Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia 76ers are 10 games above
.500 after their 18-point blowout victory over the Los Angeles
Lakers on Thursday night. Checking in with a 29-19 record,
Philadelphia continues to weather the storm as it relates to the
ongoing Ben Simmons saga. Both Simmons and the organization are dug
into their positions, and this stalemate could extend even past
this season’s trade deadline.
The main reason Philadelphia is staying well above water — only
two games back of the top seed in the Eastern Conference — is their
franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid. What Embiid has been doing over
the last six weeks has been nothing short of magnificent, firmly
placing him within the MVP race.
Since Dec. 16, Embiid is averaging 33.8 points, 11.9 free throw
attempts, 10.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 blocks on an elite
64.2 True Shooting percentage.
However, Embiid is getting proverbially run into the ground from
a usage perspective. This six-week run of prime Shaquille
O’Neal-esque dominance has Embiid bookmarked at an outrageous 40.2%
Comparing Embiid’s 40.2 USG% to the other ball-dominant
superstars in the Association since mid-December, he’s creating
some distance in this metric: Giannis Antetokounmpo is at 37.3
USG%, Trae Young — 34.2 USG%, Luka Doncic — 34.3 USG% and Devin
Booker — 32.6 USG%.
As Embiid continues his reign of terror on opposing defenses,
one constant thought continues to linger. How long will this
actually last before *knock on wood* Embiid goes down with an
We all know Embiid’s checkered injury history, and the Sixers
right now are playing a very dangerous game with the soon-to-be
28-year-old big man. A 7-foot, 280-pounder carrying over 40% of a
team’s usage is cyborg-like. That’s simply not sustainable for the
entire slog of an 82-game regular season slate.
With that being said, it’s time for Sixers GM Daryl Morey to
blink first as it relates to the off-court melodrama with his
disgruntled point-forward. Trade Simmons for the best possible
package before this run from Embiid ends with no positive benchmark
resulting from it.
On Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Sacramento
Kings were the latest team fed up with the Sixers’ stance on
trading Simmons. Sacramento bowed out of the Simmons sweepstakes,
which further thins out the potential destinations Philadelphia can
send the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 NBA Draft.
Sacramento stood out as one of the most realistic organizations
for a Simmons blockbuster, thanks in large part to the players on
their roster who fit around Embiid: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese
Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes.
Now, Philadelphia is backing out and reassessing who exactly
wants to get their hands dirty and potentially waste their time
over the next two weeks before the trade deadline?
Philadelphia is legitimately in a great spot to make a push in
the second half of the regular season because of Embiid’s
brilliance. It will be all for not if Morey and Co. continue to sit
on their hands and don’t find their superstar big man some
immediate help, though.
The Eastern Conference is wide open. Kyrie Irving’s part-time
status as an unvaccinated player has thrown a wrench into the
Brooklyn Nets’ hopeful title run. The Chicago Bulls have found some
magic with their dynamite scoring duo of DeMar DeRozan and Zach
LaVine, but who on their roster could guard Embiid over a
Last season’s defending champions in the Milwaukee Bucks have
their own legitimate argument to make a repeat Finals run. Even
though they’ve dealt with countless injury issues, the Miami Heat
sit atop the East and control their own destiny for home court
advantage once the calendar hits mid-to-late April.
Philadelphia slots right into the mix because of Embiid. The big
question is how will Embiid hold up over the next three-plus months
before the playoffs even begin? What if the Sixers don’t trade
Simmons and decide to hope and pray for an unlikely James Harden
sign-and-trade this offseason involving Simmons? It’s not the right
move, especially when realizing exactly what Embiid is
accomplishing for Philadelphia right now.
It’s time for the Sixers to push those chips all-in to take some
much-needed pressure off Embiid, conserving him for when it really
matters most in win-or-go-home scenarios. Simmons is the chip to
push into the middle of the table, and the time is ticking fast to
utilize that chip at peak value.
Imagine what Philadelphia could do if they added multiple
win-now pieces in return for a player who’s not even around the
team right now? It changes not only the entire calculus for Embiid
and the Sixers, but it causes a seismic shift for what could
potentially happen in the Eastern Conference this postseason.
Particularly for big men, their primes are not something to just
play around with. Embiid is showcasing exactly why he’s one of the
best players in the NBA, one who could singlehandedly bully his way
through defenses to a miraculous Finals appearance.
It would be such an unfortunate circumstance if the Sixers’
front office decided to punt on this golden opportunity, sitting in
front of them right now.
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