According to Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk, the expectation is that if the Sixers don't make a deep run this season, they will fire head coach Brett Brown. If the new coach can't get Embiid and Simmons to "blend at a championship level" within a year or two, Helin's sources believe the 76ers would begin exploring trade options at that point.
Embiid and the Sixers are coming off a big 110-103 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday, but this season has still been a disappointment overall, as they are fifth in the Eastern Conference at 34-21.
With the Sixers struggling more than anticipated this season, Embiid trade whispers have been doing the rounds through the media.
On Tuesday, ESPN's Brian Windhorst appeared on the Hoop Collective podcast (h/t RealGM) and said that people within the NBA are talking about the possibility of Embiid being dealt. Windhorst added:
It's such a radical thing, but the fact that we're in mid-February and the people who work in the league, who have to prepare in advance, are mulling over Joel Embiid potentially coming to market, whether that's true or not...I mean, Josh Harris can come on this podcast and deny it if he wants, but the fact people are talking about it, is not good. It's a symptom of where they are."
Additionally, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck appeared on The Full 48 with Zach Lowe (h/t Helin) and said: "There are plenty of people around the league who believe this is it, these are the final days of Embiid and Simmons together."
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said on Tuesday's episode of First Take that Embiid has been "unhappy" ever since Jimmy Butler left for the Miami Heat as part of a sign-and-trade during the offseason:
The Embiid-Simmons combination helped the Sixers reach the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, but they were eliminated in the second round each time. They are a virtual lock to make the playoffs again this season, but they haven't been playing like a team poised for a championship run.
If the playoffs started today, the 76ers would be facing a road to the NBA Finals that includes playing the Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and either the Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics.
Philly would also be the worse seed in each of those matchups, which is a big problem since the 76ers are an abysmal 9-19 on the road this season.
Injuries continue to be an issue for Embiid, but he is perhaps the most dominant big man in basketball when healthy, and he was named an All-Star this season for the third consecutive year. Simmons is an All-Star for the second straight year as well, which suggests the Sixers should be in a much better position than they are presently.
Philadelphia's biggest issue may be a lack of quality shooters since it ranks just 19th in three-pointers made and 17th in three-point shooting percentage this season.
If Embiid and Simmons continue to show that they can't be the top players on a championship-caliber team, then trading one of them for some top-flight shooting may be in the team's best interest at some point down the line.
As of now, Embiid is signed through 2022-23 and Simmons is signed through 2024-25, however, which means the Sixers are seemingly committed to them and making things work with the current core.