The rumors of a blowup in Philadelphia have been floating around for months, after the high-priced stars on the 76ers roster never fully found their chemistry.
Now, with Ben Simmons out for the NBA playoffs with a knee injury, the Sixers chances in the bubble seem dismal. So could the whispers of Philly trading away one of their stars in Simmons or Joel Embiid actually become a reality? The Warriors will definitely be lurking if so.
Both players are young and immensely talented, making them very attractive trade targets for any team in the NBA.
Which of the two should the Warriors pursue most? According to former Warriors general manager and Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mullin, who recently joined the Runnin' Plays podcast, it's the big man.
"I'd go Embiid," Mullin decided after some deliberation. "I love Simmons ... I just feel like with the way that Steve plays, he still likes to establish inside-out."
Mullin explained that the Warriors don't go inside in the traditional manner, using Draymond as a passer in the split action, but it goes without saying that the team still values a big man's presence.
At 7-foot and 250 pounds, Embiid is an imposing physical specimen. The 26-year-old is a three-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection, and two-time All-Defense pick. He can overpower opponents below the rim, and step outside and nail a 3-pointer. When he is playing at his best, Embiid is one of the most dominant players in the NBA.
He also would be a perfect pairing with Steph Curry. They would form an incredible pick-and-roll partnership. Embiid's defense alongside Draymond Green would make the most formidable defensive front court in the NBA, and his willingness and skill to pass the ball out of the block would create many open shots for Klay Thompson.
While the NBA has been moving to smaller lineups and away from the traditional big man, Mullin still sees how important someone like Embiid can be for the Warriors,
"I'm interested to see how Houston goes through these playoffs," Mullin said. "I love small-ball better than anybody, but there is still a balance, I still think there's a balance to the game of basketball. When you just do one thing, and one thing only, you can't win that way. That's why the Warriors are so special when they, on that five-year run, yeah they shot a lot of 3s, but they shot a lot of free throws, they shot a lot of mid-range, they got layups, their assists were up, they played the total game"
The biggest knock on Embiid, however, is his injury history. The big man has dealt with a wide variety of health issues, which can definitely give teams some hesitation to part with a lot of future assets for him.
So how about Simmons? The two-time NBA All-Star at just 24 years of age and is a 6-foot-10 incredibly versatile athlete. He can handle point guard duties, or even slide inside to put his back to the basket in the mold of a power forward. His unique ability to push the fastbreak and finish above the rim, with his size, makes him dangerous in motion. He is one of the premier defenders in the NBA as well, using his physical strengths and athleticism to guard all positions well.
The biggest criticism of Simmons, however, is his inability or better yet, unwillingness to attempt outside shots. At this point in his career, he is not a threat from the midrange or from deep, which can clog the lanes at times for his teammates. So far though, he has made up for this inability by excelling in every other aspect of the game.
But to Mullin, at the end of the day, Embiid's dominance down low is just too hard to pass up.
"I love small ball, but I still want some big guys," Mullin said. "I want some physicality, I want some pressure on the rim, and on a given night when I'm struggling in Game 6 on the road, can I throw it down to someone just to get a foul and stop the bleeding."
"I'd go Embiid."