Given Joel Embiid’s undisputed status among the NBA’s top handful of players this season, his appearance in the Eastern Conference’s starting lineup for the All-Star Game long seemed to be a formality.
It became official Thursday night as Embiid earned a fourth consecutive All-Star starter selection.
Starters were determined by fans, a panel of media members and NBA players, with fans’ votes weighted at 50 percent, media’s and players’ at 25 percent.
All-Star reserves are selected by NBA head coaches and will be announced next Tuesday, Feb. 23. Two of Embiid’s teammates, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, are contenders for reserve spots. Simmons is seeking a third All-Star nod while Harris, who’s averaging 20.8 points and 7.7 rebounds and currently has a 50/40/90 shooting season, is hoping for his first.
It’s not yet known whether Embiid will participate in the game itself. Big-name players across the league, including LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, have voiced their opposition to the league’s planning to play the All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7 during a season that’s already been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s money on the line; it’s an opportunity to make more money,” Kawhi Leonard told reporters. “Just putting money over health right now, pretty much.”
Embiid has a young son, Arthur, who he said has motivated him to be at “the top of his game.” He’s dealt with back tightness recently and noted Wednesday he’s been bothered by that injury since taking a hard fall after a flagrant foul by James on Jan. 27.
Not that it’s necessary to show why he deserves a spot in the East’s starting lineup, but Embiid’s statistics are exceptional. He’s averaged 29.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks through his first 23 games.
Again, Embiid has been the most efficient high-volume post player in the league. He’s posted up an NBA-high 8.8 times per game and produced 1.07 points per possession on those plays, according to NBA.com/Stats. That’s the best mark of any player posting up at least four times per game.
Embiid has taken 11.3 foul shots per game, No. 1 in the NBA, and made 85.1 percent of his attempts. His 52 percent mark on mid-range shots is by far his career best, per Cleaning the Glass, and the same is true of his 132.6 points per 100 shot attempts.
The Sixers lead the Eastern Conference at 19-10 and have a 1-5 record when Embiid sits, 18-5 when he plays.