Sixers' Joel Embiid: I think I'm the best defensive player in the league right now

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell gets blocked by Sixers center Joel Embiid on Monday.

Joel Embiid is arguably one of the best players in the NBA.

The 76ers center is one of five players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Yet, he’ll tell you that he’s more than a double-double machine.

“Not to be cocky, but I think I’m the best defensive player in the league right now,” Embiid said following Wednesday night’s 101-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. His comment came in response to being asked how good can he become, defensively.

“I’m still getting better,” Embiid added. “My blocks are a little down [compared to last season] I’m a better rebounder this year.”

But the 7-foot-2, 283-pounder’s presence alone benefits the Sixers (10-7) on the defensive end.

Embiid is averaging 1.9 blocks down from the 2.5 he averaged during his 31 games played in during the 2016-17 season.

However, he’s averaging 3.0 blocks over his last four games.

The 23-year-old finished with a team-high 28 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and two blocks to post his eighth double-double of the season on Wednesday. That brought his season averages to 22.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in 15 games played.

Not bad for someone who said he’s only at 81 percent of his normal self following knee surgery in March.

“It’s not all the way there but I think it’s getting better,” Embiid said. “I’ve still got to work on a lot of things, but it’s getting there. I can’t wait to be at a hundred percent.”

He can only hope to cut down on turnovers once he gets 100 percent. He’s averaging 4.3 per games after finishing with 4 against the Blazers.

But that didn’t stop him from dominating the game.

Ben Simmons also had a solid game for the Sixers. The point guard finished with 16 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. T.J. McConnell (13 points), Dario Saric (11) and JJ Redick (11) were the team’s other double-digit scorers. Embiid’s backup, Amir Johnson, had another solid performance with four points on 2-for-4 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks.

Portland point guard Damian Lillard finished with a game-high 30 points while making 6 of 13 three-pointers. His backcourt mate C.J. McCollum had his worst performance of the season. He finished with a season-low five points on 1-for-14 shooting.