Let’s face it, in the year since Joel Embiid last flashed all of his Olajuwon-esque potential at Kansas, the seven-footer has become more famous for his efforts chasing the likes of Rihanna on social media than for anything he’s done on a basketball court. And now, after another surgery — and another full season about to be spent tweeting from the sidelines — Philly has to start questioning whether or not they should begin to look at some trade options.
Remember, this isn’t just any team shopping Embiid around. Sure, Prospects like him don’t come around often, but the 76ers do have two other very promising big men on their current roster (Jahlil Okafor and Nerleans Noel — and don’t forget Dario Saric is still overseas).
Noel was stellar on the defensive end during his rookie campaign, while raw athleticism alone was enough for him to get by on offense — his jump shot is something he’s working hard to improve upon this summer with his management team while working out in Newport, R.I. Okafor, on the other hand, may already have some of the best low post moves in the NBA before he even plays a game. His defense is what needs to be worked upon. However, if both show improvements, Noel and Okafor could prove to form the perfect front court pairing.
Beyond the trio of bigs, Philly’s next best prospect is likely Nic Stauskas — a SG that was taken No. 8 overall by the Kings in 2014, but not holds minimal value as an asset. After trading away Michael Carter-Williams, the right fit in the 2015 draft really would have been to come away with D’Angelo Russell. That didn’t happen, so now Embiid might just have to be the odd man out so that the 76ers can find a way to get some prospects that don’t play strictly in the paint.
Trading a player in Embiid’s situation is very tough. He has so much potential, and (as much as fans want him to) he still may never even see the floor. That makes his value nearly impossible to gage, but here are a few options.
The Suns already have Alex Len, but could be compelled to roll the dice on a bigger project. Len has shown flashes during his short time in the league, and at times been an elite shot blocker. Who knows if the rest of his game will ever catch up, though?
Embiid is exactly what Phoenix has been after for years. Of course, the gamble would cost them dearly — their last two first-round picks. T.J. Warren led the ACC in scoring (over Jabari Parker) as a sophomore at N.C. State two seasons ago, and was dominant during stints in the D-League last season. Booker was viewed by many as the best shooter in this past draft class. He was also the youngest player, a combination that makes him relatively intriguing. Both teams would be taking on huge risk, but the Suns would be swinging for the fences, while the 76ers take on some much needed young talent, healthy and ready to fill out the roster.
The Nuggets and Sixers are both in the basement of the NBA, but you could argue that the Nuggets are in a stickier situation. Philly, as bad as things have been, at least has a clear plan of attack. Denver is a mess. With Ty Lawson gone, the Nugs have no star player, and a tough to work with mix of veterans and young guns (not to mention they play in the Western Conference). Might as well go all out and hope for the best.
Mudiay is exactly what the Sixers need — an aggressive combo guard with size and multiple skills. Obviously, Philly felt the need to select Okafor over Mudiay, which was the right call. But if they could swap Embiid for him, that’s a different story. To sweeten the deal for Denver, the 76ers could add in Stauskas and take back one of those veteran contracts in Foye. Embiid, if he ever got healthy, is clearly a more valuable prospect that Mudiay, so maybe Denver looks way down the road and tries to shake it up, but it would be a tough one to explain to their fans as to why they’d make a deal that makes them a worse team right now.
This trade is like two people meeting at a bar and taking the $2 mystery shots all night and finding out what happens in the morning … except the morning is in like five years. This is a lesser trade, in terms of the return the Sixers get, but could be more of a realistic deal (although I should mention, the most realistic deals for Embiid would probably include mostly future draft picks, but those are boring).
Noah Vonleh was the No. 9 pick in the same draft class as Embiid, but the Hornets have already given up on him … clearly not the best sign. But like I said, this trade is the mystery shot special, so who knows what Vonleh could be for Philly? McCollum and Harkless have had nice starts to their careers and would definitely play roles on the 76ers. Connaughton was one of the more coveted second-rounders in this past draft. More young players in return means more chances to find a gem if you’re the Sixers.
If you’re the Blazers you just hope for the best, and do not, I repeat, DO NOT make the same mistakes you made with Greg Oden (or any of the other big men that seem to keep having horrible foot injuries in Portland). Blazer fans would likely be in an all out panic, but somebody’s going to break the curse there, maybe Embiid is the guy.
After all that, who’s the most likely team to take a risk on Embiid? Probably still the 76ers, but with the fleet of bigs they’re holstering, it’s silly not to bring up the idea of making a move.
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