Following Joel Embiid’s first NBA MVP award, the Philadelphia 76ers’ repeated playoff blunders continued after blowing a series lead against the Boston Celtics.
As the summer approached, constant rumors circulated around James Harden’s player option and potential unrestricted free agency. When Harden accepted his player option, it came with an expectation that he would be traded shortly thereafter. He trusted general manager Daryl Morey to send him to his preferred destination of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Harden is still on the Philadelphia payroll, and his contentious summer led to the 76ers making nearly no offseason moves. They lost Jalen McDaniels to the Toronto Raptors and long-range sharpshooter Georges Niang to (you guessed it) the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their only additions were Patrick Beverly and Mo Bamba, two decent role players, but nothing that would elevate them past habitual second-round exits.
Now, the 76ers’ future with Harden and Embiid is uncertain beyond just this summer. Whether or not Harden is traded, Embiid has endured an arduous, taxing tenure with Philly. From the Ben Simmons saga to the infamous decision to prioritize Tobias Harris over Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid has yet to find consistency and success.
The blame is not separated from Embiid, though. His lackluster play in the postseason has ultimately led to Philly’s downfall on numerous occasions, including this most recent dismissal.
However, the constant circulation of teammates may finally reach a tipping point with Harden as a catalyst. Should the 76ers still fail to build a true contender around a player of Embiid’s caliber, Harden may not be the only former MVP to force their way out of Philadelphia.
The 76ers are headed toward a total rebuild after nearly a decade of hype for what could be. With zero conference finals appearances, the process may come to a screeching halt and a devastated fanbase. This season may not be the final one, but the ongoing war between Harden and Morey will undoubtedly worsen Philadelphia’s chances.
Finally, this southeast team is still trying to find that missing piece for their franchise cornerstone, assuming they can.