Following a disappointing second-round playoff exit, the Philadelphia 76ers' future is uncertain heading into the offseason.
Appearing on Get Up, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that Joel Embiid could be "the wild card" in any potential trade talks the Sixers have involving Ben Simmons:
"There's going to be a huge demand for (Simmons), but not at the value of an All-Star under a four-year guaranteed no-out contract. So that's really the challenge and the wild card here; Joel Embiid is due a contract extension this offseason, and if the 76ers ask his opinion on this, how he decides to answer that question could determine the next step with Ben Simmons."
After Philadelphia's 103-96 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday at home, Simmons' future with the organization became a hot topic.
Head coach Doc Rivers was asked during his postgame press conference if he thought Simmons could be the starting point guard for a championship team, and he replied:
Despite not calling Simmons out by name, Embiid did criticize his teammate for passing up a wide-open look in the fourth quarter.
"I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we—I don't know how to say it— but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and then they came down and scored," Embiid said.
Trailing 88-86 with 3:30 remaining, Simmons got around Danilo Gallinari with Trae Young the only Hawks players close to him. Instead of attempting a layup or dunk, he passed the ball to Matisse Thybulle with two Hawks defenders in front of him.
Thybulle was fouled on the play, but he only converted one of two free throws. Clint Capela scored on an alley-oop dunk for the Hawks on their next possession to extend the lead to 90-87.
Simmons finished the game with five points on 2-of-4 shooting. He only attempted three field goals in the fourth quarter in the entire series, including zero from Games 4-7, and went 15-of-45 from the free-throw line.
The Sixers went an Eastern Conference-best 49-23 during the regular season, but Simmons in particular had a series to forget versus the Hawks. Embiid is the face of the franchise, and if he doesn't think Simmons is the right point guard to help this franchise win a title, it makes sense to consider moving him.