Batman may not always need Robin in the movies, but that hasn’t always been the case in sports. Joel Embiid is proving to be one of the best big men in the entire NBA and a legit MVP candidate for the Philadelphia 76ers, but winning a championship without a sidekick is a difficult feat to accomplish. And ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recognizes that.
In fact, Smith recently bashed the 76ers for not yet pulling off a Ben Simmons trade, saying they’re potentially wasting Embiid’s prime.
Joel Embiid is dominating during Ben Simmons’ absence
Ben Simmons’ desire for the 76ers to trade him became public knowledge months ago, but he and the organization have been in a standoff ever since. It appears Simmons won’t play until he’s traded, while Philly isn’t going to deal him until it gets a package worth the cost of giving him up.
His absence hasn’t hurt the Sixers all that much, though.
Philly is 26-18 and fifth in the Eastern Conference. It started 16-16 but has won 10 of its last 12 contests to catapult into the thick of the playoff race.
The 76ers’ success has a lot to do with Joel Embiid’s recent play.
Embiid is averaging 28.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, and a career-high 4.2 assists this year, but in his last 14 games, he’s recording a dominant 33.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest. On Wednesday, the Kansas product dropped 50 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in a win over the Orlando Magic.
Embiid wasn’t in the MVP conversation early on because of a stretch of games he missed in November, but he has since become one of the top contenders for this year’s award. However, if he wants to win a championship, he needs someone who can be the Scottie Pippen to his Michael Jordan (hopefully without the tell-all book).
The Sixers are currently thriving, but it will likely be hard for them to win multiple seven-game series without a second option to turn to in the clutch. So, it might be time for the front office to swallow its pride.
Stephen A. Smith bashes the 76ers for wasting Joel Embiid’s prime
Before becoming a star on ESPN, Stephen A. Smith was a reporter in Philadelphia, so he has some strong opinions about the 76ers.
And he believes they are wasting Embiid’s prime by not trading Simmons.
“I’m a fan of (76ers president of basketball operations) Daryl Morey,” Smith said on the Jan. 20 episode of First Take. “… I’ve known Daryl Morey for a very, very long time, I’m very fond of him. You gotta pull the trigger, man, because Joel Embiid’s health isn’t guaranteed. I’m not saying to do it for anything; that’s not where I’m going. What I’m saying is you’ve had ample time. Ben Simmons let you know over the summer he wanted out.”
Smith added that he understands why Philly doesn’t want to give Simmons up for essentially nothing, or at least a significantly lesser-valued package than what they believe the guard is worth. But he thinks the 76ers, who have also been called out by the likes of Charles Barkley, need to figure it out, especially because Embiid has dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career.
“Joel Embiid is my MVP; he’s my MVP right now,” he said. “ … When Ben Simmons took his position, Joel Embiid stood up in front of Philadelphia, where I worked for 17 years. … For him to stand up and say, ‘Y’all ain’t got nothing to worry about. I got this.’ And to perform this way, you’re wasting it because you don’t know how healthy he’s gonna be.”
Smith also believes that Philly won’t get past the conference semifinals without making a move. And he’s probably right, but, as mentioned earlier, the team will likely have to swallow some pride if it wants to get a deal done before the Feb. 10 NBA Trade Deadline.
The 76ers may have to lower their asking price for Ben Simmons
The 76ers have reportedly had a high asking price throughout this entire Ben Simmons saga. But Joel Embiid’s dominance has potentially altered their thoughts on the kind of players they should target.
“I do think with how great Joel is, our line has moved down a little bit because Joel has lifted us into contention by his sheer will of greatness this year, that does push the number of deals that we would do more likely, if that makes any sense,” Morey said on a recent episode of 97.5 The Fanatic’s The Mike Missanelli Show, (H/T Sixers Wire).” It’s more likely [that] we can find ones that get us into that top few contention because of [how] great Joel is playing. So we are sitting right now on a better chance of a trade that actually helps Joel and the Sixers and Tobias and our whole team.”
All in all, the 76ers have gotten nowhere by asking for ridiculous packages in return for Simmons. They will likely have to receive less than they what planned for if they hope to get a deal done.
And they better get one done, at least if they want to keep Stephen A. Smith happy. Their championship hopes may ride on it.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference