Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manute Bol, Akeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the only rookies ever to make an All-Defensive team. It usually takes young players a while to learn the nuances of NBA defense.
But I nearly picked rookie Joel Embiid for my All-Defensive second team last year. The biggest hang-up: Embiid didn’t play enough to affect as many defensive possessions as his competitors. He was darned good while on the court, though – an imposing rim protector and mobile switcher on the perimeter.
Now, Embiid is healthier and touting his defense.
“Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said.
When Embiid said, “not to be cocky,” he meant “to be cocky.” That’s just what he does.
To be so advanced defensively for his age suggests he could become the very best defender. I just don’t think he’s there quite yet.