Joel Embiid deserves the James Harden treatment

In the NBA, there are only a limited number of true superstars.

Of course, the term is thrown around like nothing has happened, with Kendrick Perkins having no qualms about placing the title on sophomore guard LaMelo Ball, but as Zach Lowe suggested in a recent episode of NBA Today of ESPN, this is simply not true. In order for a player to truly achieve superstar status, he must of course dominate on the pitch, inspiring a new generation of hoops in the process, but he must also transcend the sport and capture the cultural zeitgeist off the pitch. .

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid breathes that rarefied air.

A legitimate MVP contender who had started every All-Star game he’s appeared in, Embiid is part of the elite on and off the pitch. He’s the NBA’s best post player on both ends of the field – don’t @ me – and backed him up with a steady 3-point shot, improved grip, and vast improvements as a playmaker. about his leadership abilities and his willingness to galvanize his troops around the greater good, and any team in the NBA would love to have “The Process” on their roster and would surely pay them the maximum in maximum contracts to make this happen without blinking. eyes.

Can Joel Embiid be the best player on a Championship team? If the answer is yes – it is – then why not build the Philadelphia 76ers around what it does best?

The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to give Joel Embiid the James Harden treatment.

In Houston, James Harden was a one-man wrecking team.

Granted, he’s played alongside a few All-Stars during his 8.25-year run in Space City, from Dwight Howard to Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, but for much of his run the MVP of the league did it on its own, with a roster built around its unique brand of basketball.

The results, while not quite the championship pedigree, were pretty darn good.

During their joint tenure, Harden and Daryl Morey have never had a loss record, recorded an average winning percentage of 63.9 and had the fifth league winning total of any team in the NBA – regular season and playoffs – 2012-20 according to Statmuse.

If the Rockets hadn’t played in the same conference as the Golden State Warriors during the Steph Curry / Klay Thompson / Draymond Green / possibly Kevin Durant era, there might have been a prominent banner in Toyota Center. , but alas, these are the breaks, I guess.

So how did Morey do it? How did he take the third member of OKC’s Big 3 and build one of the lasting powers of the West? Composition of the smart list.

Before Harden grew into a nearly 10 assists per game guy, he was one of the most dominant scorers in the NBA who could do incredible damage both on and off the ball. To complement his abilities, 3s, ISOs, pick-and-roll backtracking, and foul-hunting flops, Morey landed big screens from Harden like Howard, Nene and Clint Capella, identified combo guards like Eric Gordon, Lou Williams, and Jeremy Lin, and, more importantly, a slew of 3-and-D wings of all shapes and sizes.

Morey accepted advanced analysis before most, embraced the small ball revolution to a sometimes comedic degree, and never encountered a draft pick he wouldn’t gladly trade for an immediate, veteran upgrade.

At this point in his career, Joel Embiid hasn’t had that kind of singular list focus.

Mind you, that’s not all on Morey. The former Houston big boss is either the fourth, fifth, or general manager in Embiid’s tenure, depending on how you count Jerry Colangelo and Brett Brown, and all of these men had to marry Embiid’s needs with those of Ben Simmons, who needs relatively different similar but crucial pieces around him for his game to be successful.

While he still has a record in Camden, a place on the payroll and his name on the injury report before every game, Simmons is effectively out of the equation and so all attention should be on construction. of a competitor around JoJo.

If that means adding a second star then so much the better; Morey did it with Chris Paul in 2017-18 and injured his ankle in the NBA Finals, but it doesn’t have to be. the other time the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals at the Morey-Harden wedding – in 2015 – the team’s second-best player was Dwight Howard, who alone averaging 15.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.

If the Sixers are smart about how they handle Simmons’ trade, they can certainly build a roster around Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, with complementary players like Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield – or whoever it is – filling out a roster designed around the best-playing team instead of players like Tobias Harris, who were explicitly targeted and extended due to their fit alongside 25.

Is Haliburton better than, say, Jrue Holiday, the Milwaukee Bucks’ second-best player? Right now, probably not, but he’s certainly as good as the former Sixer was in his second pro season and would complement Embiid and Maxey perfectly with his assists and lethal 3-point shots. If the team can secure a player like that, leave Harris (more details here) and walk away with a deeper war chest capable of keeping them in play for a future disgruntled All-Star – like Bobby Marques suggested in his book NBA trade primer – why not do it? No one blames Milwaukee for trading three first-round picks plus Eric Bledsoe and George Hill for Holiday now that there’s a banner hanging on the Fiserv Forum.

There’s no question that the Philadelphia 76ers are Joel Embiid’s team; their ceiling is their ceiling, their floor is their floor, and the team’s fortune is directly linked to theirs. To his credit, Embiid took on this challenge and thus had the best season of his career. Now it’s up to Daryl Morey to build a team around his best player, a player he once compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, and put him in the best position to be successful, whether it’s waiting until this summer for a star or radically reshape the list around his needs and only his needs. Either way, this is all part of the “Process”.

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