In the last 30 years, three pairs of under-age-25 teammates have been All-Stars together:
- Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway (Magic)
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
- Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (76ers)
Shaq and Penny broke up before winning a title together. So did Durant and Westbrook.
Will Embiid and Simmons rise together in Philadelphia?
There have been some indications of strife between the young stars. The way both express cockiness, it’s not difficult to envision an eventual power struggle for control of the team.
If so, it sounds clear which player Philadelphia would pick.
76ers owner Josh Harris on Embiid, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional. We generally talk to him about how we are oriented, and what type of players we might be bringing in. We get his advice. In terms of specific conversations, we give him a heads-up. At times, it’s not always appropriate because of the other parties involved. You don’t want to compromise who we are talking to or put [Embiid] in an awkward position. “But we’re certainly thinking all the time about how to complement his skill set, which is 3 and D wings, people who spread the court. He’s a dominant presence defensively and he’s dominant in the paint. We need to take the pressure off him so people don’t collapse on him.”
Simmons is a good player. But he’s not at all a floor spacer. His skill set doesn’t complement Embiid particularly well.
How does Simmons fit into the 76ers that Harris described?
On-court fit matters. But so does talent. Simmons brings plenty of the latter. He has great size for a lead ballhandler and excellent court vision. His defense is strong.
Philadelphia should continue trying to get Embiid and Simmons to mesh. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to listen for a trade that returns better-fitting talent. But selling low on Simmons just because of his fit with Embiid would be a mistake.
Simmons will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Harris’ words matter, but actions speak louder. Extension negotiations will be our best opportunity to gauge how the 76ers value Simmons.
That said, he’d still hold plenty of trade value on a max extension.