And. Here. We. Go. (Again.)
The Philadelphia 76ers are 5-1, with a one-point opening night loss to the Milwaukee Bucks standing as their only blemish. The James Harden trade is complete, which means Philadelphia's offense has been entirely given over to the Embiid-Maxey two-man game. There wasn't a more potent offensive play in the NBA last season than Embiid running pick-and-roll with Harden. Turns out the Maxey pick-and-rolls might be just as dominant.
Nick Nurse is lauded for his defense first and foremost, but the Sixers' offensive growth compared to the Doc Rivers era is already pronounced (and Rivers' offense was good). Embiid continues to dominate as a face-up weapon at the elbow. The Sixers lack perimeter creators outside of Maxey, but the result has been more cutting and off-ball motion than ever before. Embiid is still not the best passer, but he's quickly processing double teams and using his gravity to create easy finishes at the rim for Tobias Harris, Kelly Oubre, and the like.
The stats are hard to ignore — 32.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on .535/.429/.828 splits. The 3-point numbers are going to fall back to earth eventually, but Embiid continues his career-long trend of improving each and every season. His approach is as efficient as ever, but he's still an absolute beast individually. He dropped 48 on the Washington Wizards on Monday, including a masterful 29-point third quarter in which he went 10-for-10 from the field and 9-for-9 at the free throw line.
Embiid's assist numbers are up and he's also playing his best defense in years. Nurse challenged Embiid to take more "swings" as he put it, and the reigning MVP is averaging a healthy 2.0 blocks per game so far. He hasn't averaged such a high clip since his more carefree rookie season, back when injury preservation wasn't as front of mind. He has a legitimate DPOY case, and he's in line to lead the NBA in scoring again. He's better, folks. Embiid's stock took a hit in the postseason, but he's offering a strong reminder of his singular talent level.