Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid hasn’t backed down from criticizing Ben Simmons since the polarizing Sixers guard requested a trade and decided to sit out the start of the 2021-22 season. In what might seem like a cruel twist of fate, Embiid’s recent play and comments are likely the biggest reasons Daryl Morey and the rest of Philly’s front office could retain Simmons through the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Initially, a struggling 76ers team appeared destined to ultimately deal Simmons before the deadline to get Embiid some help. However, thanks to Embiid, Philly is in a groove, and the supremely talented big man’s feeling that the team already has enough to win could keep Simmons in town at least until the summer.
Joel Embiid is dominating and putting himself squarely in the MVP conversation
Joel Embiid is having himself an incredible month. Actually, it’s been a phenomenal two months for the four-time All-Star.
Embiid won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for December. He’s followed that by averaging 33.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 4.9 assists in 11 January contests. Embiid has his highest split in terms of true shooting percentage (64.4%). Additionally, he holds a 42% usage rate for the month, which is astonishing.
The outspoken star is feeling himself quite a bit. Embiid compared himself to Michael Jordan after dropping 50 points in just over 28 minutes during a win over the Orlando Magic. Then again, he has every reason to exude enormous confidence.
With Embiid leading the way, the 76ers are 11-3 in their last 14 games. JoJo is ensuring his place in the MVP conversation, ranking second in player efficiency rating (PER) and fourth in value over replacement player (VORP).
Embiid’s usage rate in January might suggest that Philly is overly reliant on him. But he doesn’t seem to think that’s the case.
Embiid previously said the 76ers already have what they need to compete for a championship
The 76ers are the worst rebounding team in basketball. They rank 23rd in assists. Still, Joel Embiid believes Philly has all the pieces.
Embiid said back on Jan. 14 that he felt the Sixers’ front office shouldn’t feel obligated to make a big move, saying, “We got everything we need.” He doesn’t appear to mind carrying such a big load on his shoulders.
Whether Embiid is right is another question. Philly’s flaws — rebounding, playmaking, and lack of athleticism — are pretty evident, and it’s that much tougher to compete in the Eastern Conference with the rise of teams like the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, not to mention a deep Miami Heat squad.
It’s also a question of health as far as Embiid is concerned. He’s dealt with injury issues in multiple playoffs, which might suggest the 76ers need pieces to ease his burden. Regardless, Embiid’s dominant stretch and belief in the current roster have seemingly altered Philly’s internal thoughts on a Ben Simmons trade.
The 76ers are reportedly punting on a Ben Simmons trade until the summer
The answer to the question of whether Ben Simmons gets traded before the Feb. 10 deadline has changed a million times. With just over two weeks until deadline day, it now appears as though the 76ers will stand pat.
Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported the 76ers will likely keep Simmons through the deadline with the hopes of acquiring James Harden or another star this summer. The Beard, who becomes a free agent this summer, is reportedly open to “relocation,” though the Brooklyn Nets are likely to push hard to re-sign him.
In any case, the Sixers are reportedly content to hold onto Simmons in the event he decides to come back. If not, they apparently think the current roster can contend.
It’s hard to see how this approach does not directly coincide with Joel Embiid.
If Embiid felt uneasy and, as is becoming a narrative around the NBA, believed the 76ers were wasting one of his prime seasons by not getting talent in a possible Ben Simmons trade, then he’d make those feelings known. Instead, he’s done the exact opposite, which could alter the franchise’s trajectory for good.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.