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Joel Embiid: Choke Artist Or Just Unlucky?

Over the last five or six years, Joel Embiid has established himself as one of the most dominant players the NBA has ever seen. Still, his playoff resume doesn't stack up with the great players he is compared to based on his dominance, such as Hakeem Olajuwon or Shaquille O'Neal. The Philadelphia 76ers just finished another disappointing season as they were eliminated in six games by the New York Knicks in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Embiid had recently returned from a knee injury that kept him out for a good portion of the season and then re-injured that knee in game one, but given the circumstances, Embiid put together a good series, averaging 33.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game on 44.4% shooting, and 33.3% from three. With that being said, is Embiid a choke artist, just unlucky, or both?

Joel Embiid's Dominance

Embiid was putting together another historic regular season and was looking to win back-to-back MVP awards before he went down with his knee injury. In 39 games, he averaged 34.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. He shot 52.9% from the field, 38.8% from three on 3.6 attempts per night, and 88.3% from the free throw line.

Embiid is unstoppable when he's at his best. He's so good at drawing fouls and getting to the line, and he has an excellent mid-range game, which he uses often. He is also one of the best defenders in the NBA, being a three-time member of the all-defensive team. The problem is that Embiid's regular-season dominance hasn't translated to the playoffs over his career like it should. However, it may be more than Embiid being a choker.

Playoff Injury Woes

Embiid seems to get injured at the worst times every year he plays, and every year when the playoffs come about, he seems to be dealing with a problem. He will play through whatever injury he's dealing with, but we can usually tell that he's not 100% during these instances. Here's a list of his playoff injuries and the numbers he put up in those playoff runs:

2018: Orbital fracture and concussion

Stats: 8 G, 21.4 Points, 12.6 Rebounds, 3.0 Assists, 43.5% FG, 27.6% 3PT, 70.5% FT

2019: Knee tendinitis

Stats: 11 G, 20.2 Points, 10.5 Rebounds, 3.4 Assists, 42.8% FG, 30.8% 3PT, 82.2% FT

2021: Torn meniscus

Stats: 11 G, 28.1 Points, 10.5 Rebounds, 3.4 Assists, 51.3% FG, 39.0% 3PT, 83.5% FT

2022: Orbital fracture and concussion

Stats: 10 G, 23.6 Points, 10.7 Rebounds, 2.1 Assists, 48.4% FG, 21.2% 3PT, 82.0% FT

2023: Knee sprain

Stats: 9 G, 23.7 Points, 9.8 Rebounds, 2.7 Assists, 43.1% FG, 17.9% 3PT, 90.5% FT

Injury-Prone, Not A Choker

Injury prone would be the right way to describe Embiid in the playoffs. His inability to be healthy when the playoffs start pretty much every year hurts his and the 76ers' image. It may be unfair to label him as a choke artist because, to be honest, we've never seen him completely healthy for a playoff run.

Availability is the best ability, so Embiid catching heat for his injuries seems fair, but labeling him as a choker is not. In the 2022-23 playoffs, Embiid averaged 23.7 points per game compared to his 33.1 points per game in the regular season, which was the largest point drop-off for an MVP in the history of the NBA.

This revelation only made it harder for Embiid to escape the playoff choker narrative. Fans are still finding ways to drag his name through the mud every chance they get, and it seems like Embiid has a lot of work to do before he can get rid of that label.

The Verdict

Embiid has gone through the wringer dealing with multiple injuries throughout his playoff runs and countless negative labels that have been given to him, such as "playoff choker." When it comes to the question, "Joel Embiid: Choke Artist Or Just Unlucky?" it's not quite fair to say Embiid chokes given the circumstances surrounding his career, but it is fair to call him an injury-prone player because that is undoubtedly true.

He is unlucky with injuries, which greatly contribute to his playoff limitations. Embiid needs to focus on staying healthy throughout the regular season so he can finally have a full playoff run with no limitations holding him back. Calling Embiid unlucky rather than a playoff choker is not an excuse; it's a fact that some fans have come to accept.

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