Joel Embiid offers Houston a new identity
While convention wisdom has seen trades that pair James Harden with Joel Embiid, the Sixers wouldn’t be crazy to view Ben Simmons as the better partner for Harden. As noted, Simmons is about as unique of a player as they come, while Embiid is the quintessential NBA center.
The Sixers might also view Embiid’s lengthy injury history as a reason to move him instead of Simmons. Throughout his career, the most games Embiid has ever played in a single season is 64 and the most minutes he has averaged per game in any season is 33.4.
The old cliche, the best ability is availability, applies here. Embiid when he’s on the court is a fantastic player but he appears a lock to miss close to 20 games and can’t even play 3/4 of the minutes in the games he does.
The other wart that needs to be considered is that Embiid is not nearly the offensive player that he is purported to be. His career offensive rating per 100 possessions comes in at 110 points, which is lower than Simmons’ career mark of 113.
Even with all of the question marks surrounding Embiid, the fact remains he is a transformative defensive player and while not a great scorer he is a threat at every level of the court. The issue for the Rockets, if they acquire Embiid, is that the roster they have currently constructed doesn’t fit his skills quite as well as Simmons.
Christian Wood has been penciled in as the Rockets starting center but the arrival of Embiid would see him move to power forward. Wood has shown enough as a shooter and off the dribble that he could play alongside Embiid but playing him at the power forward position won’t get the best out of his talents.
The offensive logjam that Embiid would present is largely offset by the fact that the Rockets could have one of the best defenses in the league. A starting lineup of Embiid, Wood, Tucker, Wall, and House should compete for a spot in the top-5 for defensive efficiency.
A straight swap of Embiid for Harden would instantly change the Rockets’ on-court identity but poses a tremendous amount of upside for their defense. Durability concerns aside, Embiid is a transformative player but he is still not James Harden.
Next: Who is better for the Rockets?