As force-your-way-out sagas go, this has been -- and continues to be -- the summer of Damain Lillard and James Harden. More on that in a moment.
But if we look ahead, 2024 could turn out to be the summer Joel Embiid looks for a new home. Or so the talk has gone.
Embiid himself gave voice to what many had been gossiping about when, while speaking to Maverick Carter over the weekend, he raised several eyebrows, including quite a few more in Philadelphia.
"I just want to win a championship -- whatever it takes," Embiid told Carter at the Uninterrupted Sports Film Festival. "I don't know where that's gonna be, whether it's in Philly or anywhere else."
Whether it's in Philly or anywhere else.
His entire comment is longer, but the gist and Embiid's message are clear: Build a winner, or else.
His not-so-subtle thought also reflects a deeper worry within the Sixers organization. They know winning, in a real way that translates to a very-deep postseason run, must happen soon. That makes getting the right return for Harden imperative.
The Sixers will happily move the MVP of the 2017-18 campaign for the right price. But what that price should equal remains elusive. Philly thinks that's a star-level player to pair with Embiid, or enough valuable assets they can flip for the same.
But until a buyer steps up, or the price goes down, each day brings closer the prospect of a very unhappy Harden showing up in September to a team under the crushing need to win now. And one that he does not want to play for.
So the pressure's on in Philly, Harden's eventual move is waiting for a buyer to offer a high enough price, and a sense of worry and fear has been building. Quite the timing for Philly's reigning MVP to say what he did.
"The timing is intentional," one league source said. "Embiid absolutely doesn't do anything by accident. He knows exactly what he's doing. And he enjoys it."
No one believes Embiid is going anywhere this upcoming season. But 2024? Like with Lillard and Bradley Beal, sometimes there are plenty of false alarms before things get all-too real.
Odds of Embiid Express and Harden Highway
Speaking of Embiid and Harden, here are the latest odds on where the two will end up if they do in fact eventually leave the Sixers.
New York Knicks: +200
Brooklyn Nets: +250
Dallas Mavericks: +350
New Orleans Pelicans: +450
Miami Heat: +550
Los Angeles Lakers: +650
Utah Jazz: +850
Oklahoma City Thunder: +1000
Los Angeles Clippers: -150
New York Knicks: +400
Miami Heat: +600
Atlanta Hawks: +700
Chicago Bulls: +800
Dallas Mavericks: +1000
Houston Rockets: +1000
New Orleans Pelicans: +1000
Memphis Grizzlies: +1200
Toronto Raptors: +1200
San Antonio Spurs: +1400
Boston Celtics: +1800
Los Angeles Lakers: +2500
Phoenix Suns: +2500
In-Season Tournament interest
The NBA's In-Season Tournament officially announced at Summer League might have been met with a mixed, lukewarm reaction by fans not sure what to expect. But plenty of people around the league believe it's a huge first step to make the season more interesting.
For years, the league office was quietly revved up to turn Adam Silver's brainchild into reality: An in-season tournament that tweaks European soccer's variety-of-competitions for an American audience.
Several NBA GMs told CBS Sports they believe having lots of things to win in a single season can only help the sport -- and that they'll take the tournament seriously.
A Lillard deal could take longer
Lillard, of course, remains a Trail Blazer, at least technically speaking. Portland could not be more excited about Scoot Henderson. And several NBA teams remain slightly -- very slightly -- hopefully Dame will shift gears and be open to a trade somewhere other than Miami.
Several font-office sources who have talked to Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin believe he's serious about getting the best deal possible.
All of which means the Lillard saga could go on for a very long time.
"Could be a while," one front-office executive said. "You never know, but it's probably going to take longer than the Harden trade."
Will 2023 mimic 1994?
No one is writing off Brandon Miller after an at-times bumpy Summer League.
Not in the league, not here at CBS Sports, and certainly not within a Charlotte Hornets organization that took him No. 2 overall over Henderson, who went to No. 3 to Portland.
But -- big but here -- you can find plenty of talent evaluators out there who are skeptical. Many will point out that most players don't live up to expectations.
That's particularly true of guys drafted in the top three. You have to go all the way back to 1994 -- 1994! -- to find the first three picks in the NBA draft who all excelled in the NBA:
- Glenn Robinson
- Jason Kidd
- Grant Hill
In talking about the likelihood that at least one of this year's top three picks (Victor Wembanyama, Miller and Henderson) will turn out to be a bad pick, one NBA scout pointed out the curse of the No. 2 overall pick.
"Look at it," he told CBS Sports. "No. 2 is awful."
Indeed it was, historically speaking. Especially when contrasted with, in each of these cases, the next pick in the draft at No. 3.
James Wiseman (over LaMelo Ball). Marvin Bagley III (over Luka Doncic). Jabari Parker (over Embiid). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (over Bradley Beal). Hasheem Thabeet (over James Harden). Darko Milicic (over Carmelo Anthony). And so on.
But just as Summer League struggles don't always tell the tale of what's to come, the past is not always prelude.
So we'll close hoping Wemby, Miller and Scoot defy the odds and form the first Top 3 triumvirate in nearly 30 years to deliver on expectations.