The Sixers Were Destined For Disappointment Even Before Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons Got Hurt

Joel Embiid after he hurt his shoulder.
Joel Embiid after he hurt his shoulder. / Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are in trouble. Ben Simmons is out for an "extended" period of time. He will be reevaluated in two weeks, but no one expects him to be anywhere near ready to play in two weeks. Joel Embiid sprained his shoulder on Wednesday night and is still being evaluated.

The good news and the bad news are the same thing. The Sixers are currently the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game behind the Miami Heat. The Celtics and Raptors are too far ahead for a healthy, cohesive version of the Sixers to catch up and the Nets and Magic are too far behind for Philadelphia to end up in a bottom seed in the darkest of timelines.

Philadelphia has the third-easiest strength of schedule remaining. The Heat and Pacers have slightly tougher remaining schedules. No matter what happens, Philadelphia will end up in a winnable first round series if Embiid is healthy. It will be tough against Toronto or Boston, but still possible. If Simmons comes back, the Sixers will have the talent to lose to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. And that is their ceiling in perpetuity unless they make a change or Giannis Antetokounmpo goes to Golden State.

Time and time again, it looks like the Sixers are going to have to choose between Embiid and Simmons. It seems impossible to build around both of them and they increasingly sound like a team without a plan. In an interview with Basketball Insiders, Glenn Robinson made it sound like his expected role still hasn't been explained to him three weeks after he was acquired:

"“All those things play a role, and then when you come here and your role’s not really explained or you don’t know what’s going on with the trade — it’s not like it was a trade where you come in and immediately have an impact. It’s a little different, so… this team is full of wings, full of guys who can play. So really, I don’t really understand it. But it’s a business, you’ve got to make it happen and go out and try to do your best every night.”"

The Sixers were a high-functioning mess for the last couple seasons, but things aren't going as well now. They'll make the playoffs, but any title expectations from the start of the season are long gone. After two straight 50+ win seasons, they're headed in the wrong direction. Blame the front office. Blame Brett Brown. Blame the guy who can't stay on the court or the guy who refuses to shoot threes. The end result remains the same.