The Philadelphia 76ers have two All-Star players in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two guys who can be foundational pieces of a franchise, and the team has given absolutely no indication there is a plan to break them up.
That hasn’t stopped other teams from keeping an eye on it, speculating about it, and some (maybe even many) think the day is coming, sooner rather than later.
Here’s what has been said on a couple of recent podcasts. First, there is Howard Beck of the Bleacher Report, with Zach Lowe on The Full 48.
“There are plenty of people around the league who believe this is it, these are the final days of Embiid and Simmons together.”
This is how Brian Windhorst of ESPN phrased it on his Hoops Collective podcast (hat tip Reddit NBA).
“But anyways, one of the conversations people are starting to have in the league is ‘will they move Embiid? What’s the price? Where would he go?’ I’m not going to get into that, but my point is people are talking about that.”
A few thoughts on this:
• Expect a forceful denial from GM Elton Brand and Philadelphia very soon.
• When teams struggle, this is what happens. Rumors, sometimes fanciful rumors, start to fly around. And the Sixers have struggled this season, and it’s not just the recent five-game losing streak — if the playoffs started today they would be on the road, something not expected from them before the season.
• Sources I have spoken to around the league painted this picture (and Windhorst mentions it): It’s too hard to get two elite players, trading one (and certainly not getting full value back) is the absolute last resort. The more likely pattern is Brett Brown gets fired after the season and another coach is brought in. However, if in a year or two that coach cannot get Embiid and Simmons to blend at a championship level, then the Sixers will start to explore trades. (Both players are under contract for three seasons after this one, there is no pressure to trade or lose them on the Sixers.)
• While Embiid is the better player right now, Philly may look to move him and build around Simmons because he as seen as having a longer career.
• Or, Philadelphia turns it around this season and this all seems a distant memory.