The Philadelphia 76ers’ star duo has it all under control, if you ask Joel Embiid.
A hallmark of the 2019-20 season has been the constant fuss over Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons‘ perceived fit. The national media, the local media, and even the fans can’t help but squabble over the legitimacy of concerns over the Philadelphia 76ers‘ two cornerstone players.
Joel Embiid is a big who’s most comfortable in the post. Ben Simmons is a 6-foot-10 freight train who, as everyone is quick to remind you, cannot shoot from behind the three-point line. He’s at his best with an open lane and plenty of shooting.
So yes, on paper, the fit is not ideal. Embiid and Simmons are not without their issues, and some of the widespread concern is valid. But to act as though Embiid and Simmons are barred from success — as if a championship defies the laws of physics — is extreme.
When asked about the duo’s fit, a certain 7-footer from Cameroon provided a swift takedown of the far-too-common complaint. In Embiid’s words, the concern over he and Simmons’ ability to coexist is B.S.
This is an assessment I agree with. The Sixers have two 25-and-under superstars, one making his third All-Star appearance and one making his second. While Embiid and Simmons could stand to stretch the floor a little more favorably, there is proven success — even chemistry — between the Sixers’ core pieces.
Over the past two seasons, Philadelphia has managed to maintain the most consistently elite starting five in basketball. When Robert Covington and Dario Saric were in the rotation, Embiid and Simmons thrived. When it was Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the starting five still bulldozed most opponents.
The Sixers have had little issue finding success when Embiid and Simmons share the court. Concerns didn’t hit a boiling point until this season, when Al Horford was shoved into the lineup and told to change his approach to basketball.
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Rather than spending money on playmakers (Jimmy Butler) and shooters (J.J. Redick), the Sixers signed Horford to a four-year megadeal at age 33, cementing his status as the second All-Star center in Philadelphia’s jumbo-sized rotation.
The thought was nice, and for a brief moment early in the season, it looked like things might work. But Horford has bordered on colossal failure, to the point where the Sixers’ $100 million offseason prize was moved to the bench.
Horford and the bench are the roots of Philadelphia’s issues — not Embiid and Simmons. The ‘fit issues’ pundits are quick to point to wouldn’t exist to the same degree with a better-constructed roster. Blame falls on the front office, Horford, and a questionable bench, not the two All-Stars.
In Embiid and Simmons, the Sixers have two physical anomalies who are simultaneously elite defenders and offensive cheat codes. Both can exploit mismatches, both have a first team All-Defense argument, and both have experienced success alongside the other.
The Sixers don’t need to break anyone up. They need to recognize their strengths and build around them, not on top of them.