“The Process” was a tanking strategy engineered by Sam Hinkie in order to acquire top lottery talent. Hinkie got rid of all his top performers to acquire draft picks and improve his draft position. While some of the picks didn’t work out (Jahlil Okafor, Markelle Fultz, Nerlens Noel) the two main returns were Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid has lived up to his billing. He was a leading MVP candidate this season until a late injury knocked him out of the race.
Ben Simmons was the number one picked out of LSU who was compared to LeBron James upon entering the league. Simmons is a top five defender and one of the most versatile defensive players in the league. Simmons can run the fast break-in transition as smoothly and effectively as anyone in the league. Simmons is a strong finisher around the basket. According to top sportsbooks, Ben Simmons can do anything you would like on the basketball court except for one thing… shoot.
The Most Important Skill
Arguably the most important skill for a basketball player is shooting the basketball. Rick Barry championed this idea in the nineties but it took the rise of the Warriors in 2015 with the Splash Brothers leading the way for the league to realize that three pointers are the best way to lead your offensive attack if you are not going to be dunking or making a layup.
The sight of Manute Bol, the 7′ 7 center in Don Nelson’s offense chucking threes seemed absurd at the time. Now almost every team has players who can shoot the three at an effective rate at one through five. It’s necessary to create the proper floor spacing in a league of hyperathletic players who, contrary to popular old man, “get off my lawn” beliefs, do play defense at an extremely high level.
This is where the disconnect between Simmons’ skills and the modern offense comes into play. Simmons refuses to shoot three pointers and has shied away from taking jump shots, and even is afraid to go to the rim in crunch time because he is not confident in his ability to make free throws. Simmons was 25 of 73 for a 34.2% free throw percentage in this year’s playoffs, which is the worst of any player in the playoffs with that many attempts. If Simmons could only shoot he would be a dominant NBA All-Star capable of leading his team to a championship.
The Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs this year after being the number one seed. One play was brought up in the postgame and seems to be emblematic of Simmons’s issues with his career and why he made no longer be welcome in Philadelphia. Simmons beat his man off the dribble but instead of going for the dunk, he dished to teammate Matisse Thybulle who was fouled. Embiid was not supportive of his teammate’s decision saying, “I’ll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we — I don’t know how to say it — is when we had an open shot and we made one free throw…,”
Most of Philadelphia feels the same way. Although Sixers GM Daryl Morey is hesitant to sell on Simmons while his value is low due to his poor playoffs, the cost of bringing Simmons back in the locker room might be worse than taking a discounted return on Simmons. The fan base of Philadelphia will be furious and his teammates might be frustrated as well. Take it into consideration for your NBA picks.
Should They Trade?
That being said it is my opinion that is Philadelphia’s best option is to trade him in the off-season and start fresh going into the year. Any attempts to rehabilitate Simmons’ value come with the inherent risk of blowing up another season of Embiid’s prime, which could be short due to his fragile nature. I do not believe it’s worth the risk so I expect Daryl Morey to do his best to trade Simmons now.
Assuming Morey decides to trade Simmons what are some landing spots for the former number one overall draft pick?
Portland has an experiment that also seems to have run its course with two ball-dominant scoring small guards who are able to light it up on the offensive end but are a liability on the defensive end. While most of the Sixers are holding out for the possibility of acquiring superstar Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum might be a more realistic option. According to betting sites, The Blazers, like the Sixers, are in desperate need of a reboot and Simmons would fit excellently alongside the stone-cold killer that is Damian Lillard.
Legendary coach Greg Popovich would also like a try to rehabilitate Simmons. The Spurs have several young guards that can shoot and would be attractive to Daryl Morey. The Spurs cannot be discounted as they might be able to make the best offer for Simmons.
The 76ers reportedly rejected an offer of Malcolm Brogdon and the 13th pick for Simmons. I personally think this was leaked in order to drum up interest in Simmons by the Philadelphia side. I believe that this would be a good deal for the Sixers. I’m surprised they passed but it shows how much they value Simmons. It could be an issue for them trying to get rid of Simmons if they value him more than the rest of the league.
Of course, there is also the dark horse team that comes in and makes the move unannounced with no forewarning. Nobody expected Chris Paul to be on the Suns this season. Yet James Jones and Sam Presti got the deal done quietly and it has worked out well for both teams. While certain teams seem obvious as a landing spot for Simmons the way the NBA has gone lately it would not be surprising for it to be a complete surprise.
- Philadelphia 76ers-125
- Portland Trail Blazers+450
- Washington Wizards+1000
- San Antonio Spurs+900
- Utah Jazz+2000
- Minnesota Timberwolves+750
- Indiana Pacers+2000
- Toronto Raptors+1500
- Chicago Bulls+1500
- Oklahoma City Thunder+2000
- Brooklyn Nets+950
To make a rejoinder of the question originally posed by this column, the answer is yes. The only question is whether or not Simmons will be traded before the season starts or if the Sixers will be stubborn and attempt to extract the most value from Simmons and try to use the beginning of the year to drive up his value. I personally believe that would be a mistake but Morey is very confident and I doubt he will move Simmons from a position of weakness or a feeling that he has to.
However, the move needs to happen! For our NBA odds, Simmon’s needs a fresh start and he’s not going to find fair reactions from the fans in Philadelphia. It will be good for Simmons and the Sixers. They will be in a better mindset as a team if they do it now. Trade Ben Simmons.