggles with the new ball, Embiid eventually found his footing once again. And ever since getting back on track, the Sixers center has been dominant.
Going into Sunday night's matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, Embiid was already having a good week. During the Monday afternoon matchup versus Washington, Embiid collected 32 points in 29 minutes.
On Wednesday, he was unstoppable against the Magic and scored 50 points in just 27 minutes. When the Sixers returned to the floor two nights later to face the Clippers, Embiid put up 40 points in 36 minutes. And on Sunday, when the Sixers paid a visit to the Spurs, Embiid scored a game-high of 38 points in 31 minutes.
“I’ve always believed that especially with the progress that I’ve made offensively the last two or three years, being a complete player, I believe that I could be one of the greatest scorers in the league right now," said Embiid following Sunday night's win over San Antonio.
Embiid's belief isn't far-fetched. In 35 games this season, the big man has averaged 28 points per game. Just two players average more than him at this moment in Lakers star LeBron James and Nets star Kevin Durant.
The Sixers center's versatility plays a major part in his dominance this year. But Embiid believes that he could always score this way consistently -- he's just making it happen more often as there is a void to fill on the roster this year.
“It’s always been there," Embiid claimed. "This year, there’s more freedom to be able to whether it’s bringing the ball up and pushing up in transition. I got more freedom to do that this year." With Ben Simmons in the mix in previous years, the ball had to be in the three-time All-Star's hands as he was the primary ball-handler.
With Simmons out, though, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers made it clear that anybody can be a ball-handler depending on the situation. While Embiid doesn't believe he or his team is better off without Simmons on the floor, he does think that he's been able to expand his role in Simmons' absence this year.
"In the previous year, we had someone that was so good in transition that you had to get the ball to him so he can make plays attack or making plays and he was so good at it," Embiid explained. "His absence obviously puts a hole in that category. That’s why I decided to kind of take my game to another level when it comes to that.”
While Embiid has shown substantial improvement this season, he believes there is still a lot of room for growth. Despite not being a finished product, the only person not shocked about his evergrowing game is himself
“I still got a long way to go,” Embiid said. “There’s so much that I can add to my game whether it’s playing off pick-and-rolls and a bunch of other stuff that I can add to my game, but yeah, I think it’s always been there.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.