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Report: Ben Simmons’ agent Rich Paul has met with the Sixers to discuss his client’s future

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

And so it begins.... Daryl Morey had already shopped Ben Simmons once before, when James Harden became available. That was after committing publicly that the 6’10 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up would be a part of his team. But it was long before the Sixers lost in the second round of the playoffs, in a game seven at Wells Fargo Center no less. During the series, Simmons shot just 15 of 45 from the free-throw line. Despite helping contain the dynamic Trae Young (after the first half of game 1, Ben Simmons picked up the bulk of the defensive duties on the nearly impossible-to-stop point guard who shot just 37% on 145 attempts since halftime of game one) Simmons had a poor showing offensively. Doc Rivers utilized Simmons almost exclusively in the “dunker spot” that series where he isn’t nearly as effective as when he is deployed anywhere else. And predictably, Ben wasn’t very effective there against Atlanta either.

What was less predictable, was that he’d lose his confidence altogether.

So the first discussions about his future have taken place. No trade request has occurred. And the article by Woj says that the “76ers are committed to keeping Simmons as a central piece of their franchise.” But it makes sense that Simmons and his team want to know the plan here.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

“Discussions on Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons’ future with the franchise started in Chicago this week and included Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, and Sixers management, sources told ESPN.

Paul met with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand at the pre-draft combine to begin evaluating the next steps in Simmons’ Sixers career, sources said.

Paul engaged the Sixers on whether it makes sense to work together to find a trade before the start of next season, but no request was made and the sides are expected to continue talking ahead of the July 29 NBA draft and August free agency, sources said. The 76ers are committed to keeping Simmons as a central piece of their franchise, sources said.”

While the headline about talks beginning in Chicago may have immediately led you to start wondering about Zach LaVine, also someone who trains with Joel Embiid’s trainer Drew Hanlen, what Woj meant was that the talks with Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, literally occurred in the city of Chicago, where the pre-draft combine is being held.

This doesn’t mean that LaVine won’t be a name that will come up, as Daryl Morey has long discussed the benefits of having a perimeter attack to complement a post-attack (dating back to the days he had Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston). The Sixers have really lacked that.

Simmons left the floor at Wells Fargo Center to some chants of “Trade Ben Simmons” from Sixers fans. How heartbreaking that must have felt when looking back at all of the promise this team and this duo, in particular, offered in terms of title aspirations.

If that was indeed his last game in the uniform, it’s a pretty gutwrenching way for the Embiid-Simmons duo to end.

It seemed that coach Doc Rivers leaned far too heavily on Tobias Harris (19-56 in games five through seven) and Dwight Howard (a -37 in the four losses that series) that series, both players’ usage coming partly at the expense of Simmons. It’s almost impossible to imagine any other coach doing so little to accommodate his second-best player during a visible funk like that.

Those were crucial minutes, where Simmons could have been out there instead of Howard. The duo overlapped for 15 minutes, producing a -7 plus-minus. The rest of Dwight’s minutes came without Ben, but weren’t especially good either.

But Simmons deserves plenty of blame as well. He could have simply insisted on asserting himself. He could have waved off the 556th dribble hand off headed his way that led to a futile isolation by Harris and attacked his man like he did Daniel Gafford just a few games ago.

Instead, he appeared lost out there offensively. As if he were taking his role to hand it off, and retreat to the dunker spot too literally because he didn’t want to get fouled.

It’s entirely possible a fresh start would behoove both parties. But the Sixers would be selling at absolute rock-bottom value and much of that would be their own faults. It didn’t have to be this bad. There were almost infinite ways to win that last series, to do a teeny tiny bit more to get Simmons going with some of the looks he’s always excelled at.

If this indeed begins the end of Simmons’ career in Philly it was a collective failure on the part of the Team President (for never finding the backup center who might have better spaced the floor so that Simmons could play some of that lethal pick-n-pop game he did with Al Horford last season). In his exit presser, Morey claimed such a deal that made sense never materialized. But Morey also could have insisted on less of the Dwight Howard-Ben Simmons pairing this year that clogged the lane for Ben so often and predictably or more of the small-ball that worked last series.

They only tried small ball for four minutes the next series. Very very weird. Daryl might have given Doc an intervention at some point during the series to stop some of the bleeding we saw during all-bench lineups or some of those wicked Howard-centric lineups.

It would be a failure on Coach Rivers’ part, who witnessed Ben carry him to a win with the ball in his hands just 7 games ago against Washington but then ran almost none of the same spread actions in that Hawks series. What other star might visibly struggle so much, play such hard and impactful defense and yet not get even one or two plays designed to get them downhill with a spaced floor when offense was so hard to come by? It would have made more sense if Tobias Harris was hot. But he was ice cold in games 5 and 7 and something else should have been tried. At least a few times.

But it would also ultimately be a failure on Simmons part, for not asserting himself in ways where he could contribute offensively as a scorer and finisher instead of merely a passer and rebounder. No doubt we’ll get more updates about the trade market this off-season. Daryl Morey made some trades on draft day a year ago.