Charles Barkley and Joel Embiid don't have a great relationship. As the Philadelphia 76ers legend has often joined Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal in criticizing the Sixers' superstar big man over the last couple of years, Embiid has made it obvious he's not too fond of the player-turned-analyst.
Perhaps, that could change as Barkley has now come around to complimenting Embiid for the season he's currently having. In 24 games, Embiid is averaging 30 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 54-percent from the field and knocking down a career-high of 40-percent from three.
It was never hard for Barkley to actually credit Embiid for being a good player. The former big man just couldn't get past the fact that Embiid wanted to mix his game up and not only play in the post but also expand his range to beyond-the-arc. While Embiid still attempts three three-point shots-per-game, he's spent a lot more time dominating down low this year.
During a conversation with Bill Simmons, Barkley revealed he's impressed.
"Now you see this year, he's in the post. He's just killing people because you can't guard him. You cannot guard this dude. He's just too big, too strong, too quick. If you put a big goof on [Embiid], he's just gonna go around him every time. You put a little guy on him, he's just gonna kill him in the post. When Joel Embiid's in the post, he's right there in the conversation with LeBron [James] and Donovan Mitchell for MVP this season because he is just killing people." h/t Pat Ralph of PhillyVoice
Barkley didn't limit his conversation with Simmons to just the Sixers' big man. He also spent some time questioning Embiid's teammate, Ben Simmons. You can probably already guess what Barkley's concern is about, as it's been said a million times.
"Until he learns how to shoot, he's just gonna be an All-Star. He ain't gonna be a superstar until he learns how to shoot the ball. The ball always finds the guy who can't shoot in the playoffs. He's a great defender, he's a helluva player. But at some point, he's gonna have to make a shot. Right now, he's so reluctant to shoot the ball. I think that's going to always come back to bite him in the ass. I think he's afraid to shoot the ball."
Earlier this week, Simmons drained a career-high of 42 points, which Barkley credited him for. On the other hand, he also questioned why Simmons couldn't dominate like that offensively consistently, which is a valid concern.
Following the loss to the Jazz, Simmons admitted the mental aspect of being in the game prevented him from playing aggressively on offense. Over the last few games, he's worked on it, and his scoring has been up.
While it seems Simmons is still surely a work in progress on offense, the two-time All-Star is conscious of the things he needs to work on. He might not become the shooter everybody wants him to be, but at least he's starting to dominate in his own way.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_