Here we are, less than one month away from the NBA trade deadline and Ben Simmons has yet to take the floor for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Meanwhile, franchise cornerstone Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP candidate, averaging 27.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals per game to keep the 76ers competitive and in the playoff picture.
At 27 years old, Embiid is in the prime of his career. He’s playing some of his best basketball and most importantly, he’s been healthy, aside from a tough bout with COVID-19 earlier in the season.
Embiid is currently amidst one of the most dominant stretches in 76ers history, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson as the only players to score 30-plus points in eight straight games.
The 76ers are 7-1 over that span, showing just how truly impactful Embiid has been. But in an era where there are multiple All-Stars on every championship team, the 76ers seem to have a ceiling placed on their championship aspirations without a co-star.
Simmons was and is supposed to be that guy, but he hasn’t shown up to work. Tobias Harris was signed to big money to be the third star, inking a five-year, $180 million deal with the 76ers during the 2019 offseason, but that hasn’t exactly panned out either.
Now, both of Embiid’s co-stars find their names in trade rumors, but there hasn’t been much movement on that front.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons’ agent Rich Paul met with 76ers president Elton Brand and general manager Daryl Morey, but the “sides still remain at a stalemate over the All-Star guard’s immediate future.”
“Simmons is no closer to honoring the team’s hopes for a return to the court this season – and the Sixers’ steep asking price has brought Simmons no closer to a potential trade,” Wojnarowski added.
As for Harris, it’s going to be difficult to find a trade suitor to take on the remaining $80 million on his contract. Kyle Kuzma put it best when he tweeted, “How the hell you package 80 Ms” in response to a Harris trade rumor.
Because of how much he is still owed, Harris is probably pretty likely to remain put in Philadelphia.
So with all of that being said, are the 76ers really going to just waste away one year of Embiid’s prime because they’re too stubborn to take back a reasonable trade package for Simmons? As of right now, the answer appears to be yes.
According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer’s latest trade intel, Philadelphia’s major stakeholders “are aligned in waiting for someone on par with (Damian) Lillard, James Harden, Bradley Beal or Jaylen Brown to become available either before this deadline or later this summer.”
I get it. It makes sense. But also, who’s to say any of those players will even be available this summer?
In the event that conversations do pick up, let’s take a look at how certain deals could play out in a Simmons trade.
Who is the ideal co-star for Embiid in a Simmons trade?
When it comes to finding the right fit next to Embiid, players like Lillard, Harden, Beal and Brown would all work seamlessly. Like most, I’m a believer that Embiid’s best fit for a co-star is a shot-creating guard or wing.
Brown might be the most ideal fit next to Embiid, but would the Celtics trade a franchise cornerstone to one of their biggest rivals? And would Simmons even be an upgrade for Boston in that scenario? I say no.
The same applies to the Wizards and Beal, or the Trail Blazers and Lillard – is Simmons such an upgrade that they’d pay the 76ers’ asking price? Probably not.
With Harden and the Nets, Simmons’ fit makes more sense than any of the other aforementioned places because they already have enough scoring with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but I don’t see that happening either because of Harden’s relationship with the other two superstars.
So before the 76ers let another MVP-worthy season go to waste for Embiid, why not lower the asking price and find players who can make you better now?
One intriguing name that has popped up in a few rumblings in the trade rumor mill is Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton. The Kings appear to be willing to part ways with anyone to alter the direction of the franchise, and Haliburton would be a great get for the present and future of the 76ers. You’d have to add in another player because Haliburton is still on his rookie-scale contract, and sharpshooter Buddy Hield makes enough money to push it through.
The problem here is that the 76ers would likely ask for one (or multiple) of the Kings’ first-round picks, and that might be where Sacramento hangs up the phone. Especially, when you consider the odd fit between De’Aaron Fox and Simmons.
But thinking about Haliburton and Hield paired with Embiid and the 76ers’ current roster gets them closer to contending for a title, there’s no doubt about that.
This is just one example of a potential trade that could better the Sixers’ title chances alongside Embiid’s monster season so far, and it’s the closest I could get to the other franchise potentially saying yes.
The point is this: Embiid’s best fit is a guard or wing who scores from the perimeter or midrange, and it’s an added bonus if they can create for others.
The 76ers should be doing all they can to replace the Simmons void with a player of that makeup as soon as possible before Embiid’s prime passes him by and “The Process” years wash away without a single championship banner to show for it.