Creator: Kevin C. Cox | Credit: Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports Copyright: Pool Photo Information extracted from IPTC Photo Metadata.

“Trust the process” has been the motto for Philadelphia for the past five years. Surely painful busts and losing again and again couldn’t go on forever. It had to end at some point.

Hope initially came in the form of Joel Embiid who returned from a foot injury that sidelined him for two years. Embiid exploded onto the NBA scene with a “rookie” season that featured 20.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG. Sixer fans were given a glimpse of a dominant future during a ten win January of 2017. Ben Simmons joined the team winning Rookie of the Year in the following season. The Sixers made the Playoffs in same season for the first time after a five-year drought.

The 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz as the first pick of the 2017 Draft. The young “Big 3” of Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz. It spiraled downhill from there. Fultz had a spectacularly disappointing season which ended in a trade to the Magic in two years. Jimmy Butler came and went. The 76ers had their ups and downs throughout the season, but the restart had promise. Embiid and Simmons entered the bubble with a full bill of health. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Ben Simmons partially dislocated his left knee cap late last week and will have to miss the rest of the season to recover. Now the 76ers’ season is up in the air and their future is even more so. In the absence of Simmons, will Philadelphia decide to part ways with Simmons or even Embiid next season?


What Could Prompt A Trade And How Could It Help The 76ers?

One executive who spoke with believes the Sixers will need to choose between Simmons and Joel Embiid — if Philly has an earlier-than-expected playoff exit.

In the case that the 76ers perform poorly in the Playoffs whether that be a quick first round or even possibly a second round exit (depending on Philly’s definition of “earlier-than-expected”), we could see some movement.

The internet hopped onto this idea over the past several days on whether Embiid or Simmons would be a better trade candidate. Cleveland came forward as a potential suitor for a Simmons trade. The Cavaliers could offer a mixture of Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Kevin Porter Jr., and Larry Nance Jr. to name a few. The real prize the 76ers could come up with in a trade would be one of Cleveland’s picks for the upcoming draft.

It’s reasonable that Cleveland would be on board to trade for the closest thing that the league has seen to LeBron James in recent years. Simmons is an incredible floor general with the great potential if he is surrounded by shooters.

The 76ers might need to come to terms with the fact that Embiid and Simmons are not an effective one-two punch. Neither player shoots well from distance meaning they have to trade paint touches in order to score. The two stars shoot a combined 31% from three. There is only one Sixer that shoots over 40% from three and averages over 20 minutes a game (Furkan Korkmaz). The 76ers are an average three-point shooting team at best which puts even more focus on Simmons’ and Embiid’s offensive weaknesses. If the 76ers were able to deal one of their stars for some shooting, it could theoretically work. More spacing for either Embiid or Simmons to work with on the floor due to more outside threats would do wonders for their offensive efficiencies.

Reasons Why Philadelphia Might Keep Both Simmons and Embiid

Moving either player is a massive undertaking. The last the 76ers want to do is to trade away a future superstar for very little in return. Money is also a major factor on both ends of a particular trade. Ben Simmons is set to make 170 million on a max deal over the next five years starting next season. A trade would prove to be a handful from a financial standpoint.

If Cleveland or another suitor were going to trade a handful of their younger players, they would need to do a lot of leg work to make the trade. Embiid also makes around 30 million a year for the next three years. Their salaries alone create major roadblocks.

Teams might also hold injury concerns over a massive investment in either Simmons or Embiid. Simmons has already suffered two major injuries in four seasons (he didn’t even play in his rookie season). The 76ers have put a lot into Joel Embiid, and it is likely that they will hold onto him over Simmons.

“He’s our most important player. He’s clearly our future — they’re all an important part of the future — but Joel is exceptional,” said 76ers owner Josh Harris on Embiid just over a year ago. It is yet to be seen if that sentiment has changed after the slightly disappointing 2019-20 regular season.

Knee injuries have been an issue for Embiid as well. The 76ers could potentially trade Embiid based on his (slightly) lower salary and his comparatively worse injury history. Philly could build around Simmons with more shooting similar to how the Rockets were structured around Harden and the Bucks around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

As the 76ers enter the first round of the Playoffs against the Boston Celtics, all eyes are on how the 76ers can handle the coming challenges. Embiid will have to guide his team without Ben Simmons. It is quite likely that their success or failure in the next few weeks will decide the future of the Simmons-Embiid dynamic.

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