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Is a Ben Simmons trade inevitable? Maybe ... maybe not

The latest reports don’t give us a ton of clarity on Ben Simmons’ situation.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

It was the summer of the year 2000. The Sixers had just been eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Reggie Miller and the Pacers for the second straight season. Larry Brown and Allen Iverson did not get along.

That’s why Brown and then-GM Billy King worked out a trade with the Pistons which would’ve sent the Answer to Detroit along with Matt Geiger. As we now know, Geiger refused to waive his trade kicker, the deal fell through and the rest is history.

And as we all know, history often repeats itself.

As the trade rumors have quieted and we inch closer to training camp, there appears to be a chance that Ben Simmons will be a Sixer heading into the season — but things can literally change in an instant.

There were a couple (carefully worded) nuggets put out over the past few days.

On Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that executives he’s spoken with believe it’s “when — not if” the Sixers trade Simmons. But he also mentions that the Sixers are telling teams they are comfortable keeping Simmons and that interested teams — like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors — aren’t meeting the Sixers’ demands.

On the Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicated that trade talks for Simmons were not currently active. He also mentioned that Simmons — who some have reported would attempt a hold out — is prepared to begin the season in Philadelphia.

We know Minnesota has been a hot name for Simmons — understandably when you consider what he can add to that roster — but the Timberwolves simply don’t have the assets to make it happen. Daryl Morey obviously loves Patrick Beverley, but not enough to lose value in trading a three-time All-Star. Shams mentioned last week that Minnesota would likely have to get a third team involved.

We haven’t heard much about the other teams reportedly interested in Simmons. Before Monday’s report, it seemed like the Raptors had cooled on the idea of acquiring Simmons. The Golden State Warriors, who emerged early as a potential suitor, were conflicted on Simmons’ fit, per one report. You haven’t heard anything recently about the Kings, who have attractive pieces, but appear unwilling to meet the Sixers’ price. Then there are the Spurs, who are generally tight-lipped, so it’s not a surprise that we haven’t heard anything there.

All along, Morey has reportedly wanted a package centered around an All-Star. Well, that’s tricky when you consider three of the bigger All-Star players in tough situations — Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine — appear to be content. (Shams did add that the Sixers are eyeing Lillard and could decide to wait out his situation in Portland). And teams like Sacramento and Toronto seem content to hang on to their All-Star-caliber players.

The reality is neither side has much leverage.

The Sixers are entertaining offers on a supremely talented but flawed player. Sure, he was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and did an excellent job on Trae Young in the second round, but every team in the league saw him pass up a dunk in Game 7 and disappear late in games. Simmons is a valuable commodity — despite disgruntled fans suggesting the team trade him for a washing machine. Dealing him at his lowest value is not ideal, especially when you’re trying to build a contender for Joel Embiid’s prime.

As for Simmons, he’s under contract for an awful lot of money for four more years. The idea of him sitting out to force a trade never made much sense to me. I get he’s human and was likely not thrilled with a few things that were said and all the reports flying around, but that’s part of the business. The best strategy for Simmons if he truly wants out of Philadelphia is to show up to camp and reestablish his value so that his trade wish can come true.

Ultimately, this could all be a ploy as Morey attempts to jack up the price, knowing the situation is irreparable and he inevitably has to move Simmons before the season begins. Or Morey could be embracing the uncomfortable, knowing full well the awkwardness that could ensue on the court and with the fans. If a trade does happen, the package could reveal how tenuous the relationship between Simmons and the team is/was.

Iverson was going to be a Piston — until he wasn’t. He went on to win an MVP and lead the Sixers to the Finals. That’s not to say Simmons will have a similar fate, but it’s not unprecedented for a team to go into a season with a disgruntled player. Then again, you don’t want it to get to a point where Simmons is yelling at Morey during a scrimmage or chucking basketballs at rookies.

All we can do for now is read the tea leaves — even if they are conflicting.

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