The New York Knicks are expected to go all-in should Joel Embiid ask out of Philadelphia with the belief that the reigning MVP could catapult them into being championship contenders, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon.
“[With] Donovan Mitchell [last summer], they decided not to go all in,” MacMahon said on the May 15 episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast. “They were willing to go a lot in, [but] they did not go all in because they did the calculus — or whatever you want to say — and did not feel like getting Donovan Mitchell to pair with Jalen Brunson put them in a championship position.
“I am pretty confident in saying that they feel like putting Joel Embiid on that roster with Jalen Brunson as their second-best player would give them a legitimate chance to win championships, and I believe that to be true despite the fact that what we just said about Joel Embiid and his history of playoff disappointments,” MacMahon added.
Embiid, who won his first MVP award, has given no indication that he would leave Philadelphia. His $210 million, four-year extension kicking in next season. Embiid said after losing to the Boston Celtics in the conference semifinals that he had an “unfinished job,” according to ESPN.
But The New York Post’s Erich Richter wrote on May 17 that “the first nugget of potential Joel Embiid discontent has arrived” with the previous day’s firing of Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.
Potential New Knicks Pick-and-Roll Duo
The Knicks are in a prime position to chase a star this summer after they were two victories away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals, especially with having a rising star in Brunson, who will be 27 next season.
Picture this: Embiid attacking the basket for a slam off a pick-and-roll with Brunson or vice-versa instead of the former blocking the latter’s drive as his opponent.
The lethal combination of the ascending Brunson and Embiid at the peak of his career is the dream scenario for the Knicks heading into the offseason, aching to build on their best season in a decade.
Embiid led the league in the regular season with 8.2 points as James Harden’s roll man in their lethal pick-and-roll, per NBA provided by Synergy. In the playoffs, Embiid’s numbers were sliced more than half, averaging only 4.0 points as the roll man.
Having the much younger and more aggressive Brunson as his pick-and-roll partner than Harden could make Embiid’s life easier in the playoffs.
At this point in their careers, Brunson is steadier than Harden.
Brunson averaged a second-best 11.2 points in the playoffs next to Trae Young (14.3 points) as the pick-and-roll ball handler, jumping from seventh-best 9.6 points in the regular season, per NBA provided by Synergy. Harden was way below with 7.6 points per game as the pick-and-roll ball handler.
A Puncher’s Chance
The only way the Knicks could make a run at Embiid is if Harden leaves them this summer and the 76ers can’t get a solid replacement.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons speculated three directions where the 76ers could go after they squandered a 3-2 series lead against the Boston Celtics — a “Hail Mary” trade for Damian Lillard, re-sign James Harden and replace Doc Rivers or the doomsday scenario of Embiid asking out that could force them to go full rebuild.
“The Knicks are just waiting for Embiid to say it’s time for me to go,” Simmons said on the May 15 episode of his podcast with Ryen Russillo. “They have their relationships. They have Leon [Rose] and Wes [William Wesley], who were his guys. They’ve been waiting for this moment, right now. And it’s here.”
On Tuesday, the 76ers fired Rivers, raising their odds to re-sign Harden and lowering the Knicks’ chances of trading for Embiid.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe and MacMahon said on the May 15 episode of his “The Lowe Post” podcast that “the Houston Rockets think [Harden] is coming.”
Harden holds the key to the Knicks’ dream off-season scenario.