It’s been a rough offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons, whose reputation for being an unreliable scorer with an even more unreliable three-point shot, took an even bigger nosedive during the 2021 playoffs.
The lowlight for Simmons was this play, where he found himself open for a layup or dunk but decided to dish out to fellow Aussie Matisse Thybulle instead.
Things have soured so much that Simmons is refusing to come to training camp, and it looks like he’s going to sit out until he gets traded.
That puts the pressure on Philadelphia, who are keenly aware that Joel Embiid’s only got a certain amount of prime years, while also understanding that having a point guard who is incapable of spacing the floor, plus has a phobia of shooting three-pointers, will not work.
Embiid, even while on a bum knee, played his heart out during this year’s playoffs, with averages of 28.1 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.5 BPG on shooting splits of 54.5/39/83.5. Those numbers mirrored why he was one of the frontrunners for MVP before Nikola Jokic ended up winning the award.
Simmons, who made $30.5 million last season and is due $33 million this season, finished the playoffs with averages of 11.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 8.8 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.8 BPG on splits of 62.8/0/34.2. That’s the lowest point average Simmons has had in the postseason. The 0% percentage on threes is no fluke, either as he’s had the same result in the last three postseasons. Even more concerning is his downslide in free throw percentage, as he’s dropped from 70.7% in the 2019 playoffs to 34.2% this year.
As much as Embiid has tried to diffuse the situation on Twitter, I’m pretty sure he knows that deep down Ben Simmons isn’t the guy that’s going to help him win a title. Simmons made only three fourth-quarter field goals in the series against the Hawks, and that probably won’t change in next year’s playoffs.
So what can Philly do now? The offseason started with them wanting far too much when they had no leverage, and even perennial lottery teams like the Sacramento Kings apparently balked at their demands – and that’s a team that currently has three point guards on the roster and potentially not enough time to play them all.
Daryl Morey’s been able to pull off miracles in the past, and he’s known to be a gambler. However, aiming for a franchise cornerstone like Damian Lillard may be far too much. However, one potential trade could be Lillard’s teammate, CJ McCollum. McCollum is a capable scorer who’s close to a 30 PPG kind of player whenever he gets more touches (as in when Lillard doesn’t play), and he makes almost as much money. The Blazers would also get a tall ball-handler who, despite all of his offensive limitations, is a beast on the other end of the floor who can guard multiple positions. If Simmons won’t take shots then Lillard sure would.
The Simmons saga does threaten to carry on for some time, though, especially since the Australian looks willing to eat fines to force a trade. At this point, there’s no easy solution for the 76ers. They’ve got a player getting paid the max who doesn’t want to suit up, they’ve got a limited time frame on their real superstar’s prime years, and they have absolutely no leverage. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.