Everyone is on board the Sixers to the playoffs bandwagon in Philadelphia, including the man who has never been shy about dropping a little criticism: Charles Barkley. As he told reporters at Eagles practice on Monday, health is the only thing stopping the Sixers from making a playoff push.
“I’d be totally shocked and disappointed if the Sixers don’t make the playoffs,” said Barkley. “I’d be totally shocked—if they're healthy—I don't think there’s any way they can’t make the playoffs. I love Embiid, Ben Simmons, he has a bright future. They have Markelle Fultz, and Saric should have been rookie of the year.”
This should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention last season, because Barkley is an enormous fan of Joel Embiid. He and Shaquille O’Neal had a lengthy debate about whether Embiid should be an All Star last season, and Barkley was a firm advocate for including the young center.
“I thought that the NBA should have rewarded Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. They’re the hottest team since the beginning of the year. They have the best record in the NBA other than the Golden State Warriors,” Barkley said back in January. “Joel Embiid is flat-out ballin’, plain and simple.”
While I have my gripes with Barkley, he and I see eye-to-eye on this one. Embiid is a game-changing talent, and if we assume health, there is no way I can see the Sixers falling short of the playoffs with this group. The problem is that health part, which he has not proven he can maintain for any extended period of basketball, including during his lone collegiate season at Kansas.
Putting this level of pressure on a pair of rookie playmakers is pretty terrifying, but if Embiid is there to lead the way, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz will have much easier jobs. They’ll have a safety valve on defense, an enormous lob target on offense, and even a big man who can space the floor and make it easier for them to slash.
So please, merciful basketball gods, keep this group off the trainer’s table. If you can believe it, there are only 36 days until training camp, and 58 days until the regular season, so we’ll (hopefully) get to see this group fulfill their expectations soon enough.