With the 2019-20 NBA season set to restart in Orlando on Thursday, all eyes will be on the Philadelphia 76ers. Led by young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers are teeming with talent, but failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations before the season was suspended in March due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. While many expected them to compete for the top seed in the Eastern Conference prior to the season's start, that wasn't the case. The Sixers struggled on the road -- 10-24 away from Philadelphia when the season was suspended -- and they sat just sixth in the East with a 39-26 record.
As a result, some pundits have suggested that Embiid and Simmons would be better suited playing on separate squads. The fact that both prefer to produce in the paint is mentioned as one of the main reasons why they don't mesh well, despite winning 50-plus games and advanced in the playoffs in both seasons that they've played together prior to this one. That's not the way Embiid sees it, though. In fact, if it were up to the All-Star center, he'd get to play alongside Simmons for the entirety of his career, as he thinks the two have yet to reach their full potential as a duo.
"I love him and I want to be with him for the rest of my career, because I think he still has a lot of potential, and me too," Embiid said of Simmons during an appearance on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast. "We can get so much better than we are right now. I don't see the point of ever playing with somebody else. So, that's someone that I'd love to be playing with for the rest of my career."
These recent comments from Embiid vibe with things he has said about Simmons in the past. At All-Star Weekend in February, Embiid shut down the notion that they couldn't coexist on the court and pointed to the fact that they've only played together for two full seasons so far.
"I think it's BS, because when you look at the last two years that we have been playing together, it was not a problem," Embiid said at the time. "This year it's only a problem because at times our offense has struggled and I think it's definitely going to be better after the All-Star break. I mean, just look at the last two years what we have been able to do and I think it can work and it's going to work."
Simmons was also asked about the relationship between the two stars at All-Star Weekend, and he basically echoed Embiid in saying that they enjoyed playing together, and that they have yet to reach their full potential.
"I love playing with Joel, I think he's an amazing talent," Simmons said. "I got a lot of respect for his game, and I know that he feels the same way about me, so as long as we continue to strive and go the right way, I think we'll be fine. We got a lot of talent, it's kind of scary how good we can be."
Between the two stars, Embiid and Simmons already have 41 games of playoff experience and five All-Star appearances combined. Both are still improving as players as neither has hit their prime yet. They're also two of the best defenders in the entire NBA, so as long as they're both in the lineup, the Sixers are almost guaranteed of having an elite, or near-elite defense. Plus, the two seem to genuinely enjoy playing with each other. Sure there will be doubters, as there always will be until a title is won (and sometimes even still then), but Embiid and Simmons believe that they can coexist together. It would be a major mistake if Philadelphia's front office decided to prematurely pull the plug on this dynamic duo.