As sagas go, this has been—and continues to be—the summer of Damain Lillard and James Harden. More on that in a moment.
But looking ahead, 2024 could prove to be the summer Joel Embiid looks for a new home. Or the conversation is over.
Embiid himself gave voice to what many had been gossiping about when, while speaking with Maverick Carter over the weekend, he raised several eyebrows, including quite a few in Philadelphia.
“I just want to win a championship — whatever it takes,” Embiid told Carter at the Uninterrupted Sports Film Festival. “I don’t know where it’s going to be, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.”
Whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.
His entire commentary is longer, but the gist and Embiid’s message is clear: Build a winner, or else.
His not-so-subtle thought also reflects a deeper concern within the Sixers organization. They know that winning, in a real way that translates to a very deep postseason run, has to happen soon. That makes it imperative to get the right return for Harden.
The Sixers will happily move the MVP of the 2017-18 campaign for the right price. But what that price should be is still elusive. Philly believes it’s a star-level player to pair with Embiid, or enough valuable assets they can flip for the same.
But until a buyer steps up or the price drops, each day brings closer the prospect of a very unhappy Harden showing up in September to a team in desperate need of winning now. And one he doesn’t want to play for.
So the pressure is on in Philly, Harden’s final move is waiting for a buyer to offer a high enough price, and a sense of worry and fear is building. Just the right time for Philly’s reigning MVP to say what he did.
“The timing is deliberate,” a league source said. “Embiid does absolutely nothing by accident. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And he enjoys it.”
No one believes Embiid is going anywhere this coming season. But 2024? As with Lillard and Bradley Beal, sometimes there are plenty of false alarms before things get all too real.
Odds on Embiid Express and Harden Highway
Speaking of Embiid and Harden, here are the latest odds on where the two will end up if they do indeed leave the Sixers.
New York Knicks: +200
Brooklyn Nets: +250
Dallas Mavericks: +350
New Orleans Pelicans: +450
Miami Heat: +550
Los Angeles Lakers: +650
Utah Jazz: +850
Oklahoma City Thunder: +1000
Los Angeles Clippers: -150
New York Knicks: +400
Miami Heat: +600
Atlanta Hawks: +700
Chicago Bulls: +800
Dallas Mavericks: +1000
Houston Rockets: +1000
New Orleans Pelicans: +1000
Memphis Grizzlies: +1200
Toronto Raptors: +1200
San Antonio Spurs: +1400
Boston Celtics: +1800
Los Angeles Lakers: +2500
Phoenix Suns: +2500
Interest in tournaments during the season
That NBA’s Officially announced in the Summer League, the In-Season Tournament may have been met with a mixed, lukewarm reaction from fans unsure of what to expect. But many people around the league believe it’s a big first step in making the season more interesting.
For years, the league office was quietly revived to make Adam Silver’s idea a reality: an in-season tournament that adjusts European soccer’s various competitions for an American audience.
Several NBA GMs told CBS Sports that they believe having a lot to win in a single season can only help the sport — and that they want to take the tournament seriously.
A Lillard deal could take longer
Lillard, of course, remains a Trail Blazer, at least technically. Portland couldn’t be more excited about Scoot Henderson. And more NBA team stay a little — very little — hopefully Dame will shift gears and be open to a trade somewhere other than Miami.
Multiple front-office sources who have spoken with Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin believe he is serious about getting the best deal possible.
All of which means the Lillard saga could go on for a very long time.
“It could be a while,” said one front office executive. “You never know, but it’s probably going to take longer than the Harden trade.”
Will 2023 imitate 1994?
No one is writing off Brandon Miller after a sometimes uneven summer league.
Not in the league, not here at CBS Sports, and certainly not within a Charlotte Hornets organization that took him No. 2 overall over Henderson, who went No. 3 to Portland.
But – big but here — you can find plenty of talent evaluators out there who are skeptical. Many will point out that most players do not live up to expectations.
This is especially true of guys drafted in the top three. You have to go all the way back to 1994 — 1994! — to find the first three choices in NBA Draft who all excelled in the NBA:
- Glen Robinson
- Jason Kidd
- Grant Hill
Speaking of the likelihood that at least one of this year’s top three picks (Victor Wembanyama, Miller and Henderson) will turn out to be a bad pick, one NBA scout pointed out the curse of the overall No. 2- choice.
“Look at it,” he told CBS Sports. “No. 2 is terrible.”
Historically, it actually was. Especially as opposed to, in each of those cases, the next pick in the draft at No. 3.
James Wiseman (over LaMelo Ball). Marvin Bagley III (over Luka Doncic). Jabari Parker (over Embiid). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (over Bradley Beal). Hasheem Thabeet (over James Harden). Darko Milicic (over Carmelo Anthony). And so on.
But just as Summer League games don’t always tell the story of what’s to come, the past isn’t always prelude.
So we close hoping that Wemby, Miller and Scoot defy the odds and form the first Top 3 triumvirate in almost 30 years to live up to expectations.