Wrapping up a series where we profiled every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 28. We admit this next one is a bit of a curveball.
Contract status: four-year max, $140,400,000 guaranteed beginning at $31,590,000 for 2021-2022
This player profile is very much like the rest where we simply describe a player, name his strengths and weaknesses, and discuss his salary and potential impact. There isn’t anything unusual about this particular player. There is not much to discuss regarding Ben Simmons’ position. Everyone agrees on whether he’s a point guard or power forward or small-ball five. Everyone pretty much agrees about his relative value as a player. If his trainer posts something on Instagram nobody really cares. This player is surely going to be a Sixer this year since he’s inked through 2025. Yep, this is just the next generic player profile up. (Insert mind-blown emoji).
Yeah, so.... I’m not even sure where to begin. Let me start by checking in on where we stand. Here is what Kyle Neubeck of The PhillyVoice reported earlier this week:
“But looking at all the options on the table, the Sixers prefer Simmons being on the floor and playing for them compared to dealing him for offers that cut into their title odds, sources say. The premise of dealing Simmons for assets and developing talent rests on making another more important move down the road, which people with the team have scoffed at recently.
“There are a few deals you could say, we do this, and we’ll gamble that sometime later, we’ll take draft picks and turn it back into having [a title] chance,” a team source told PhillyVoice. “But why do that?...there’s no reason to go get draft picks right now because you could just do it all at once. Why take the risk that you do that and you can’t flip back out of it? It makes no sense with Joel in his prime.”
That seems like a pretty credible peek into the Sixers’ thinking here. That article posted just before this from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
ESPN Sources: Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons will not report for opening of training camp next week and intends to never play another game for the franchise. Simmons hasn’t spoken to team since a late August meeting when he communicated this message to Sixers officials.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 21, 2021
That seems fairly credible as well. Woj is on another level-reporting wise and not someone who would put something like this out there if it was definitely just a threat. I think Woj would be discerning enough to ask his source “do you really really mean it, because I don’t want to run with it under my own name if it’s just a threat, you can use some small-time reporter for that leverage game.”
On a recent episode of “The Gastroenteritis Blues,” The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski shared how league insiders see Sixers President Daryl Morey as the most likely of any GM to embrace the uncomfortable. If both sides were to dig in and this holdout dragged on through the end of the calendar year or beyond, then the big losers here become the fans; they would have to watch a would-be title contender with an MVP talent, begin the season without one of their two All-Stars, and perhaps the best perimeter defender in the entire league.
Personally, I’d much rather see them find a way to convince Simmons to rejoin the team and help them win (and explore trades from a position of relative strength later) than take back some crummy trade package that nearly obliterates their title hopes.
The Sixers (and perhaps the NBA for that matter) do not want the optics of being bullied by a player who wants to take their money and run. If Klutch were to attempt a power play like that and the Sixers said “not in this town,” it could get ugly fast and set weird precedence. Can any player sign a max deal and then simply demand to be traded? Why wouldn’t more players not take a five-year max offer and accompanying raises then insist on being shipped to a team with a warm beach? While dudes like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden all recently embraced widespread criticism for insisting upon trades, I doubt a single one of them regrets it. And they’ve all wound up enjoying the spoils of subsequent labors in other cities.
But could this go the other way for Simmons where he winds up regretting that he played hardball? Or might he too just wind up playing for a max in a city he prefers? It’s a high-stakes game that brings up player empowerment themes.
How can you do a season outlook here? Simmons would be an amazing fit alongside Dame Lillard if Neil Olshey somehow gutted one of the best GMs in Morey and got to swap Simmons for CJ McCollum like some Sixers fans (and even more Blazers fans) would love. If Simmons were ultimately paired with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota it would be a terrific pairing as well.
Simmons is always at his best when paired with a big man who likes to spot up outside of the paint. This is a simple truth Brett Brown knew but didn’t always have the personnel to execute. Doc Rivers’ rotations indicated he simply did not learn this in time.
In many ways this feels like the most unnecessary disaster imaginable. There were almost infinite ways we could have potentially avoided things getting quite this bad. If Simmons shot 50 percent from the line in Game 5. If coach Rivers didn’t feel obligated to play Dwight Howard no matter how bad the matchup became for him. If Morey ponied up for a serviceable stretch big or forced Rivers away from all-bench lineups. If Joel Embiid went 1-12 instead of 0-12 in the second half of game four. If Danny Green never strains a calf. If Tobias Harris showed up for Game 5 or could hit a couple of open layups in Game 7. If Trae Young stepped on an official’s foot in the second round instead of the Conference Finals. Any one of those things probably lands the Sixers in the final four and helps them dodge (or delay) all of the public blame-game stuff that played a part in all of this...even with Simmons playing far far below his own standard.
The season outlook isn’t pretty. But I do hope the team doesn’t get bullied here. Maybe Adam Silver can rectify his Sam Hinkie transgressions and talk to Rich Paul and Ben Simmons and convince them to play hoops...at least until Morey finds a deal he loves.