This offseason is going to be wild, Sixers fans.
The James Harden free agency rumors are coming fast and furious. The head coach speculation should pick up plenty of steam with Nick Nurse reportedly getting set to interview with the team shortly.
With how embarrassingly the Sixers were eliminated in Game 7 and all the uncertainty surrounding them this offseason, we’re likely to hear plenty of noise about Joel Embiid’s future. While it doesn’t seem like the Sixers have much interest in moving on from the reigning MVP, that’s not going to stop teams from monitoring the situation closely.
One of those teams is apparently the New York Knicks:
Been told since midseason that Joel Embiid is the guy to watch for the Knicks, and Philly's playoff flame out only intensified that belief. https://t.co/DNjttfh6Vp— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) May 19, 2023
There are several easy dots to connect. Of course the Knicks would have interest in pairing Jalen Brunson, who was sensational this postseason, with an MVP talent like Embiid. New York’s president of basketball operations is former agent Leon Rose, who used to represent Embiid. When the day comes that Embiid might want to be traded, a reunion with Rose could be appealing. The Knicks also have tons of draft assets they’re likely saving to acquire a superstar talent.
With that said, the Knicks would not be an attractive trade partner for the Sixers.
As mentioned, the picks are there. In addition to owning their own picks from 2024 through 2029, they have first-rounders coming from the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards — with numerous protections on all three. But when you evaluate New York’s roster, what player(s) do they have that could be part of a rebuild alongside Tyrese Maxey?
RJ Barrett? If you watched the playoffs you know that’s not the answer. Barrett has had moments in his NBA career and is still just 22, but he also just signed a four-year, $107 million extension this past offseason. The player and contract are not worth taking a flyer on. Same goes for someone like Mitchell Robinson, who inked a four-year, $60 million extension the previous offseason. Quentin Grimes is an intriguing wing on a rookie deal, but that’s not moving the needle.
Recently, our Bryan Toporek took a look at what Embiid’s future could hold if Harden were to move on this offseason. While I disagree with Bryan on the idea that the Sixers should listen but not actively pursue offers on Embiid, he offers one team that makes much more sense than the Knicks: the Oklahoma City Thunder. With their bounty of picks and young players, you could get significantly better value. However, it is the age of player empowerment. You also want to do right by a guy that’s been the face of your franchise. Who knows how keen Embiid is on the prospect of living in Oklahoma.
If the Miami Heat fail to win a title — and you want to let Embiid reunite with his pal Jimmy Butler — bringing back Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro as the centerpieces of a deal makes way more sense. Any draft picks you might get from the Heat likely won’t be appealing since they’re seemingly always competitive. Miami does owe a 2025 first to the Thunder, which means they can only offer first-round swaps before 2027.
And by the time an Embiid trade would be on the table, there would be numerous teams looking to acquire the superstar big man.
To reiterate: I’m not of the belief the Sixers should listen to offers on Embiid this summer and I do not believe they will. Embiid is signed through the 2025-26 season with a player option for 2026-27, meaning there’s little pressure for the Sixers to entertain anything barring a formal trade request.
But if it reaches the point where they do in the future, the Knicks should not be high on the list of teams the Sixers consider doing business with.