Joel Embiid put on one of the greatest displays by a big man that the NBA has ever seen on Wednesday night at Staples Center. A now-healthy Embiid showed off his full repertoire, devastating the Lakers on both ends of the floor. He finished with 46 points on 14-20 shooting from the field, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and seven blocks, as the 76ers won 115-109.
While it's certainly possible that Wilt Chamberlain and a few others had a game with these sort of numbers back in the day (the NBA didn't start counting blocks until the 1973-74 season), Embiid is the first player to record such a performance.
While the numbers were gaudy, perhaps the most amazing thing about Embiid's night is the versatility he showed off on the offensive end. He didn't get 46 points simply by overpowering people down low and drawing fouls. Sure, he did some of that, but he put on a complete offensive performance that borrowed moves and skills from big men, small forwards, and guards alike.
He is, in many ways, the NBA's version of Frankenstein's monster, with all sorts of skills and moves from other players smashed together in his 7-foot frame. He is impossibly large, yet quite nimble, and at the same time overpowering and supremely skilled.
But as they say, a (moving) picture is worth a thousand words, so let's get to the video to take a look at some of Embiid's plays from Wednesday night side-by-side with the same type of play from other stars. Just to be fair, we'll go in chronological order.
Texas-style trailing 3
A few minutes into the game, the Sixers came up the floor in semi-transition, with Embiid trailing behind the play. As the Lakers' defense fell back, Ben Simmons dropped off a pass behind him to the trailing Embiid, who drilled the 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Now, let's take a look at another mobile big man who has made more than his fair share of trailing 3s: the NBA's active leader in points, Dirk Nowitzki.
Grizzled pass from the point
Embiid was not known for his passing ability coming into the league, but as he showed against the Lakers, he can dish out some assists. Just look at him here facilitating from the top of the key, rocketing a pass inside to his buddy Simmons along the baseline.
This might look familiar to you, and that's because Marc Gasol has been making this sharp passes from the point for many years now in Memphis. Here's an example from the other day. Catch the ball, survey the floor, and boom, immediate pass under the basket.
A true 7-footer, Embiid somehow has the agility and footwork to move like a guard, and he showed it off in the third quarter. Catching the ball just inside the 3-point line, he unleashed a hellacious Eurostep to get around the defense for a layup. To be able to make that move at his size is incredible, but to do so with almost no running start is just insane.
That filthy Eurostep remind you of anyone? James Harden, perhaps?
Clipping the baseline
Of course, at his size, Embiid can also work out of the post. But as he's showed throughout his career, that doesn't just mean backing people down. Take this play from the fourth quarter, for example. Embiid faces up to his defender along the baseline, gives the shot fake, makes one dribble to the middle, and then spins to the basket for the reverse layup. Simply unguardable.
This kind of baseline magic is reminiscent of Blake Griffin -- especially from his younger days. This play isn't exactly the same because he doesn't spin, but the methodical face-up to lull the defender to sleep followed by the explosive move to the baseline is much in a similar vein.
Later in the game, Embiid showed off another facet of his face-up game. This time, however, he was operating in the mid-range. Catching the ball with his back to the basket, Embiid turns and squares up to his defender, with his opponents clearing out for him to go one-on-one. They don't have to wait long, as Embiid gives a little jab-step, and rises up for the smooth jumper.
There's not even a question as to which player Embiid took that move from. Carmelo Anthony should have a trademark on this one, because it's how he's earned his living.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the Sixers down by one, Embiid pulled off his most impressive move of the night. He put poor Julius Randle in a blender, shaking and faking his way to a phenomenal and-one.
Embiid's move wasn't exactly a Dream Shake like Hakeem Olajuwon was famous for, but the vast array of post moves in quick succession made most everyone watching the game think of Olajuwon almost immediately.