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Would you trade Carson Wentz being good to assure health of Joel Embiid?

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

After what's largely been a miserable decade for Philadelphia sports fans, this fall may serve as the light at the end of the tunnel. No, the Phillies aren't going to be in the playoffs. But the Eagles, led by second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, appear to have stability at the quarterback position for the first time in a decade. The difficult part of "The Process" appears to be over for the Sixers, who, led by Joel Embiid, seem likely to compete for their first playoff appearance since 2011-12. 

Of course, things can never be that simple in Philadelphia. Embiid, despite Hall of Fame talent, has been limited by injuries to just 31 games in three seasons. Wentz, who seemed like a franchise quarterback the first five weeks of the season last year, was awfully ineffective in an offense that became unwatchable for all of November and even into early December of 2016.

With the "Negadelphia" culture in mind, this hypothetical topic has made the rounds on Twitter this summer: would you trade Wentz being good if it assured that Embiid would have a long, healthy career? 

For many, this debate will simply come down to whether they value the Eagles or Sixers more. Despite the fact that the NFL may have peaked in the late 2000s, it remains the most popular sports league in America. Regardless of whether the NFL is your favorite league or not, there's not really a debate - if Philadelphia could pick one of their teams to win a championship, it would be the Eagles. 

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But the premise of this article isn't as simple as asking whether you would prefer for Embiid to lead the Sixers to a title or Wentz to guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl. There aren't guarantees like that in sports. The goal of this exercise is, in many senses, to determine whether a healthy Embiid or Wentz at his full potential would be more likely to help bring Philadelphia a championship. 

Don't overthink it, the answer to this hypothetical is pretty simple. 

Here's the thing: after one year (31 games, actually) we know what a healthy Embiid is. Despite a minutes restriction and being limited to just 31 games, Embiid should have won Rookie of the Year. His Per 36 numbers were on-pace with what Hall of Famers Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did at their peaks. 

After one season, we largely don't know what Wentz is. There does seem to be a sense from many NFL executives - former Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan being the latest - that Wentz has the chance to be a special, top seven caliber quarterback. There were portions of his 2016 season where he looked like that. There were also portions were he, in an offense that had next to no skill-position talent and a rookie head coach calling plays, looked awfully pedestrian. 

The jury is still very much out on Wentz, as it is for nearly every quarterback after their first season. It does feel safe to say that he doesn't have the Hall of Fame caliber talent that Wentz does. Even if you think he does, it's based off of you projecting what he will be. Embiid, despite a two-year layoff and very little overall basketball experience, has already flashed the Hall of Fame talent in an actual game. 

If that's not enough, a healthy Embiid is more likely to be surrounded by a championship-caliber team than Wentz. Embiid will be joined this year by the previous two No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. That's on top of Dario Saric, Robert Covington and a team that's still deep in assets, both in terms of draft picks and financial flexibility. 

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If we're being realistic, the Eagles likely to still be key cogs for the team when Wentz would be at his peak are Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks and Ronald Darby. That's not a bad group, but it doesn't elicit the same type of excitement as the group around Embiid does. 

Beyond on-field arguments, there's something unique about the Embiid-era Sixers that the Wentz-era Eagles will never have going for them: The Process. In the past four seasons, the Sixers have lost 253 games, as part of Sam Hinkie's plan to build a contending team. Losing 253 games in a four-season stretch is enough in itself to make ultimately winning a championship feel special. When you couple that with the local and national hot-takes -- "Dario won't come over," "Embiid will never play a game" -- The Process culminating in a championship would be one of the sweetest things that Philadelphia sports fans have ever gotten to experience. 

The fortunate thing for Philadelphia sports fans is that it isn't an either/or world. Embiid could have sustained health and lead the Sixers to multiple titles during a Hall of Fame career, all while Wentz helps lead the Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl win. That, of course, goes both ways, as the careers of Embiid and Wentz, probably for entirely different reasons, could both fizzle out. Or, as the hypothetical suggests, one could work out while the other doesn't. 

This debate is apples and oranges, as Facebook commenters are sure to point out. But it doesn't fall into the same "lowest common denominator" category that many of these types of debates often tend to. It generates good conversation, yet has a clear answer. 

And that answer is that, yes, it would make sense to trade Wentz being good if it ensured the long-term health of Embiid. 


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