Currently, James Harden is expressing interest in leaving the 76ers, and there’s speculation about whether his teammate, Joel Embiid, might eventually feel the same way, especially considering recent social media actions.
If both Harden and Embiid were to depart, the 76ers could find themselves in a rebuilding phase. In such a scenario, teams with promising young players and future draft assets, like the Houston Rockets, could potentially pursue Embiid.
NBA writer Kelly Iko suggests that due to the connection between Embiid and coach Ime Udoka, Houston could be a contender in this situation. Iko believes that both New York and Houston are worth monitoring if Embiid were to express a desire to leave in the coming years.
The bond between Embiid and Udoka is notable, as evidenced by Udoka’s presence at Embiid’s wedding and Embiid’s interaction with a tweet announcing Udoka’s hiring as the Rockets’ head coach.
From the 76ers’ perspective, sending Embiid to a Western Conference team like Houston could be more acceptable than to an Eastern Conference rival like the nearby Knicks.
Houston’s interest in acquiring Joel Embiid could face timing challenges. Currently, due to salary constraints, the Rockets wouldn’t be able to match salaries for a trade until their 2023 offseason signees become trade eligible midway through the upcoming 2023-24 season.
However, if Embiid were to express a desire to leave before the February 2024 trade deadline or during the following offseason, the Rockets could potentially entice the Sixers with young prospects and future draft picks.
The connection between Embiid and coach Ime Udoka, along with the Rockets’ development of young players and recent veteran acquisitions like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, could make them more competitive in the near future.
While Embiid hasn’t requested a trade from the 76ers at this point, it’s a situation worth watching, especially if the 76ers struggle and the Rockets show unexpected progress towards playoff contention. Last season, Embiid showcased impressive stats, averaging 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.