Joel Embiid doesn't want the Sixers to end up like the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Not the 2017-18 Thunder, but OKC circa 2011-12.
Embiid is convinced that at some point soon, the media will turn on him and the Sixers.
Speaking specifically about the core trio of Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne:
"I think with everything, the main thing we have to do is just stay together because I feel like there's going to be some type of situation where people say who is better between us three. And that's how it splits."
She recalled talking to Embiid about his social media presence at All-Star weekend in 2016, when he told her, "I'm just trying to have as much fun before everybody turns on me."
Shelburne pointed out the uniqueness of a then-22-year-old — who had been in the United States just seven years — understanding the "fame cycle" well enough to know that things could soon turn.
"I saw what happened in Oklahoma City with (James) Harden, (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant and I don't want that to happen here," Shelburne recalled Embiid saying.
If the Sixers get to that point ... it'll probably be a good problem to have. Just prior to the 2012-13 season, the Thunder traded Harden to Houston in one of the worst trades in recent NBA history. OKC did it for several reasons — salary cap, personalities, only having enough shots to go around. And really, who knows if Harden would have been able to grow into this superstar had he been sharing the ball the next handful of seasons with two other alphas?
Embiid and Fultz have already grown close, and it's important to Embiid that the three young Sixers don't get caught up in the "Who takes the last shot?" conversations or "Who should be the All-Star" questions that inevitably come up.
Luckily for the Sixers, Embiid, Simmons and Fultz have different enough skill sets that they should be able to coexist. It's not directly analogous to the OKC situation where all three players needed the ball in their hands. The Sixers were built this way for a reason.
Right now, it's clear Embiid is the alpha of the group. He's the go-to guy in crunch time and again has a top-five usage rate. When Simmons eventually becomes more comfortable with his jump shot and Fultz finally makes his impact on the court, we'll see whether or not Embiid was prescient.