All 30 NBA teams have obviously been greatly affected by the indefinite suspension of the 2019-20 season due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Given the long layoff, the 76er from Philadelphia could be one of many teams to recover some players from injury if the season resumes again. Joel Embiid was nursing a sprained shoulder and Ben Simmons was facing a nervous conflict in the lower back before the season stopped.
Embiid had just returned to action after a multi-week absence, while Simmons was barred indefinitely, which raised doubts about how healthy he would be for a mid-April playoff. With the program now indefinitely postponed, Embiid and Simmons both have extra time to stay healthy, which is an advantage for Philadelphia because it will only be able to go as long as its two stars bring them. It remains to be seen exactly how far.
Before the NBA hit the pause button, the Sixers could have been the league’s most inconsistent team. They boasted the best home record at 29-2, but were at the bottom of the barrel on the road with a 10-24 record away from Philly. They had made impressive wins over Lakers, Clippers and Bucks, but they had also suffered embarrassing losses for the likes of Hawks and Wizards. At 39-26 years old, they sat sixth in the Eastern Conference rankings behind Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat and Pacers, after many had expected them to compete for the best seed in the conference before the start of the season.
It is natural, therefore, to speculate on the Embiid-Simmons tandem and whether the two can coexist with Philly. The fact that the two prefer to produce in the paint is one of the main reasons why some don’t think they fit well, as well as the difference in their favorite game pace. Simmons plays as if he had been fired from a cannon and thrived during the transition, while Embiid is more likely to do damage in midfield.
These questions about pairing come despite the fact that the Sixers have won over 50 games and advanced in the playoffs in both seasons in which they have played together so far. Given the success they have already had together, it is easy to forget how young they are. Embiid is 25 years old and in his fourth season, while Simmons is 23 years old and in his third season in the league. Michael Jordan took seven years to win his first ring. LeBron James hasn’t won his first title until his ninth season. Boththe idea that they can’t coexist, recently like the breakdown of All-Star, with Embiid calling this speculation “BS”, while Simmons points out the fact that he liked having Embiid as a running mate. Simmons also clarified that he doesn’t think the duo has yet reached its full potential.
“I think it’s BS, because when we look at the last two years we have played together, it hasn’t been a problem,” said Embiid. “… I mean, look at what we’ve been able to do in the past two years and I think it will work and it will work.”
“It takes time. Not everything should be perfect right away,” added Simmons. “We are two different people trying to understand him. I love playing with Joel, I think he is an extraordinary talent. I have a lot of respect for his game and I know that he feels the same way with me, as long as we continue to fight and go the right way, I think it will be all right. We have a lot of talent, it’s scary how good we can be. ”
Among them, Embiid and Simmons already have 41 playoff games and five All-Star appearances. Both have yet to reach their potential as players. They are also two of the best defenders in the league, so as long as they are both in the formation, the Sixers are almost sure they have an elite or almost elite defense. In addition, the two seem to really enjoy playing with each other.
So while the pairing between Embiid and Simmons is the main topic, a more pertinent question for the Sixers is whether the front office has built a supportive cast to help the two thrive. Tobias Harris and Al Horford moved all in in the offseason, and the results were disappointing. Harris is an excellent complementary piece, but not necessarily the type of player who can constantly bring the team, while Horford has struggled to find a solution.
The main problem is that Horford’s ability put on the offensive is somewhat redundant with Embiid and Simmons. Horford is at his best when he is operating from the elbow or low block. He is extremely comfortable in creating good looks for himself and others from these areas. The problem is Embiid and Simmons is also at ease in the same areas, in particular on the low block, where Embiid does a good part of his damage and where Simmons is often demoted due to his inability to distance the floor with his shot . Therefore, Horford was forced to spend a lot of time on the perimeter, where it is limited and not particularly effective. Horford himself acknowledged his integration problems.
“It’s not as good as I want to be,” said Horford of his crisis in December. “I still haven’t been able to find my rhythm with the team … I’m out [there] for the team and do everything possible to help us. But offensively, I am very limited with the things I can do. So I can’t control that stuff … So all I have to do is make sure I’m there for the team, trying to do everything I can to help us win. ”
Sixers’ coach Brett Brown had moved Horford to the bench to try and maximize the talent in the team, but injuries to Embiid and Simmons forced Brown to reinstate Horford in the top five before the season was suspended. As such, there are clearly questions about its long-term adaptation. The postseason could provide some clarity there, as the Sixers were advertised as a team created for the post-season game by Brown and general manager Elton Brand.
But if there is no post-season, or if the Sixers go off in the first rounds if, and when the season resumes, then the front office will have some decisions to make about the offseason. Embiid and Simmons are the cornerstones, but the current list does not seem to be necessarily built to maximize their talents, not in the way, for example, the Bucks built their roster around the current MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounding him with players in space the floor when the defense collapses around him. The problem for Philly who goes on is the lack of wagespace. With Embiid, Simmons, Harris and Horford all locked up for the foreseeable future in business with large sums of money (they are all under contract at least in 2023), the team will be limited in what it can do in a free agency.
The Sixersfor some off-season shots, but finding a business partner will be easier said than done, especially if they’re trying to get shots in return. Nowadays, floor spacing is a prize in the NBA. Not to mention the fact that Horford turns 34 in the summer, and there’s not much market for big traditional men on the wrong side in 30 years, particularly someone with three years and over $ 80 million left in his current contract. If the Sixers had signed a two-year deal with Horford, moving forward after the first season would have been much easier. Instead, they signed it for a four-year deal, and now there is hardly any chance that they will get good value in exchange for a deal even if they are able to find an interested suitor. The Sixers may potentially have to add another resource as a sweetener to get another franchise to take over the rest of the Horford deal. The Sixers would likely be in a similar position with Harris, who signed a five-year $ 180 deal last summer. Will they look to shake things up again in this offseason?
There are also questions about Brett Brown and whether he is the right coach to lead the Sixers to their first title since 1983. How the Sixers performed in this post season would likely have determined his status going forward, and this may still be the case if the season finally resumes, but what if there is no postseason? Has Brown done enough in the eyes of the front office to earn another season or have they seen enough? At least, you should think that the Sixers front office would try to install a new system via a new coach before even considering switching from one of Embiid or Simmons, given that Brown is the only coach he has ever had from when he entered the league.
So while the entire NBA is facing uncertainty about the immediate future, the Sixers have their own questions they have to answer, and how they decide to answer these questions will work to shape the advancing team.