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Hakeem Olajuwon prefers Nikola Jokic to Joel Embiid, but his 3-point criticism misses the point

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In a fascinating story truly worth your time, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard recently examined the death of a post-NBA play through the eyes of one of the greatest men who ever lived, Hakeem Olajuwon. Again, it’s a great piece. check it out here.

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The basics of the story are long and well dated. Spacing rules. Three equals more than two. As such, the NBA’s top men who could only be near the basket have become extinct. However, we still have dominant players. They do not work exclusively in the cluster.

The two that come to everyone’s mind are Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. These two aren’t quite as accomplished as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, but Jokic and Embiid have become the most exciting “Who’s Better?” The debate continues. The popular vote has tilted heavily towards Jokic in recent years, and indeed Olajuwon sees the Jokic as the torchbearer of the post-follow-up era.

From Ballard:

“He doesn’t look strong, but I see he gets such a deep position,” Olajuwon said of Jokic. “I think maybe it’s the mismatch, but then he does the same thing against the bigger guys. His shot, his fake, it’s so hard to time. You don’t know when he’s fake and when he’s real. He’s got tricks!”

Olajuwon nodded. “It’s the one.”

Now, what did Olajuwon say about Embiid?

He loves Olajuwon [Embiid] Gave him advice but he had questions. “He’s got all the moves, however Benefit The moves are different. Olajuwon asks “Why would he shoot triples?” “He has a feature every night, and if I had a feature, I’d wear you out.”

But three? “That’s calming down! When I’m tired, I settle. Don’t settle when you’re trying to win. Don’t start the game, settling down!”

So here is where we have to bring the dream back to reality. For starters. Embiid is not a builder who has no business behind the arch; Since the beginning of December, he has hit more than 43 percent of his doubles. Moreover, he caught 3 fewer seconds last season than Jokic, both in total and on a per-game basis, yet achieved it at a 4% higher rate.

Embiid also shot 37 percent from depths in 2019-20. Now, to be fair, Jokic is shooting at a higher clip so far this season (37% of Embiid’s 35), and he takes 3 times less per game than Embiid. Conversely, Jokic leads the league in post-game shots (9.4 vs. 6.2 for Embiid, though not all of Jokic’s posts are designed to score). These are the numbers that support the spirit of Olajuwon’s message. If you are a big boy, play like a big boy.

We all have to admit there is more of a sense of ‘settle’ to Embiid’s three-pointer than there is with Jokic. why? Because Jokic is, in essence, serving as a point guard on Denver’s offense and seeing the ground from a distance is essential in terms of location. Shooting 3s becomes more about the space he inherently occupies when he kills you as a crossbowman, while Embiid’s standing behind the bow takes him out of the spots he’s a licensed killer to be.

In the end, the defenses seem to want Embiid to take 3s, which is the equivalent of stability. But I assure you, the defenses want Jokic to take 3s instead of chopping them up a thousand different ways too, and the end result is that he’s bound him over the years just like Embiid, which will only cramp up the space required for James to toughen up to work the Pick and Roll and Tyrese Maxey to attack the basket if he knocks it down throughout the game.

Everything in basketball is about opportunity cost. Fifteen to 20 Embiid catches per game is all-consuming for the Sixers. So it takes a few seconds here and there. If he’s portraying them in the clip he’s relaying, there’s not much even Hakeem Olajuwon can say.

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