The Sixers have been in the headlines this offseason because of the relationship between guard James Harden and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
Harden opted into the final season of his contract, but he doesn’t believe that his relationship with Morey and the organization is repairable and wants a trade. That puts Philly in a tough spot as it was hoping to build a contender around Embiid, who is the league’s reigning MVP.
“Embiid has said all the right things publicly, but there has to be some residual fatigue in his entire 76ers experience,” Goodwill wrote. “Morey is responsible for only the past few years, but in totality, many around the league believe Embiid will ask out sooner rather than later — and that a full rebuild is what Morey is covertly hoping for.”
Embiid has been one of the league’s best players for multiple seasons now, but the Sixers have not had the playoff success that they have hoped for. The team hoped to change that by bringing in Harden in the 2021-22 season and trading away Ben Simmons.
However, the team has failed to get past the second round of the playoffs in each season with Harden on the roster.
In the 2022-23 season, Embiid captured his first MVP award while leading the Sixers to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
He averaged 33.1 points per game to capture his second straight scoring title. He also pitched in 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Despite that, the team blew a 3-2 series lead in the second round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics with Embiid struggling 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.
If Harden refuses to play for Philly, it’s certainly going to hurt the team’s chances of getting a solid return for him in the trade market, especially since he’s on a one-year deal.
While that alone may not force Embiid to request a trade, it’s possible that the direction of the franchise could change enough to the point where the star center does want out. He’d clearly be one of the most coveted options on the trade market if he were to request a trade.
For now, the Sixers have to attempt to make the best of the Harden-Morey situation, but they need to be careful that Embiid doesn’t also become frustrated with the organization in the process.