Why Kevin Durant says Embiid, Simmons are in ‘tough’ spot originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
After a year away from the game recovering from injury, Kevin Durant will officially be a factor in the Eastern Conference playoff race next season for the first time.
And it sounds like he already has a good grasp on a weakness from his Atlantic Division competitors; at least, when it comes to the Sixers.
In appearance this week on former Sixers sharpshooter JJ Redick’s podcast, Redick and co-host Tommy Alter were talking with Durant about the difficulties of building around two stars, and how to go about team construction, when the topic of continuity led the conversation to the Sixers.
As someone who has changed teams, in large part because he wanted to play a different kind of basketball in Golden State, Durant had an interesting take on the situation Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons find themselves in heading into next season: what will it take to get a championship-level basketball fit around them?
Here’s what Durant sees Embiid and Simmons dealing with:
“ALTER: With Philly, that was a team last year that had a bunch of stars on it, and it just took a little bit of time figuring it out, and I think a lot of Philly fans are wishing they’d spent more time maybe keeping it together, but it’s very hard to mesh all of those different basketball types and personalities in a two-month stretch.
“REDICK: For sure. But with respect to Philly, if you look at the last seven or eight years, the one constant in that franchise is player turnover, right? The roster turnover is just insane, the amount of players who have come through there.
“REDICK: Other than Jo and Ben, the last three years there’s literally zero continuity there.
“DURANT: It’s hard to become a great team when you’re getting new teammates every year. It’s tough. Especially young players like them, they’re expected – and in Philly they’ve got so many expectations on them, it’s tough.”
He’s got a good point. If you look at the Sixers’ roster from just two seasons ago, at the start of 2018-19, just five players remain: Embiid, Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, and Zhaire Smith. Korkmaz is a fringe 15-minute situational player. Milton was forced into a starting role this year, probably before he was ready. And it’s unclear if Smith will ever be a real contributor at the NBA level.
That’s not exactly the kind of support you’re looking for when you have two generational talents on the roster.
And, unfortunately for Embiid and Simmons, the Sixers’ front office seems poised to make more big changes this offseason, largely to fix their mistakes from last summer.
They’ve been linked to a possible deal for Chris Paul, which could unload the pricey misfit Al Horford. And any proposed deal where Horford leaves could also include someone like Josh Richardson, who didn’t exactly mesh this season with the offense, and also didn’t pop on defense.
What exactly the future holds for the Sixers is unclear. Simmons and Embiid are both under contract long-term, and are the franchise cornerstones. But the guys around them will determine whether they can compete for a championship, or whether they’ll be stuck watching someone like Durant dominate the East for years to come.