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Is The Process dying? Is Joel Embiid worth building around? Is the sky falling in Philly?

Answering some of the burning questions of the day about the team and its future

The sky is falling in Philadelphia. Or at least that’s how some mainstream media personalities, former players, and fans are acting. Is it fair? There are a lot of hefty questions being bandied about. Is it time to relitigate the process? Should the Sixers pick up the phone and test the market on their ‘brittle superstar’ or their 6’10 ‘jump shot phobic’ point guard? If Joel Embiid is the “crown jewel” of the process does that mean the Sixers championship aspirations will be a perennial ‘game time decision?’ One of my Knicks fan buddies texted me last night (semi) jokingly “should the Sixers have tanked for Zion [Williamson] this year?”

Man, I opened a few sports websites and Twitter this morning and was blown away with Sixers-sky-is-falling stuff. I’m not sure where to begin. Here are a few of my thoughts on what feel like the biggest questions of the day.

Are the Sixers toast this series?

If you promised me right now I could somehow get “game 3 windmill dunk version” of Joel Embiid for the next two games, I’d ballpark the Sixers’ odds to win this series at about 35 percent. That would be about a 78 percent chance to win game 6 at the crib, and then about a 44 percent chance to win a game seven at Scotiabank Arena up North. I’m probably a lot more optimistic than most in that regard, although I should also let you know, I don’t actually expect “game 3 Embiid” for two games.

We don’t know what we’re getting. Is he mostly sick and somewhat hurt? Is he very hurt and a little sick? Is he equal parts injured and ill? If he were 80 percent sick might another day or two of IVs and fluids and rest spark a marked improvement? I don’t know but my gut tells me that the knee is the bigger issue. And if he were only limited by injury or only sick, he would have helped the team to a game 4 victory and they would have gotten routed in game 5 anyway. The Raptors might well have routed the Warriors last night. They’re really good.

But even if the Sixers still have just a 12 percent chance to win the series that cannot be written off as zero percent. Remember what the man most responsible for giving the Sixers a chance to win a championship, Sam Hinkie, once said:

“Looking at a player with an estimated 10% or 20% chance of being a star over the next three or four years can’t be written to zero....Once you accept that, it becomes clear that shrinking the confidence interval around that estimate becomes pretty darn important.”

If he used that point to land us Joel Embiid, fans can use it to remember there is still a chance here the team wins the series even if the big fella isn’t quite right.

Should Brett Brown be canned if they lose game 6?

Only if they can find a definitive upgrade and I’m not sure who that might even be. So probably not. Give the guy a full off-season to work with this group and for the love of Chestnut Street, bring in some more two-way bench players and guards for him to work with whether he wants them or not.

If Harris hit a few more 3s in game 4, they could have gotten decimated in game 5 and we could still spend all day discussing how he has thus far out coached Nick Nurse.

Is it fair to question Joel Embiid’s dedication or whether or not he can be relied upon to lead a championship team?

I don’t question Joel Embiid’s heart. I think he’s a fighter and tough as nails. I don’t question his passion. I do think sometimes his love for the game and competitive fire can lead him to take risks that don’t always retain the longest-view in the room. I think in his age 24 year old season he wanted to change his narrative and prove he could play a full season and it wound up limiting him for the biggest games of the year.

I think, as I’ve written a few times, that the championship version of these Sixers includes a blueprint similar to the one the Toronto Raptors utilized to preserve Kawhi Leonard’s rickety quad-tendon this year. Leonard sat every 3rd or 4th game, finished with 60 games, and with the aid of a bit of prevention-science and a bit of feel, was eventually deployed as one of the greatest weapons left in these playoffs so far. Embiid could have been used similarly and nobody would have cared at all if he played in 40, 50, or 60 regular season games if he was a two-way wrecking ball now.

Is it Joel’s fault he’s sick and hurt?

I don’t think Joel would necessarily have avoided the illnesses he contracted with a better diet or whatever. You can eat and sleep perfectly and still get a flu. But the championship version of Embiid in the future likely exercises far more discipline in his eating habits than has been consistently reported in the past. As a person ages, loads of dessert and fast-food or processed (no pun intended) foods isn’t the recipe for an immune system in tip top shape to ward off ailments. A person can at least improve his or her chances of fighting off germs, and much much more importantly, being lighter would place less stress on his back, knees, and feet.

Embiid doesn’t have to do it alone. Hopefully the team and his teammates work with him to find a way to stay trim even while taking off about a 4th of the season to ensure he’s in peak condition for playoff time.

Back around All-Star Break when we first learned Embiid was out indefinitely with knee tendinitis, coach Brett Brown was asked if Embiid playing in the All-Star game contributed to his condition and Brown said no and that him not playing can sometimes worsen his condition and injuries. That can’t continue. They need to put their heads together this off-season to find a preventative plan to avoid that phenomena.

The answer might be as simple as being lighter, finding achievable workouts to do between games off, and a few more games off before injury occurs. The upside of that is championship caliber and well within his reach with a few changes he may have already begun making.

Should the Sixers shop Embiid or Ben Simmons?

My answer to this is a boring one. Every GM should at least know the approximate market value of their players. That is due diligence. Phil Jackson once made the mistake of publicizing that he was shopping Kristaps Porzingis and Knicks fans and the media revolted and he got fired. But the packages he was rumored to have asked for would have been ten-fold what the team wound up getting in return. It’s a business. Make your calls in steely silence if you must.

I wouldn’t be looking to abort the mission because this team lost game 4 with Embiid at less than full strength and Tobias Harris missing most of his open triples. There isn’t something fundamentally wrong with them as a core.

But I wouldn’t hang up on any offers for commensurate value either. I’d listen to everything. And probably do nothing. If someone utterly blew me away, (like Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard for Ben Simmons) I’d obviously present the offer to owners and offer my two cents.

Is this team good enough to try to keep together?

Yes, it is. Offering 5 year deals for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, and giving Ben Simmons his 5 year max extension that kicks in during the summer of 2020 is scary. But unless there is a clear upgrade available in free agency (it’s worth using a burner phone to check in with Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving’s respective camps if they haven’t already) it’s your best shot. Allowing either Harris or Butler to walk essentially means operating as a below the cap team and there isn’t a tremendous opportunity cost then in free agency.

If you let Tobias Harris go, you’d only have around 28M to spend and you might want to give a chunk of that to JJ Redick or if possible a guy like Danny Green. Now what’s left to fill that gap? I’m in favor of keeping the band together and letting the billionaires foot the bill for us which reduces the opportunity costs of keeping them.

It will require they play the margins and hit on some of their late picks. The Knicks will probably soon be waiving guys like Damyean Dotson to free up cap-space. He is a guard who is good at defense and three-pointers and probably cheap. Playing the margins is doable. It wasn’t long ago they found Landry Shamet with the 26th pick. Now they have the 24th, 33rd, 34th, and 42nd picks to buttress their core.

In times of madness we often seek pillars of wisdom and people with a long-term vision for stability and prosperity. Fans of this team know better than most that maintaining long-term greediness and playing the odds is the best course of action in times of turmoil and strife.

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