The Philadelphia 76ers just can’t win consistently without Joel Embiid

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After dropping an absolute bomb to the Houston Rockets, one thing is abundantly clear: The Philadelphia 76ers just can’t win consistently without Joel Embiid.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to find a positive takeaway from a game.

It’s like that old saying ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all’, but in the world of sports journalism, that’s just not the case. You clicked on this article (thank you) because you want to read about the Philadelphia 76ers‘ struggles without Joel Embiid, and for better or worse that’s what I’ll deliver.

Buckle up; this is going to be like pulling teeth.

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Initially diagnosed with knee tendonitis, Embiid has missed twice as many games as the team initially assumed, and over that eight-game tenure, the Sixers are 4-4.

Now on paper, that isn’t a particularly lousy ratio given the team was previously 1-3 without their anchor in the paint, but the actual way the team has played in said wins and losses is far more concerning.

The team picked up an impressive win against a Paul George-less Oklahoma City Thunder, but their three remaining wins came against Orlando, Miami, and New Orleans, none of which are exactly world beaters.

Their losses, on the other hand, have been brutal, falling to Portland, Golden State, Houston, and Chicago by a combined score of 465-430.


Now granted, all but the Chicago game would have been tough even with Embiid on the court, but watching the team struggle considerably with poor spacing, poor switching, and even poor coaching, it’s clear JoJo’s impact on the game reaches far greater than his 27-11 stat line would suggest.

Embiid is the Sixers’ leader; quite literally the rock in the middle that keeps everyone together, and momentum forward facing. When Embiid is in the paint, defenders can worry a little less about their guy driving for the basket, and worry a little bit less about securing a rebound.

Based on the team’s horrible numbers in the paint, and on the boards, their current stable of Jonah Bolden, Amir Johnson, and Justin Patton have been all but incapable of scraping together Embiid-esque numbers.

Sure, without Embiid the Sixers can craft an uber-fast assault to optimize Ben Simmons’ size, speed, and court vision, but the better teams in the league have been able to neutralize that look without much effort, leading to a string of close games, and ugly losses.

And the ugliest of them all came in Houston.

After going down 37-21 in the first quarter, the Sixers never even came close to making it a close game, but they really should have based on their size alone.

With Houston fielding a starting five of Chris Paul (6-foot), James Harden (6-foot-5), Eric Gordon (6-foot-4), P.J. Tucker (6-foot-6), and Clint Capela (6-foot-10), Philly’s Monstar-ting five should have been able to bully Mike D’Antoni‘s squad in the paint with ease, even with Amir Johnson at the five, but instead things went the other way.

The Rockets hit 10 more 3s than Philly (13 vs. 3) and did so on much easier shots. With no bulldozer like Embiid capable of picking up an easy two in the paint or at the free throw line, the Sixers just kept shooting from downtown, despite missing time after time.

But even if J.J. Redick hit an average clip on his nine 3s attempted, scoring 12 points as opposed to three, it really wouldn’t have been much of a difference.

For better or worse, Brett Brown has built his scheme, both offensive and defensive around Embiid’s dominance, and when he’s unavailable, things go south really quick. Now Boban Marjanovic helped to ease that void, but when he also went down with an injury, it left the team in a very vulnerable spot.

Next. Jimmy Butler is a Karma Chameleon. dark

If the Philadelphia 76ers are ever going to take that next step and firmly secure the third seed in the East away from the Indiana Pacers, they are going to need Joel Embiid to return to the court stat, as they quite literally can’t win without him.