By Annie Ross

Sixers star center Joel Embiid picked up a big-time honor yesterday:

He was named to the league’s All-Defensive Second Team for the second year in a row — the first Sixer to land All-Defensive honors in back-to-back seasons since Dikembe Mutombo in 2001 and 2002.

No one in the league did better this past season than Embiid and his 11.1 defensive rebounds per game. He placed second among all players with a defensive rebounding percentage of 29.2.

As important as Embiid’s defensive versatility and rebounding prowess were this year to the Sixers’ collective success, protecting the rim is where the 7-footer remained an absolute game-changer.

His imposing, stalking frame was a regular road block for even the most dangerous of lane drivers. He finished sixth in the NBA with an average of 1.9 swats per game, while defending 53.3% of shots taken against him at the rim, which was good for third-best overall (min. 30 mpg, 60 gp).

Also worth noting is that Embiid faced more shots at the rim on average than anyone else, as he was peppered with 8.2 attempts per game.

Although voting for the NBA’s 2019 All-Defensive Team took place prior to the playoffs, Embiid’s defense carried over into the postseason. At the time the Sixers were eliminated from the second round, he boasted the best individual playoff defensive rating (91.4) in the league.

Toronto outscored the Sixers by a total of 109 points in the 99 minutes Embiid didn’t play in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a telling indicator that captured the enormity of the All-Star’s defensive presence.

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