It’s easy to point fault at others. Taking accountability for our own shortcomings is never a given, rather our natural preference is to poke holes at something and absolve ourselves from the situation. The relationship between the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons can be likened to a marriage.
There was a honeymoon period. Having been redshirted in his first year in the NBA, Simmons came back with a vengeance and won Rookie of the Year honours in 2017/18. Simmons had next. He was compared to the likes of Magic Johnson and LeBron James. The supreme court vision came naturally to Simmons, and he had the size to match.
Those are where the comparisons stopped.
The marriage became strained, cracks began to emerge, and even an expensive show of commitment (his max contract) was not enough to make things work. As the years went on Simmons’ deficiencies became louder and louder. His lack of development on his shot was a sticking point despite his defence reaching All-Defensive quality.
We’re now at the stage where both Philly and Simmons want a divorce. The relationship is irreconcilable, no matter how much Doc Rivers goes on First Take and tries to backtrack his comments on whether Simmons is good enough to be a starting-calibre point guard on a championship team. We’re in a player-power era in the NBA. Franchises are at the mercy of their star players.
The prospect of their stars moving to a different team is one that could set franchises back years. The Simmons situation, however, presents a marked point on where the scale currently presides.
Ben Simmons is not reporting to training camp. Through his agency, Klutch Sports, Simmons no longer wants to be a Philadelphia 76er and even went as far in saying he would play for any of the 29 other teams in the NBA. Simmons, however, has zero leverage. He has four years left on his deal and any sort of holdout will be nothing short of financial lunacy.
Per Bryan Toporek of Forbes, The Sixers are within their right to fine Simmons for missing Monday’s media day and any upcoming practices. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that missing a single preseason game will cost Simmons over $227,000.
Such is the infrequency of NBA holdouts; Simmons would be breaking ground that has not been touched since the 1990s when the number one pick in the 1994 NBA draft Glenn Robinson demanded to be the first $100 million man in the NBA. Robinson didn’t win, but he did end up with the richest rookie contract (at the time) in NBA history: 10 years, $68 million.
You’re not that guy, pal
Okay so we’ve beat around the bush long enough regarding Simmons’s place among the players in the NBA.
Let’s just call it as it is: Ben Simmons is not on that level of player where he can hold a franchise hostage.
Let’s put the 4 years left on his deal aside, no team in their right mind would give up the farm for Ben Simmons. We are talking about a player who in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, shot stares at note intently below 35% from the free throw line, scored single digits in 4 out of his 7 games vs Atlanta. Oh, and I forgot to mention that in the last four games of the series Simmons attempted ONE 4th quarter shot.
You can’t have your cake and eat it. You can’t complain that your teammates have thrown you under the bus when arguably your performance in the series is the number one reason your team were eliminated. You can’t complain that the fans have turned their back on you when Philly fans have notoriously backed you all the way. You can’t scream recency bias when the NBA has always been a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league.
The NBA is more pro-player than any sports league in the world. Defending Simmons and wrapping him in cotton wool is a miscarriage of accountability.
The duality of Ben Simmons’ trade value
If you told me a Ben Simmons (plus picks) for Damian Lillard trade could be done, I wouldn’t be surprised. If you told me a Ben Simmons for Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, and Tyrese Haliburton could be done, I wouldn’t be surprised either.
There are teams that would happily trade for Ben Simmons, it’s just a question of how much would they want to give up for player who cannot shoot. The Minnesota Timberwolves have long been admirers of the 6’10 Australian and trade ideas have been floated around.
The Timberwolves however have made both Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards untouchable. D’Angelo Russell is also a player the Timberwolves are not keen on parting with especially given Russell’s relationship with KAT.
Russell for Simmons is a trade President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey should turn down. Despite Simmons’ lowly stock, he is undoubtedly a better basketball player than Russell.
Simmons is not the only one holding out. Morey is waiting in the wings for one of Lillard or Bradley Beal to demand out of Portland and Washington respectively. Simmons on a lengthy contract is an enticing prospect for either franchise. It means those teams don’t bottom-out and ensures they remain relevant in the NBA landscape.
Philly know that they don’t necessarily have to trade Simmons now. They can call his bluff. If he chooses to not report to training camp, the Sixers are a good enough team to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. MVP contender Joel Embiid is a top ten player in the league and finished second in last season’s MVP race.
The organisation will go as far as he takes them. Ben Simmons’ time in the City of Brotherly Love has ended. Where he eventually lands are anyone’s guess.