Evan’s Column: The Ben Simmons Saga and what will Philly do now?

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For the Philadelphia 76ers, this offseason couldn’t have gone any worse. After a disastrous fall at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks after the team rolled into the playoffs as the number one seed, the team looked to make major changes this offseason. However, after missing out on major free agent Kyle Lowry, the team will be looking to move on from young star Ben Simmons. How did Philadelphia get into this position, and how will they aim to get out of this position that the loss of Simmons will inevitably put them in?

First, there’s a massive variety of weaknesses in Simmons’ game that Philadelphia has been well aware of in Simmons’ short four-year career. The most glaring issue is most certainly his jump shot. In the current world of the NBA, with the jump shot being heavily relied upon, Simmons is such a weakness on the floor on offense for his team that they are limited to what they can do. While Simmons is a brilliant playmaker and has a wealth of offensive options, including all-star center Joel Embiid, the lack of a capable jump shot doesn’t help the team on offense. Opposing defenders constantly play away from Simmons and take advantage of his weaknesses on offense without fail. With that being said, there are plenty of other problems in Simmons’ offense that should be addressed.

Second, Simmons has almost no confidence in himself. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Philadelphia’s elimination series against the Atlanta Hawks. How did Simmons perform in a make-or-break elimination game to send his team to the conference finals? Simmons put up just one point and two assists. In fact, Simmons averaged about 2.1 points in the fourth quarter alone during the entire series and disappeared when the 76ers needed him the most. Simmons lacks the confidence to score aggressively and loses many opportunities with the physical frame that he has. Simmons, who is known to be an excellent playmaker, could easily lure defenders into the paint and dish off the ball to the wealth of shooters that Philly added during the 2020 offseason, including Danny Green and Seth Curry. With Simmons’ physicality, he should be able to finish under contact with no problems. However, Simmons’ lack of confidence has hurt his game overall, and in even easier areas of the game, like free-throw shooting, have been affected significantly. In Simmons’ 12 game playoff run during the 2020-2021 season, the All-Star point guard shot just 34% from the free-throw line. While Simmons is not the greatest free-throw shooter, his percentages have worsened and he doesn’t seem to be improving under new coach Doc Rivers. 

What does Philly do now? Simmons has not taken this trade news well and has ultimately decided to vocally make his plans evident to the media, fans and the team. With plans to not report to training camp, an overall desire to leave and a list of teams he wants to be traded to, Simmons is putting pressure to move the all-star point guard quickly for an adequate return. However, with a substantial contract and a poor postseason, Simmons has made it hard for Philadelphia to trade the all-star for a solid return.
General manager Darry Morey has certainly not made it easy to move on from Simmons this offseason with Simmons’ wishes. After hearing Morey’s asking price, NBA teams that have previously shown interest in the all-star are looking toward other options. With the general asking price being four first-round picks and a well-rounded young player, teams have backed off negotiations with Morey and the 76ers. With Simmons’ poor production this past offseason for Philly, it is definitely in the best interest of teams to back off from negotiations with Morey until the asking price lowers considerably for other teams. While Simmons is a phenomenal player on the defensive side and certainly better than fans make him out to be, I just don’t see Philadelphia moving on from Simmons with their current asking price.

With an unnamed Western Conference executive naming three California teams in Simmons’ list of preferred trade destinations, it is fairly clear that the 76ers do not wish to be limited to this small set of teams. Contending teams around the NBA, who would love what Simmons brings to the table, can offer much better trade packages to Philly. The Sacramento Kings, who feature young guards DeAaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, and the Golden State Warriors, seem to have backed out of trade negotiations with the 76ers. As interest dwindles in California for Simmons’ services, Philadelphia must look toward other options. It remains to be unseen with everything in mind if the team will fulfill a trade with Simmons’ wishes in mind. 

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