The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers were scheduled to meet on Mother’s Day in what was expected to be an exciting Game 7 after the Golden State Warriors were eliminated from the playoffs. If you were a Celtics fan, it was electrifying as the C’s blasted Philly out of the gym by outscoring the Sixers 33-10 in the third quarter to win 112-88.
Following a 5-for-21 shooting effort in Game 6, Jayson Tatum set a record for the most points ever in a Game 7 with 51. Just two weeks earlier, in Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings, Stephen Curry had previously broken the record with a 50-point explosion. Tatum broke the record with his performance.
Failing to reach the Conference Finals for the sixth consecutive season, the Philadelphia 76ers have a long off-season ahead. Could the Golden State Warriors take advantage?
The 76ers will soon face some significant choices, but not all of them will be in their hands. In the upcoming weeks, teams across the league will be closely watching James Harden’s health, as he has been increasingly associated with his former team, the Houston Rockets. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Harden is “serious” about a potential move back to Houston.
When it seemed as though the Rockets’ window for a championship was rapidly closing in 2021, Harden forced his way out of Houston. He has strong family ties there, though, and according to Wojnarowski, Houston has a “comfort level” that would tempt him to return when free agency starts in July.
If the Harden domino falls for Philadelphia, focus will switch to Joel Embiid, the winner of the year’s MVP award. Six years in a row of Embiid-led Sixers losing in the second round have led many to conclude that the big man’s patience is running out. Due to his continuous inability to maintain his offensive productivity from the regular season, Embiid cannot be blamed for Philly’s playoff failures. Joel Embiid’s postseason injuries have nevertheless haunted the Sixers year after year, and while it seems unlikely, there is definitely a chance that Embiid will want to be traded in the near future.
Could the Golden State Warriors hypothetically acquire the MVP in a deal with the Sixers?
Before we go into this wishful thinking, it should be noted that just two other times in NBA history have reigning MVPs been dealt before the start of the next season. The first was Wilt Chamberlain, who after winning the award in 1968 was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Los Angeles Lakers. When the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975, it was the second occurrence.
It would cost Golden State an arm and a leg to make this coveted acquisition, and even that may be underestimating the cost. Any feasible deal for Embiid would have to include both Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole to make the contracts match, assuming the experience core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is off-limits.
Embiid will earn a projected $46.9 million in the 2023–24 season after signing a $210.1 million supermax deal in August 2021. Wiggins and Poole both agreed to extensions last summer, paying $109 million and $128 million respectively, to stay in the Bay through the 2026–27 season.
In these hypothetical negotiations, Philadelphia would undoubtedly have the upper hand, and Golden State would have to be ready to include any pick or player from their pool of tradeable assets. No player would be safe outside of the Dubs’ big three, which is usually the case when dealing with a superstar of Embiid’s stature.
Philadelphia receives: Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), 2025 second-round pick (via Charlotte Hornets)
Golden State receives: Joel Embiid, Furkan Korkmaz
Sadly for the Warriors, it’s hard to picture Philadelphia agreeing to any MVP deal, especially one that excludes the majority, if not all, of their youthful talent. However, this suggestion offers a win-win situation for both parties.
If Philly loses both Joel Embiid and James Harden, the ‘Process’ era of the Sixers will have come to an end. Jordan Poole, a capable young guard who has displayed offensive genius in spurts despite his ups and downs, is used to replace Harden. The 76ers now have a young three-and-D wing with Moses Moody who is wise beyond his years and has a high basketball IQ. Jonathan Kuminga, a 20-year-old defensive stud, and Andrew Wiggins, a superb three-and-D wing who can score a ton at once and guard the best player on the opposition’s side, would both be returned to the Sixers.
If Embiid were to join Golden State, the Warriors would become the front-runners for the championship right away. Embiid is a ball-dominant force, but the Curry-Thompson-Green nucleus has shown that it is capable of adapting to a variety of personalities and playstyles. In recent years, Embiid has also had to modify his offensive strategy to accommodate Harden’s pick-and-roll-heavy playstyle. The huge guy would fit right in next to the Warriors’ seasoned veterans with little to no difficulty. In addition, excellent players typically find a way to make it work.
With head coach Doc Rivers’ firing already revealed only days after their elimination, Philadelphia will have plenty of decisions to make this offseason. The Warriors need to be in the spotlight during what would be a fiercely competitive MVP race if they were to blow it all up, which is still doubtful.