Joel Embiid is disrespected in the latest ESPN NBA player rankings


Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against PJ Tucker #17 of the Miami Heat in the first half during game four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals.

In the past few days, ESPN has dropped its predicted player rankings for the 2022-23 season. While the intention might just be to start a conversation, this causes players in the league to feel offended and media members to bicker over perceived errors in the rankings. This has previously been the case when Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and James Harden found themselves in the top 100 list. With only the top five players waiting to be announced, the question was not whether Joel Embiid would make this list, but where he would end up on it.

That ended Friday morning when ESPN dropped the top five player rankings and Embiid found himself the fourth-ranked player in the NBA.

Why Embiid finished fourth

This ranking is an improvement for the Sixers superstar as he was seventh last season. These predictions are based on expected performance in the 2022-23 season. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps pointed to his impressive offensive performance as the main reason for his promotion. Embiid posted a career-high 30.6 points per game last season, leading the entire NBA. At just 33.8 minutes per recorded game, he averaged the fewest minutes of any player to ever win a scoring title.

In looking at reasons for a potential promotion, Bontemps cited postseason health as the biggest area for improvement. Embiid played a career-high 68 games last season but suffered a fractured face and thumb injury in the postseason. If the consecutive MVP runner-up is able to stay healthy, then the sky really is the limit as to how good he can be. The article also acknowledged that the jump to number one is not that far as the improved squad is seen as a source of optimism. As Bontemps put it in the ESPN article:

“After years of making up for the shortcomings of a flawed roster around him, this season Embiid will mark the first time Embiid will be surrounded by a team designed to optimize his Strengthen. That will only increase Embiid’s chances of winning that elusive MVP award and leading Philadelphia to the deep playoff run that’s missing from his resume.

If those things happen, he could jump to the top of that list.”

Did ESPN get it wrong?

It may state the obvious, but there are many great basketball players in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Luka Donic each have good arguments as to why they are ahead of the Sixers superstar. There’s also a strong case for Steph Curry standing above Embiid, having clinched his fourth NBA title last season with his sustained offensive brilliance.

However, there’s a feeling that Embiid isn’t getting the national recognition he’s deserved so far. In addition to his NBA best of 30.6 points per game, he had 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. The 28-year-old became the first tall man to win a goalscoring title since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-00. Embiid has consistently been the most important player for his team on both sides of the ball, which cannot be said for the players who ranked above him.

While these rankings are subjective and up for debate, they could serve as further motivation for Embiid and the Sixers to move forward. The MVP runner-up has been regularly pinned in the national media and has used that as motivation in the past. His bulletin board needs to fill up as despite his continued success there are many doubts he needs to look at.

With the most complete squad ever assembled around him, Embiid expects to return in 2022-23 as focused as ever. The lack of postseason success will continue to be the biggest criticism against him, and changing that in the postseason will be Embiid and the Sixers’ top priority.

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