Why the Rockets won’t be trading for Joel Embiid
By Kurt Olson
There is a rumor that the Houston Rockets are interested in the Philadelphia 76ers’ star big man Joel Embiid, but this acquisition is extremely unlikely.
According to a Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Heavy.com, the Houston Rockets are supposedly interested in acquiring Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers. Robinson stated that everyone is on the table barring one exception: James Harden.
The validity of this rumor has yet to be substantiated by a more official source, and it’s hard to imagine that very many people outside of the organization know what the team is thinking market-wise with the departure of Daryl Morey.
But any Rockets fan that knows a little about each team, as well as the financial side of trades, can see that this is just not a deal that is within the realm of reason. There are several factors as to why, starting with the only exception the Houston Rockets would make.
James Harden apparently being unavailable on the Rockets side of things makes the idea of signing Joel Embiid pretty difficult to imagine happening, as he is by far the best asset the Rockets have at their disposal.
Additionally, if Harden is restricted from being included in the deal, that means Russell Westbrook would almost certainly have to be shipped to the City of Brotherly Love, which is tricky for a couple of reasons.
Why the Houston Rockets won’t be trading for Embiid
First off, it makes absolutely no sense for the Sixers from a basketball perspective. In Ben Simmons, they already have an All-Star point guard whose biggest flaw is his lack of outside shooting, so signing a second one would be a laughable move.
Secondly, the Sixers do not have the cap space to absorb Westbrook’s massive contract in a straight swap for Embiid. They would have to part with Embiid and a few other players to make the salaries match.
The Sixers would be giving up too much in a trade to acquire Russ and it already would not make sense on the court, considering the presence of Ben Simmons. Even if the Rockets threw in draft picks to sweeten the deal, it would not be sensible for the 76ers.
But maybe the idea would be to acquire Embiid to play alongside Harden and Westbrook as opposed to giving one of them up. Unfortunately, that is just as unlikely for somewhat similar reasons.
While a big three of Harden, Russ, and Embiid is an interesting idea, there is virtually no chance of it coming to fruition. This is because the assets the Rockets have to offer outside of Harden and Westbrook are likely not what Philly would be looking for.
That is not to say that the Rockets do not have players that the Sixers could want and could benefit from. Eric Gordon’s scoring ability, P.J. Tucker’s three-and-D style, and the versatility of Robert Covington, who has played for Philly before, are all things the Sixers could use to improve their team.
However, trading the face of their franchise in Joel Embiid for these players, even if given draft compensation, is not the best package they could likely receive for Embiid. They would probably like to get Covington back, but Gordon’s contract and Tucker’s age are less appealing than Philly could find in other offers.
Expanding the trade to include more assets brings into question just how good of a deal this would be for the Rockets. Embiid is an All-Star and hovers within or around the top-10 players in the league in the minds of most, but he is also injury-prone and his competitiveness has come into question more than once.
The Rockets simply do not have the right assets to get a reasonable deal done while also holding onto both Harden and Westbrook. Either Philadelphia would hang up the phone quickly, or the Rockets would find themselves giving up too much to justify the trade.
Really, there is probably only one way the Rockets could find themselves with Joel Embiid for the 2020-21 season and that is if they decide to blow it up. Obviously, this would mean trading James Harden and if this rumor is substantiated by a more reliable source, Harden is already considered untouchable by the Rockets in this particular scenario.
Even if, for whatever reason, the Rockets decided to begin a rebuild by trading James Harden, there are better places they could look to do so before the Sixers, such as the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. The only situation where the acquisition of Embiid makes any sense is one in which the Rockets would have better options anyway.
Simply put, Rockets fans should not expect to see The Process donning Rockets Red next season.