Former NBA superstar Dikembe Mutombo said in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he thinks Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid “is more talented than me at that age when I came into the NBA.”
He also compared Embiid’s game to his own:
“One thing he can’t do better than me is he can’t block shots like I do. I know he is watching a lot of my tapes and a lot of my videos.
“He will get there. But I just love the kid. I love his game. I love the approach the game he has on any given night the way he plays. There is not much concern if he can get hurt every game or not. He just wants to play the game. I’ve been praying a lot for him, a lot that he will get an opportunity to play a full season in the NBA. I hope it’s coming. He really wants to follow in my footsteps, and I’m happy to see that.”
And he said he believes Embiid could be “super good” and better than he was in his career, praising Embiid’s all-around game:
“Offensively, he is so much further ahead than so many of us that have come from the continent of Africa. More than many big men have defensively proven themselves in the NBA. There is nothing we can say about that. The kid can rebound. He can block shots. I just want him to stay healthy and play the game, because he does love basketball.”
Embiid, 23, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sixers but missed his first two seasons with foot issues. He made his debut last year and was superb when he was on the court, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in just 25.4 minutes per game.
The injury bug bit again, though, and Embiid appeared in just 31 games before a torn meniscus ended his season. He was so dominant, however, that he was still a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
And now Embiid is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s exciting young core, which also includes the last two No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, along with Dario Saric and Robert Covington.
Mutombo’s analysis of Embiid is fair. Embiid is already a superior offensive player, as Mutombo never averaged more than 16.6 points in a season and didn’t have Embiid’s shooting range or fluidity in the post. Mutombo was a force in the paint, however, averaging 2.8 blocks per game for his career and more than three blocks per contest in eight seasons.
He also averaged a double-double in 11 campaigns, making him one of the most dominant interior threats of his generation.
Embiid isn’t there yet, but he’s shown the timing, athleticism and intelligence to become one of the league’s most impactful defensive presences. He has the upside to become one of the NBA’s best players, period, assuming he can stay on the court.
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