The Inbounds: Joel Embiid is a fever dream, and Turkey Watch is in full effect

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The Inbounds is a look into what’s going on with various teams around the NBA, including quotes, plays, stats and more. We’re still early, so everything here should be taken with a huge sample size warning in big, bold, red letters.

Let’s talk about that Embiid kid. 

In the, ahem, process of Joel Embiid’s 46-point, 15-rebound, 7-assist, 7-block demolition annihilation destruction of the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night, Embiid pulled off a move — one of many stunning plays —  that was, quite simply, as close to the Dream Shake in today’s NBA as we are likely to get. A dizzying array of post moves that pulled Julius Randle into a vortex that briefly displaced him in the space-time continuum. 

He catches the ball and from that moment on, Julius Randle is chasing him. When Randle goes to Embiid’s left shoulder, Embiid’s already turning back right. 

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But Randle has good position, and Embiid’s stuck on his pivot. But by catching the ball and immediately going into his post move without dribbling like so many players do, Embiid now has the ability to shift back to his left and reset his pivot foot:

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When Embiid spins back hard left, he feels for Randle with his shoulder and elbow. Randle, anticipating a bump that never comes, tries to flop while keeping his hands low as to not foul:

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On the spin back, Embiid is so quick, and now Randle is too far off his left move, so he has to recover:

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It’s here he has Randle. He pump fakes to show Randle the ball and Randle bites completely on it. Hard to blame the guy:

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Embiid goes up and under, and in doing so, takes the foul on his shoulder from Randle while bringing the ball up, making it a shooting foul. 

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It’s art, it’s mayhem, it’s beauty, it’s destruction. 

Final note: Embiid’s game should be considered historic. It is, in fact, the first time an NBA player has been *recorded* as having had 47-15-7-7. On the one hand, we should recognize that Wilt Chamberlain probably, in all likelihood, had a lot of these games before blocks were recorded. We should also acknowledge that for the record we have, Embiid was the first to accomplish this with evidence. 

We can respect the past while loving the present. 

There are a lot of good screeners in the NBA today. Steven Adams is one of the best. Marc Gasol. Cody Zeller. DeAndre Jordan

But Aron Baynes has been handing out some absolute pulverizers this year. It takes a lot for DeMar DeRozan to just outright stop playing as if he’s like, “OK, that’s it, sorry guys, mom’s calling for dinner, I gotta go.” 

Here, poor Spencer Dinwiddie manages not to get caught the first time, but pretty much all Baynes does on 80 percent of his possessions on the floor is run around creating brick walls. Dinwiddie doesn’t have it called out the second time. Wham. 

This stuff is important. Jusuf Nurkic is capable of setting screens like this, but he almost always slips the screen instead looking for a scoring opportunity. Nurkic is more talented than Baynes, but Baynes is going to have a long, productive career because you need guys who will just put defenders into the court like a lawn dart. 

Last year, in the 1,658 minutes that Evan Turner spent on the floor, the Blazers were outscored by 180 points. For most of the season, he led the league in worst raw plus-minus. As his numbers were so astounding for a player on a team that wasn’t bottom of the barrel — the players that finished behind him in plus/minus were all from teams like Orlando, Philadelphia, and the Lakers — I tracked it regularly. 

Well, it’s important to note that in 401 minutes played this year, Turner is a plus-53. This isn’t just a product of his time with the starters; he’s legitimately contributing to Portland’s success. In particular, Turner has been a really good complementary defender. The Blazers’ defense is 3.3 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and he’s running off 3-point shots about as hard as you can:

Turner still can’t space the floor and so is limited in many ways, but he’s been really helpful for a Blazers team that seems on the edge of everything most nights. 

John Wall is shooting 63 percent in the restricted area and 32 percent from everywhere else on the floor. He’s having, legitimately, a terrible shooting season, even for him. However, his ability to get to the rim still presents him as a dangerous threat, and he’s layered so much stuff into it. 

Watch him use the bodies of everyone around him on this sequence. He goes left around the screen, then, as Markieff Morris rolls, he stops to put his defender “in jail” using his hips and backside, pinning him behind him. When Kelly Olynyk reaches to try and generate a steal, Wall accelerates not only out of it, but back around Morris’ right shoulder, effectively using a moving screen Morris is never going to get called for on account of his roll.

Wall’s ability to manipulate space is what makes him such a great point guard, even when his shot is not great. 

On Wednesday night, Chicago scored just seven points in the first quarter of their blowout loss to the Thunder. They had five turnovers and just two made field goals. Here’s the saddest shot chart, ever:

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Let’s all pray for the basketball gods to be swift in using the simulate option on this Bulls season, though Zach LaVine’s return should help a little bit. 

You should read James Herbert’s profile on Kemba Walker and how he went from the backup on one of the worst teams ever to a severely underrated star. 

You should also be aware of this stat, mentioned in Herbert’s piece: the Hornets (5-8) are plus-8.4 per-100 possessions with Walker on the court. That’s comparable to Kyrie Irving’s plus-8.9 mark. Without Walker? The Hornets are outscored by 23.3 points per 100 possessions. They are 31.7 points better with him on the floor, and the only reason they lose games is the 13.3 minutes per game he spends on the bench.  

Being the supporting cast of a superstar isn’t easy. You have to make sure that the star gets his touches so that if you lose, it’s not “how could you not get him the ball in clutch time?!” But you also have to contribute so the narrative doesn’t become “why can’t they get him some real help?” 

The Bucks decided to spend a protected first-round pick for Eric Bledsoe, along with Greg Monroe, last week, in the hopes of providing some real help. Well, Milwaukee’s 4-0 since adding Bledsoe, and late in their win over the very good Pistons, you saw why it’s so great having someone who can make plays without Giannis Antetokounmpo having to do all the lifting. With the Bucks leading by three, Bledsoe and Khris Middleton ran a side pick-and-pop, presenting the Pistons with a world of bad decisions. 

They need to trap Bledsoe to contain him and keep him out of the paint, especially with Giannis looming as a cutter on the weak side. Then they need to recover on Middleton, a career 39 percent 3-point shooter who has shot 47 percent from deep since Bledsoe arrived. 

The Pistons probably should have switched, and it’s clear Ish Smith gets caught in no-man’s land. But this still shows you what adding Bledsoe can do for this Bucks team. 

TURKEY WATCH

Every season, I keep track as best as I can of all the holiday food that NBA Cares and the teams give out in their communities. Players and staff donate their valuable and precious in-season time, teams donate thousands of dollars, and there’s a real impact made by these efforts not just during the holidays, but year-round. Some notable efforts made in the last few weeks:

  • The Clippers served over 8,000 lbs of food donated by Smart and Final, including turkeys and fixings, for the St. Joseph Center, a local non-profit that helps over 6,500 individuals annually on November 14.
  • The Knicks in cooperation with Hain Celestial donated 165 birds this week for the Children’s Aid Society.
  • The Celtics, including Kyrie Irving, held a Thanksgiving dinner for 15 families from the Boston Center for Youth & Families. 
  • Arron Afflalo is giving away 450 turkey dinners in cooperation with Amway to underserved families in Central Florida. 
  • Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers girls served dinner to 350 guests from LA community organizations. They even got barbecue. 



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