Camp officially started today for the Philadelphia Sixers and as expected, Ben Simmons was not in attendance. We can split hairs about who is to blame and if Simmons is in the right or wrong for taking his unprecedented approach, but that’s no longer relevant. He’s not coming back. He doesn’t want to come back. The city of Philly doesn’t want him back. And as much as the Sixers front office, coaching staff, and Ben’s former teammates claim to want him back, anyone with some sense to them can see that it’s simply a front to drive his trade value up by playing nice until the right deal comes along.
Simmons somehow believes that he has a ton of leverage. This is clearly a misguided belief he’s being fed by agent Rich Paul and his team at Klutch Sports. Simmons is coming off one of the most humiliating post-season performances by an All-Star that anyone has ever produced. Coming off what was a solid 4th NBA season with a 14 point, 7 rebound, 7 assist stat line, accompanied with being voted the runner up for DPOY narrowly behind Rudy Gobert, Simmons shit the bed come playoff time.
In an opening round gentlemen’s sweep against the Wizards, Simmons was cruising with a 15p/10r/9a stat line that overshadowed a highly concerning 10-28(35.7%) shooting performance from the charity stripe. This was concerning, but the low volume of free throw attempts kinda made it easy to dismiss. Well, that wasn’t the case in a 7 game conference semifinals series against the Hawks, in which they noted Simmons’ weakness and exploited it in a manner that was unimaginable to most going into the series. Ben shot 15-45 from the line. He missed 7 free throws in a game 1 Philly lost by 4 points, then missed 4 in a game 4 loss the Sixers dropped by 3, followed by 10 missed from the line in a game 5 that they lost by 3. In game 7, he was so shook that he passed up a uncontested dunk to tie the game with 3:31 seconds remaining and the Sixers never recovered.
So, what’s next? Well, by my account, the Sixers have a few options. We’ll breakdown those options and try to decide what is the best course of action for last season’s top seed in the Eastern Conference to continue to be a serious contender.
Option 1 – Fuck this guy’s trade value, get him the fuck outta here….
Ben must not realize that his trade value has a massive impact on where he ends up. His poor playoff performance may have hurt his value on the market, but no where nearly as bad as his blatant breach of contract and refusal to show up to honor his contractual obligations. No NBA player under contract has ever just refused to show up to camp. This type of behavior has run off any teams with a contending window in the immediate future, as his immaturity and lack of commitment to his max contract, has any serious contenders uninterested in adding 5 years of contract for a player who is liable to quit on the organization when things get tough.
This leaves Philly in a position where if they trade him now, options are limited. Here are the 3 realistic options that Philadelphia could swing now if they go the route of, Fuck this Guy, get him outta here…
- Minnesota Timberwolves – D’Angelo Russell, Josh Okogie, a 2021 lottery protected 1st & 2024 unprotected 1st. This is the best immediate deal for the 2021-22 Sixers to compete. Russell provides a quick fix at the point guard position, while being a significantly better fit offensively with the current Sixers roster. Okogie would be an adequate depth piece on the perimeter. And most importantly, the Sixers would no longer have to play 4 on 5 basketball in close and late games. They’d sacrifice a massive drop off in defense, but an increase in playing time for All-Defensive team selection Mattisse Thybulle should help offset the loss of Simmons’ unmatched defensive prowess. Minnesota abruptly fired its President of Basketball Operations last week, and his refusal to include D’Lo in a Ben Simmons trade has been rumored to be the cause of his termination. This, to me, is the trade the Sixers will and should take if they go with the immediate move.
- Cleveland Cavs – Colin Sexton, Taurean Prince, Isaac Okuro & some package of draft picks. The Sixers don’t like it because they prefer Darius Garland to Sexton. The Cavs despite saying nobody is untouchable, have been hesitant to include Garland unless Kevin Love’s absurd contract is attached to the deal. And there’s no fucking way a GM as experienced as Darrel Morey is going to come out of this one with the embarrassment of having to take Kev Love’s $33 million this year and $28 million next for a 25-year-old DPOY runner up. This might as well hit the scrap heap. Neither team is going to budge.
- Houston Rockets – The Sixers would also move Danny Green & Shake Milton along with Simmons for John Wall, Dante Exum, and a massive package of future 1st round picks that Houston has been hoarding as they tore their roster down. Wall’s $44 million price tag makes this one tough to swallow for Philly, but if he was to agree to waive his player option for the 2022-23 season or convert it to a team option, his value would skyrocket to make this deal palatable. He could then be spun at the deadline if the fit wasn’t right in Philly as an expiring contract along with all those picks Houston just sent for a superstar that is unhappy on a team heading for a rebuild. This option is worth a long look if the T’Wolves deal can’t get done.
Option 2 – Wait it Out
Simmons won’t be the only superstar who requests a new home this year. The question is who the other stars will be to join him in wanting out. In theory, the Sixers who love Tyrese Maxey, could let Ben sit home and fine him for each practice and game missed and run Maxey as their full time point guard until the trade deadline. This would give the Sixers a nice look at if Maxey was ready for the full-time job on a title contender. If he was, the Sixers wouldn’t be pigeonholed to needing to receive a starting point guard back in a Simmons deal. If he wasn’t, they know what they must target. Here’s the players who there has been rumblings of unrest in their current situation who could be moved at the deadline.
- Dame Lillard – This is Daryl Morey’s, as well as every single Sixers fan, ideal scenario. It’s incredibly unlikely, but according to those close to the Morey camp, it’s the biggest reason he didn’t pull the trigger on a Simmons deal early in the off-season before this whole thing got ugly. With Dame being a far bigger star with trade value well larger than Ben, the Sixers would have to heavily sweeten the pot to pull this off. Ben, along with Mattisse Thybulle & Tyrese Maxey, plus a multitude of future draft picks would be the deal. And while that’s a lot of assets to let go, you do it without thinking twice if it means a Dame/Embiid/Tobias combo in their prime for the next 4 seasons. Ahh, it’s nice to dream. There’s a maybe 1% chance of this happening though.
- Bradley Beal – The save Bradley Beal memes have been flooding social media for what feels like a decade now, but he’s held off on outwardly requesting a trade out of the abyss he’s been stuck in on repeat in Washington for this long. So, who knows if this is the year he finally has enough. If it is, rumor has its Washington’s starting point on a deal hinge on their trade partner taking on the remaining 4 years at $16 million a piece that they hastily gave Davis Bertans stinky ass during the quickfire frenzy the 2020 off-season’s short turnaround provided. A deal with Philly would be Beal & Bertans for Simmons, Danny Green & Seth Curry with a mix of picks going both ways to even perceived value for taking on Bertans out. I am a big Curry supporter, but I’d likely be very willing to part with him if it was for a Bradley Beal deal. This one has more likelihood of happening than the Dame dreams, as Washington likes Simmons for some reason.
- Paul George – This one would be tough for me, as I’ve actively talked non-stop shit about Pandemic P and his poor playoff performances and inability to be the guy, he looked like he had all the potential in the world to be both in Indy & OKC next to Kawhi in LA. With Kawhi out and LA likely to have their fair share of struggles in a loaded Western Conference, PG-13 may end up heading out of LA, and Kawhi has been asking for a point guard to facilitate the offense for two years now. Paul George & Nic Batum for Simmons, Seth Curry & Shake Milton would work financially. This would be a last resort, back up option if other players who are expected to move this year don’t, and likely a failure on the Sixers front office if they took the wait it out approach.
Option 3 – Fix the Relationship with Simmons
This shit ain’t happening, but I’d be remised to not include it as an option, as Morey and Rivers have been on record stating that would be their ideal scenario. Morey has gone as far as to draw parallels to the Packers-Aaron Rodgers saga from this past NFL off-season, as Rodgers also had gone on the record stating he would never wear a Packers uniform again. I personally can’t see this happening, or working out well if somehow it did, but I wouldn’t count out the possibility of Adam Silver working the NBA back channels and essentially threatening Ben Simmons with legal injunctions if he was to indeed continue to refuse to honor his contract, as well as agent Rich Paul & Klutch Sports with violating the terms of the CBA, while the Sixers publicly say they want him there. This would almost force Ben to show up and at least fake it til he makes it the fuck outta Philly. Ugh… I hope this isn’t the option that plays out, as a mentally checked out and disinterested Simmons would be an absolute disaster to have around.
I am leaning towards option 1 as not only my personal preferred scenario, but also the most likely road for Philadelphia to take on the Ben Simmons shenanigans. Any further waiting could put the current roster at too large of a disadvantage and the uncertainty surrounding the situation is far from the ideal environment for what should be a championship contending quality team once the trade gets executed. I’d also expect for Minnesota to be the likely destination for Ben, and he wouldn’t have to worry about making playoff free throws, as the Wolves are as poverty of a franchise as there is and won’t be making a 30 win improvement by adding a guy who refuses to shoot and would rather be in California.