Gelb: Barkley Is Wrong; 76ers Not A Threat To Reach NBA Finals

Charles Barkley is bullish on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, but Zach Gelb has reservations – a lot of them

Zach Gelb
June 30, 2020 - 9:09 am

Charles Barkley is nothing if not opinionated, and he is particularly bullish on the Philadelphia 76ers. Last September, Barkley predicted that they would win an NBA title this season. Last week, he said they have a “legitimate chance” to at least get to the Finals.

Zach Gelb disagrees.

“We don’t know what the conditioning of Joel Embiid is going to look like,” Gelb said on The Zach Gelb Show. “There [were] conditioning problems when we didn’t have this pandemic. With Embiid being away from basketball for the last three, four months, what kind of shape is he going to show up in? Especially when you get into the grind of a seven-game series? If you get Boston in the first round, it’s going to be a blood bath.”

The Sixers (39-26) are currently the sixth seed in the East, while Boston (43-21) is third. If the playoffs started today, they would square off in the first round.

But Embiid, who averaged 23.4 points and 11.8 rebounds in 44 games this season, isn’t the Sixers’ biggest problem.

“Their biggest problem is their lack of shooting,” Gelb said. “Ben Simmons has potential to be great. Look what he’s already able to do without a jump-shot. But do I think that Ben Simmons in the last three months has developed that jump-shot? Absolutely not.”

Simmons, 23, is a great all-around player; he averaged 16.7 points, 8.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season. But his perimeter shooting hasn’t developed. Simmons released videos indicating otherwise last summer and said he’s “comfortable” shooting from distance. But he’s only attempted six three-pointers all season and made two – which were also, by the way, the first made threes of his career.

“When it comes around to the game, he has no desire to shoot a three-point shot,” Gelb said. “And I said it going into this year: they’re going to need him to come into his own with his jump-shot, and we have not seen any progress made there.”

Barkley’s rationale? Embiid and Simmons are both stars, and the East, outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, doesn’t have many of those. More often than not, Philadelphia will have the two best players on the floor.

“I can see why you easily say it could be the Sixers,” Gelb said, “but why should I trust the Sixers? [Based on] what I saw before the pandemic, what gave me any indication that the Sixers were going to get their act together? And now you take away their home-court advantage? And you’re going to a neutral site.”

That could be problematic for the Sixers, who were 29-2 at home this season but just 10-24 on the road.

“Think about how tough that is – to only have two losses at home – and you go on the road and you’re a lottery team,” Gelb said. “Why should I believe in the Sixers? I shouldn’t. Probably at best – at best – they win a round, maybe they win two. Should I expect them to be dangerous, though, and win three rounds and go to the NBA Finals? I don’t expect that at all.”