Former NBA guard Gilbert Arenas believes that Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is more to blame than former Sixers star Ben Simmons for the team’s playoff failures.
The Sixers have yet to make an Eastern Conference Finals during Embiid’s time with the team, and Simmons certainly took a lot of criticism for the team’s shortcomings when he was in Philly.
The former All-Star was traded to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2021-22 season in the deal that brought James Harden to the Sixers.
“If we are gonna put blame on someone, I am always gonna blame the most talented and the most naturally gifted of the group and that is gonna be Embiid,” Arenas said.
Arenas compared Simmons and Embiid to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant during their time together on the Los Angeles Lakers. The only issue with that comparison is that Bryant and O’Neal won three NBA titles together while Simmons and Embiid never made it out of the second round.
“It reminds me of what Shaquille O’Neal was to Kobe Bryant,” Arenas said. “You have this guy who is hungry, he wants to win, he wants to be the best that he can be. And then he sees this ultra god-gifted player not tapping into his potential.”
While Arenas seems to be saying that Embiid needs to put more time in on his game, it’s worth noting that Simmons never developed a jump shot or really improved his offensive game during his time in Philly.
In fact, Simmons’ offensive game appears to have gotten worse with Brooklyn. Simmons averaged just 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 56.6 percent from the field in the 2022-23 season.
In the 2020-21 campaign for the Sixers, Simmons put up 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Those scoring numbers are clearly better than what he did this past season.
“That’s the Joel Embiid thing with me like bro you are so gifted,” Arenas said. “If you put in hours and hours and hours on your craft, you will be unstoppable to the point where Ben Simmons is just…you’re supposed to be carrying this team with your dominance, but you’re not and we are blaming everyone else.”
Embiid did win the MVP award in the 2022-23 season, but he came up short in Game 7 of the second round against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. After taking a 3-2 series lead, Philly lost Game 6 at home before falling flat in Game 7 in Boston.
In Game 7, Embiid shot just 5-for-18 from the field (0-for-4 from 3) and scored 15 points.
It seems like Arenas wants Embiid to take ownership for Philly’s playoff losses rather than place blame elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if the reigning MVP does that in the 2023-24 season.