Ben Simmons uncertainty with 76ers sets stage for Joel Embiid's career year

Ben Simmons uncertainty with 76ers sets stage for Joel Embiid's career year

The Philadelphia 76ers drama has dragged on into preseason with All-Star point guard Ben Simmons’ future still up in the air.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Simmons has reported to Philadelphia, but it remains unclear where they will go from here as his camp and the organisation have reportedly “progressed in talks over recent days on a resolution.”

With Simmons desiring a trade to a new team, the ill-fated on-court fit alongside Joel Embiid appears to have ‘run its course’ as reported by The Athletic, according to a source, with the days of ‘The Process’ duo in Philly numbered as Embiid appears to be ready to move on.

“The situation is disappointing, borderline kind of disrespectful to all the guys that are out here fighting for their lives,” he told reporters at training camp of the ongoing saga.

Despite the locker room turmoil, the Philadelphia 76ers — coming off a No.1 seed finish last season — still have their sights set on contending for a championship this season, with or without Simmons….so where does this leave Joel Embiid?

The 27-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, averaging a career-high 28.5 points, to go with 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks per game on .513/.377/.859 shooting splits, finishing second in MVP voting to Nikola Jokic.

Well and truly in his prime, the organisation has put their faith in the four-time All-Star, signing Embiid to a four-year, $196 million contract extension in the summer, but with the prospect of Simmons potentially not being on the roster next season, the 76ers are undisputedly his team. 

The Simmons-Embiid partnership has yielded regular-season success, only to become unraveled in the post-season, with the clash of styles not allowing either player to maximise their skillsets. Entering 2021-22, Embiid will likely have the entire offence built around him, creating the looks inside that make him one of, if not the most dominant big men in the league. 

Last season he led the NBA in points off post-ups (10.0) and post-up frequency 36.5%, while also leading the league in usage rate 37.5%, which begs the question, how much more can he do?

Despite his already polished game, the best of Embiid could be yet to come as he continues to expand his game beyond the paint. Last season he finished 11th in total mid-range field goals made (140) — the second-most among centers, behind only Nikola Vucevic, with that number a near 46 percent increase on the season prior.

(Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/cb/21/ben-simmons-joel-embiid-092921-getty-ftr_wza6rpr990ml1habpyrk1xq4i.jpg?t=836806148&w=500&quality=80

There’s no doubting Embiid’s talent, a silky 7-footer, who can knock down jumpers as easily as he can body you in the paint, find shooters out of double teams, while being one of the best interior defenders in the league, but the question marks around his health remain. 

Embiid has struggled with injuries throughout his career and missed 21 games last season, suffering a meniscus tear in his right knee in their first-round series against the Washington Wizards. He missed one game and then played all seven games of their following series against the Atlanta Hawks, but was visibly hobbled at times.

The good news, he’s back to full health heading into the season.

“It’s been fine,” Embiid said of his knee at Media Day. “I’ve just been working out all summer. It’s been fine, no problems. I’m getting back to where I was and I feel pretty good.” 

The signing of free-agent big man Andre Drummond will certainly help share the workload in the frontcourt, but ultimately the team’s success this season is going to boil down to Embiid being able to stay on the court consistently and play at an MVP level.

Missing games last season ultimately cost him a real shot at the MVP trophy and according to NBA.com’s annual GM Survey, there’s plenty of confidence this year could be his year.

Seven percent of NBA GMs voted for Embiid, placing him fourth overall, tied with Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, behind Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, who received 37 percent of the votes.

Another MVP-level season is shaping up for Embiid and if the 76ers are going to contend in the Eastern Conference, that’s ultimately what they’ll need from their big man.