Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons co-exist in Philadelphia?

Profile Picture: Ryan Murphy

January 7th, 2020

BetAmerica has teamed up with Covers and Oddschecker to break down the latest news and trends from around the Association. This week NBA columnists Andrew Caley, Sam Farley and Ryan Murphy discuss the delicate dynamic between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond's future, and Marcus Morris' career resurgence.

Can the 76ers win a championship with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as their franchise cornerstones?

Andrew: Let me preface this by saying, I think both are extremely talented players and Embiid is capable of winning an MVP some day. That said, the answer is no. The problem is their styles just don’t mesh. Embiid is arguably the best big man in the game and needs to be surrounded by shooters in a half-court offense, and sorry for being Captain Obvious here, but Simmons can’t shoot. Or at least refuses to shoot. As a result, the two clog up the paint and don’t space the floor well for each other. Because the Sixers are so long and athletic, and not to mention talented, they are going to win a lot of regular season games. And maybe even the East. But the style of play will eventually be exposed by elite teams over a seven-game series.

Sam: This is a tough question, and if I’m honest, I don’t know exactly where I stand on it. Embiid and Simmons are great players but as a duo are they enough to tackle Anthony Davis and LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? Embiid could fit into either of those duos but I’m not sure Simmons is quite at the level needed. I’ve always thought doubts that they can't play well together were misjudged, but they’ve been raised for long enough now that we should be seeing more growth. So, no, they’re not quite at the level of the Clippers or Lakers in terms of the two franchise cornerstones. However, I think the guys around them are better than those in L.A. Tobias Harris is a baller and I’m a big fan of everything that Al Horford can add to the team, so they’re still in contention for me. They do need to improve though.
Ryan: Put me down for an emphatic no. I’ve been suspicious of Simmons since his lone year at LSU, when he was unable to propel the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament despite being the most talented player in college basketball. The same flaws that were evident in his game back then are still present five years later, as Big Ben disappears in half court sets and either can’t – or won’t – take shots beyond 12 feet away from the basket. His inability to stretch the court can be overlooked in the regular season when the style of play is more wide open, but it’s an absolute killer in the playoffs, when every possession becomes a grind-it-out affair. Frankly, I can’t believe that someone with such great vision is unable to see how much he’s hurting his own team.

The Hawks are deep in conversations with the Pistons to acquire Andre Drummond. Is the two-time All-Star good enough to help Atlanta secure a playoff spot?

Andrew: Unfortunately, I’ll say no. Once again, this is stating the obvious. The Hawks need rebounding and that is exactly what Drummond does. And he is one of the best in the business at it. However, grabbing boards and posting up is basically all he does, which makes him a dinosaur in the modern NBA. This wouldn’t be so bad if Drummond was a better passer, but he’s just not, and that could really slow down the Hawks’ high-tempo offense. He also is almost unplayable at the end of games due to his historically bad foul shooting. So, I’m not exactly sure if the Hawks get better as a team with this move. And while this is the East and a lot can happen, the Hawks are already nine games out of a playoff spot. That’s too much ground to make up.

Sam: Stop with the tough questions! Seriously though, Drummond is a real talent and exactly the sort of player that the Hawks should be chasing. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and would instantly level up this Atlanta side. The cap isn’t an issue for the Hawks and it also allows them the flexibility to give John Collins more minutes as a power forward. They’re still a long way short of the playoffs this year, but there’s a chance they could get in with the two spaces occupied by the Orland Magic and Brooklyn Nets the most easily attainable. I’m not sure Drummond gives them enough to make up the gap this year but I’d be certain that next season, if he resigned, they’d be in the playoffs, even with a fit Kevin Durant probably locking up a slot for the Nets.

Ryan: I don’t even know if Wilt Chamberlain in his prime was good enough to nudge the Hawks into the playoffs. Atlanta is presently 8-29 and would have to go 34-12 to finish at .500 and secure the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s a lot to ask from a team that’s currently force-feeding minutes to a 42-year-old shooting guard. If the Hawks do trade for Drummond, and it looks like a strong possibility, it will be to secure his services for next year and beyond.

Marcus Morris is averaging a career high 19.1 points per game for the Knicks. Where do you expect him to end the season?

Andrew: Why did the Knicks sign only power forwards this offseason again? Terrible team management aside, Morris once again has proved he has value in this league. The most impressive being his three-point shooting, as he is currently attempting a career high 5.8 per game while hitting at a career high 46.9%. Even though some of his numbers are elevated because of the wasteland that is the Knicks roster, he would fit in well with several contenders, but for me I like him with the Clippers the best. He could slide right in next to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the starting lineup, he can space the floor well, and he can add even more length to that defense.

Sam: Not in New York, that’s for sure. He’s one of the few good assets the Knicks have so they should trade him ASAP. It’s a little harder to figure out where he lands, but if I were a betting man I’d suggest the Sixers could be a landing spot. His name has been linked with Philly and the top brass there will be getting angsty about whether that team can win in its current form, as we alluded to earlier. He’s also been talked about as a target for either contender in L.A. I’m not sure he’s the right for the Clippers and as far as the Lakers go, I’m not sure what they could offer in a trade that would entice the Knicks.

Ryan: The Knicks have zero incentive to hold onto Morris given his age and expiring contract, so I fully expect him to be shipped out of town before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. His most likely suitor is the the Clippers, who can offer the Knicks a trade package including Maurice Harkless, Patrick Patterson and a 2020 first round pick. The potential deal would net New York another young player to aid its rebuild while Los Angeles would receive a no-nonsense grinder who can crash the boards and rain down threes. Sounds like a win-win scenario in my books.

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