6. Joel Embiid
There were two times in NBA history when the reigning MVP was traded (Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 and Moses Malone in 1982). Even with a gap of 14 years between those events, one team was involved in both negotiations: the Philadelphia 76ers. Well, third time is definitely not a charm here.
After falling short in the playoffs again, questions are constantly surrounding the Sixers and their lack of postseason success. Whose fault is that? Doc Rivers? James Harden? Role players? The league’s MVP should be the last guy to blame, but he can’t exactly be pardoned, either.
Philly has been dealing with internal drama since Kawhi Leonard’s heartbreaking shot eliminated them from the 2019 playoffs. Jimmy Butler left to Miami the following season, and a deteriorated relationship with Ben Simmons led the Sixers to trade away their former No. 1 pick in 2022. If that wasn’t enough, now James Harden is the one asking out, less than an year after arriving.
The good news were that none of these things stood in the way of Joel Embiid’s development. After two seasons as a runner-up, he finally landed the MVP award. That should be great for the 76ers, but he could also look around and wonder if there’s a more stable situation for him elsewhere.
The 29-year-old center is closely watching how the James Harden saga unfolds. There does not appear to be a strong market for Harden, which means a potential deal is likely to hurt the Sixers’ ceiling. Considering Embiid’s recent comments about wanting to win “in Philly or anywhere else,” if the franchise doesn’t make the right moves, Embiid could be the next star on the move.
Potential destinations: Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks