Decision Time for Philly: will the 76ers deal Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid?
This past All-star weekend was a treat for basketball fans. The touching tribute to the late, great, Kobe Bryant only raised the appreciation for greatness. Of all his exploits one of his most memorable basketball feats was winning a three peat with his teammate and friend, Shaquille O’Neal. For years the dynamic duo punished the league, becoming champions in the process. Fast forward to the present, this weekend featured another duo who ended playing against each other: Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The weekend may have been a foreshadow for Philadelphia 76ers fans because as a duo, the two may not work together.
Trouble in Philly
Now, there may not necessarily be bad blood between Simmons and Embiid. In fact, they could very well be the best friends. However, on the court they hamper each other. Simmons and Embiid’s play styles are not complimentary, even though they appear to be on paper. A pass first facilitator mixed with a post scorer should work. Yet, it isn’t.
Simmons’ quick pacing doesn’t give Embiid time to really establish himself in the paint. When Embiid is established down low, Simmons cannot get aggressive to score because his jumpshot is not existent. Thus, both players do the majority of their scoring work in the paint, which leads to them shrinking the offense. Of course if Simmons developed a jump shot, this wouldn’t be a problem. The reality is that he hasn’t, which is an issue.
With the duo’s offensive struggles, the 76ers have fallen to 5th in the East. There’s no telling if the team will drop any further. One thing is clear, however. This pairing as it currently stands is not sustainable.
Who stays and who goes?
If the 76ers decide to eventually make a trade, the team will have a tough decision to make. Presently, Joel Embiid is the better player. He is more threatening on both ends of the floor. However, his performance has been inconsistent this entire season, not to mention his struggles with injuries. Ben Simmons, on the other hand, is younger and has a high ceiling for growth. He has shown offensive prowess in the pain, not to mention that he can rebound, pass, and play defensive. Aside from a shot, he has the potential to be a more complete player than Embiid. However, given today’s game, it is impossible to be complete without a shot. Moreover, his full offensive prowess won’t be put on display until he is the only true “big man” on the team. That is to say that he is free to to attack the paint, similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thus, Ben Simmons current position leaves him in a developmental rut.
If it comes to building around a player to win later, Simmons may be the better option. If surrounded with a team of shooters, Simmons’ ability to facilitate would make his team truly formidable. Additionally, Embiid’s recent cryptic tweet suggests that he may be open to a trade. However, if the 76ers want to win now, they should strongly consider building around Embiid. If paired with a pure facilitator who could hold their own from beyond 15 feet from the rim, the 76ers would have one of the best one-two punch combos in the league. In either circumstance, Philadelphia would have to make a considerable amount of phone calls throughout the rest of the season, into the summer. Thus in making a move, Philadelphia will have to set their priorities. Yet, there is a chance that the 76ers do nothing at all.
Making the Duo Dynamic
The 76ers are currently housing two of the League’s most well known and talented players. Shipping off either player has the potential of deepening a rival team. If Philadelphia can hone their two stars and get them to figure out how to play together, the 76ers would be very difficult to stop. Of course, the team has had three years to figure this out, and has failed to. There is no promise that they would actually be able to make it work. However, with teams such as the Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets, and even the Toronto Raptors gaining prominence, the last thing that the 76ers would like is to fall behind. If the team can’t get Simmons and Embiid to work together, it will have to go through a soft-rebuild, which may lead to a longer term rebuild. Thus, winning is on the line, and the easiest means of doing so would be for the 76ers to get their house in order as soon as possible.
There’s a slim chance that the 76ers will deal either player before the summer. That gives the team a lot of basketball to play and a lot of opportunity to get it right. The playoffs will be the ultimate test of the duo’s ability to work together. Obviously, winning will erase any critique that Simmons and Embiid cannot get it done together. Short of long term playoff success, presumably a championship, the two will have to spend a lot of time this summer working on their games, either on the same team or on separate ones. They could be a new version of Shaq and Kobe if they can make it work. If not, the franchise as a whole will suffer. Thus, the 76ers will have a big choice to make by the end of the season.
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