It’s been 41 days since the Philadelphia 76ers shipped Ben Simmons to the Brooklyn Nets in the deal that paired James Harden with Joel Embiid in the city of Brotherly Love. Doc Rivers’ squad is 12-5 since the blockbuster trade and 8-3 in the games where Harden was in the lineup.
For the most part, the two superstars have meshed well together. However, Harden and Embiid must prove they can win come playoff time. Former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas believes that Embiid is starting to feel the pressure to win after dominating headlines with the Simmons drama.
Gilbert Arenas argues Joel Embiid desperately wants to find success with James Harden
Analysts have mixed feelings on the ceiling of this Philadelphia 76ers team since the trade. No matter what side of the spectrum you’re on, Joel Embiid and James Harden give this squad a legitimate chance to win against anybody. Either could be the best player on the floor on most nights.
The All-Stars appear to be in sync, but Gilbert Arenas suggests Embiid can’t have it any other way. In a recent episode of No Chill with Gilbert Arenas, the retired guard gave his thoughts on the MVP frontrunner’s mindset for the rest of the year.
“Embiid is going to be more delusional than anything,” Arenas said. “Because of the Ben Simmons thing, he needs this to work. He needs to prove to the city that this was the right trade. This was the right move that we did. No matter what happens, in his mind, it’s always this was the best thing we did. We got rid of a guy who didn’t want to be here.”
While Joel Embiid’s intentions are unknown, it’s clear that he wanted Ben Simmons gone. Arenas argues the big man likely wouldn’t be an MVP contender if Simmons was playing, though.
“He should be grateful,” said Arenas. “The only reason you’re an MVP candidate is because one whole superstar wasn’t there. And you got to do what you gotta do, carry the team by yourself. You gotta look at it from that standpoint, too.”
The retired NBA star believes the 76ers will suffer an early exit in the NBA playoffs
While James Harden and Joel Embiid are two of the most talented players in the NBA today, not everyone buys that they can lead the 76ers to an NBA championship as currently constructed. Gilbert Arenas shares those sentiments.
The three-time All-Star doesn’t believe making the NBA Finals is even within the realm of possibilities for Doc Rivers’ crew.
“No, they’re not winning no got damn championship,” Arenas said. “I don’t even have them getting out of the first round, unless they play Toronto or Cleveland. Everybody else is too disciplined when it comes to playoffs. Do you think they beating Boston in seven games? You think they beating Chicago in the playoffs, Miami in the playoffs?”
Arenas added that he doesn’t believe Philly could beat the Bucks or Nets in the postseason, either.
“Playoffs is discipline,” he added. “It’s half-court. That means less possessions. You have to be perfect, basically. That team ain’t disciplined enough. Y’all got to sacrifice, and I don’t see them sacrificing just for the playoffs to beat the other teams. Nah, first-round unless they play those two teams. Then, it’s second round, and they get the f** out of there.”
Harden must rise to the occasion for Philadelphia to have a shot at a title
Joel Embiid should undoubtedly be feeling the pressure to win after wishing for the Ben Simmons trade. However, he’s not the only one. James Harden is right there on the hot seat with him, and even more so.
Harden linked up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to win a championship. However, that experiment didn’t last very long. He wanted out of Brooklyn, and joining the 76ers was what he wanted. Now, he must deliver.
The 10-time All-Star and former MVP is averaging 22.4 points, 10.5 assists, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 11 games with the Sixers.
Some will question how bad Harden really wants it. He failed to show up in the first game against Brooklyn since the trade, then went out partying after the loss. Everything he does is under a microscope because he demanded a trade. He cannot afford to come up small in big games. For all Harden has accomplished, he’s never reached the NBA Finals.
Embiid and Harden have the talent to carry a team on a playoff run, but it won’t be easy. If they suffer a first-round exit, it would be a bad look for both superstars.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference