The Sixers' unceremonious departure from the NBA playoffs, timed with the NBA's draft lottery, spurred a number of discussions in the past week about the future of the organization's two All-Star cornerstones.
The Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons pairing has always been scrutinized - often in excess. Does it work? Does it not? Are they good enough?
Now, with the team seemingly thinking about a new head coach and maybe more re-tooling, some wondered if this is the time to move one of Embiid or Simmons in search of a new team dynamic.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowkski, the sport's most plugged-in reporter, chimed in on the rumblings on Monday morning, one day after the Sixers were swept out of the playoffs, with some perspective:
There are going to be changes in Philadelphia. It remains to be seen how dramatic those are. I believe that it's very likely they begin with Brett Brown, and the unlikelihood that he will be back for his eighth season next year.
I think the chances of [breaking up Simmons and Embiid] are fairly remote. I still think that, if they're going to make a change at head coach, I think they're likely to allow another coach to come in and try to make that partnership work. They're still young players. The third postseason they had together, Simmons was out and couldn't play, obviously, in this Boston series. You don't get value when you trade players of that ilk.
And, remember, these are both players under contract. They're not at risk of losing somebody in free agency. They have rushed, Philadelphia, at times, to try and speed this up around Simmons and Embiid. They've made trades and undone deals; they traded for Jimmy Butler, and then moved Jimmy Butler on a sign-and-trade to Miami. They don't have to keep making more significant, massive deals because, in the end, you usually don't get the value back, for those kinds of stars.
I think you'll continue to see them try and build around Simmons and Embiid.
For Sixers fans who still believe in the long-term viability of the Simmons-Embiid combination, that's a huge relief.
It's an interesting exercise, wondering what the Sixers could do if they traded one of Embiid or Simmons, but ultimately that's not where the team's troubles lied this season. It was the pieces around Embiid and Simmons - like the regression of Al Horford and Josh Richardson; the unjustified investment in Tobias Harris; and the general dearth of quality shooting on the roster - that ultimately did the Sixers in.
The question shouldn't be "How should the Sixers trade Embiid or Simmons?", it should be, "How should the Sixers help Embiid or Simmons?" Because you don't just stumble into talent like these two young stars every year. They're fantastic players, and when given the correct help (and maybe better coaching?) they can still turn into an Eastern Conference contender in the next couple years.
According to Woj, it sounds like we'll get to see whether the duo can figure it out.