The Philadelphia 76ers are heading into something of a make or break year. For several seasons now the team has been on the verge of legitimately competing in the Eastern Conference, only to ultimately disappoint in one way or another.
Popular wisdom seems to be that the Sixers’ main flaw is that their two best players lack cohesiveness. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid simply don’t compliment each other, the naysayers suggest. And because of that, Philly will never legitimately compete unless one is traded.
Recently, Bleacher Report explored a deal that would send Simmons and Al Horford to the New Orleans Pelicans in return for Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, this year’s 13th overall selection, and a 2021 first-rounder. Needless to say, the prospective transaction raised some eyebrows.
“For Philly, Holiday, Ball and Redick would completely remodel the backcourt and provide plenty of spacing around Joel Embiid,” Bleacher Report noted.
“Ball still has star potential to lift the 76ers’ ceiling, and Holiday and Redick are two of the best in the league when it comes to defense and outside shooting.
“The Sixers would get to make a lottery pick this year and get one of the Lakers’ picks from New Orleans (originally acquired in the Anthony Davis trade). Getting off Horford’s contract would be a blessing, as well.”
On paper at least, it’s hard to see how the Sixers get a better return on their Simmons investment than that. Obviously none of the players being sent back are as big of stars as the 24-year-old Philly is sending away, but they would all align perfectly in a puzzle centered around Embiid.
You gotta respect Lindsey Vonn. https://t.co/fLmOQnfKY9
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 23, 2020
New Orleans, meanwhile, would get the sort of point guard who could really maximize Zion Williamson’s promise, and who would likely make Brandon Ingram a better player as well.
Now, to be clear – new Sixers head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t appear to want to trade Simmons away yet. He seems intrigued by the prospect of making it work with him as the team’s playmaker. Similarly, general manager Elton Brand has also made the case that he wants to build around both Simmons and Embiid, as opposed to just one of them.
“I’m not looking to trade Ben or Joel,” Brand said. “I’m looking to complement them better. They’re 24 and 26 years old, respectively. You try to make that fit as long as you can. They want to be here, they want to be with our organization, and I see them here for a long, long time.”
Championship coaches do championship things. https://t.co/Rt7179e8TK
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 22, 2020
But there’s a reason why everyone thinks this marriage cannot work. In a survey recently conducted of 20 NBA agents, Philly got far and away the most votes for which franchise needs to make a major move this offseason.
“Philly is at the point where it’s a make or break year for just about everybody,” one agent said bluntly to The Athletic.
It’s hard to argue with that. One way or the other, the Simmons-Embiid experiment will need to deliver some results this year. And if it doesn’t, it likely will not be repeated next season.