Joel Embiid only has 2-3 years left of elite play, says former 76ers star


Less than three weeks after elimination in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid underwent Memorial Day surgery to repair his sprained right thumb, suffered during the first round of the playoffs. It was the first of two injuries that hampered Embiid in the playoffs, as he also missed a pair of second-round games due to a right orbital fracture.

To add insult to injury, the championship-starved Sixers squandered a season in which Embiid finished runner-up in the NBA MVP race and led the league in average points (30.6). Although the team considered James Harden to be the missing piece to its championship puzzle when they acquired him at the trade deadline, he wilted under postseason pressure, scoring 11 points in the Sixers' season-ending loss. Philadelphia's title window is open, but former team star Eric Snow believes it could close sooner than the franchise expects.

"I think they have to be close [to winning], because I don't think the window with Joel is as big as other people think. I think it's two -- maybe three years, max -- that I think something has to be done, in order to help him win," Snow explained to The Zach Gelb Show on Wednesday. "And Joel's window where it's his best years -- you have to approach it that way. And I don't know what Morey and Brand are going to do. But I believe the urgency has to be high...

"If he's your No. 1 option, he's supposed to be your finisher... So, it shouldn't all be on James Harden. But, he does have to be better. I just don't think you can say Joel's the No. 1 option, and then we get into the playoffs and James has to be the No. 1 option... I think James is that guy. I think it's the time and kind of picking your plays. Is he going to be aggressive when it's needed... It's the timely shots that are more important right now with James..."

Harden, who was acquired in a blockbuster deal with the Brooklyn Nets back in February, offered another slate of underwhelming playoff performances. In the team's Game 6 semifinal loss to the Miami Heat, he failed to score a point in the second half, and he took just two shots after halftime. Harden averaged 18.6 points with 8.6 assists and 4.2 turnovers in 12 playoff games, and for his career, he's averaging 23.4 points and 4.5 turnovers in elimination contests.

The Sixers are in a precarious position with Harden, as he's eligible to earn a supermax contract extension worth up to $250 million over five years during free agency this offseason. But, if he opts in to the final year of his contract with the team, he'll make a whopping $47.3 million in the 2022-23 campaign. Following the Sixers' elimination loss, Harden told reporters that he'll remain with the team, and do whatever it takes to "compete at the highest level."

The entire NBA conversation between Snow and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.

You can follow The Zach Gelb Show on Twitter @ZachGelb and Tom Hanslin @TomHanslin.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Tim Nwachukwu / Staff / Getty Images