Dear Philadelphia 76ers fans, the team is not going to fire Coach Doc Rivers if the Sixers are upset again Friday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Atlanta to see their season end. However, something big likely would happen in the wake of such a massive disappointment, and it could well be a trade of All-Star Ben Simmons this offseason. Philly is a 3-point favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds and is listing superstar Joel Embiid as questionable, but he'll obviously play.
Simmons is a singular talent in the NBA with his combination of size, passing ability, rebounding and defense – he was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year – but he's flat-out an offensive liability at this point for his inability to make shots (he won't even try three-pointers) that aren't at the rim. Simmons had just eight points in Philly's shocking Game 5 loss, and Rivers had to take him off the floor at key times in the fourth quarter because he knew the Hawks would purposefully foul the No. 1 overall pick to make him shoot free throws.
In the regular season, Simmons averaged 14.3 points and shot 61.3 percent from the free-throw line. In this series, those numbers are 11.6 percent and 25.7 percent from the line. Yes, 25.7 percent. "Definitely, I think mental," said Simmons after going 4-for-14 from the charity stripe in Game 5. Overall, Simmons is hitting 32.8 percent from the free-throw line in these playoffs. That's second-worst all-time by a player with a minimum of 50 attempts in a single postseason. Simmons has not attempted a field goal in the fourth quarter of the past two games.
The Sixers were ready to trade Simmons this past winter for James Harden, but the Rockets preferred Brooklyn's offer. GM Daryl Morey is going to do something drastic if Philly flames out Friday and Embiid isn't going anywhere. Neither is Rivers, who is only one season into a reported $40 million deal. That means Simmons, who is scheduled to make around $33 million next season and is locked into a five-year, $177 million deal through 2024-25. That looked team-friendly for a while. It doesn't any longer.
Simmons previously has been linked to the Trail Blazers (CJ McCollum) and Bulls (Zach LaVine) to name two. The Mavericks would love to add him next to Luka Doncic. Philly absolutely needs more shooting. SportsLine will put out Simmons trade odds early next week if the Sixers are eliminated in this series.
As for Embiid, he'll probably be listed as questionable for the rest of the playoffs (if Philly continues) with his knee injury. He faded horribly in the second half of Game 4 in Atlanta, going 0-for-12 from the field, and did again in Game 5, going 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter and missing two late free throws – Embiid had made 20 straight from the line – that all but clinched Atlanta's victory. The 76ers made just 23 of 38 foul shots Wednesday, which is 60.5 percent. That was their worst foul shooting performance in a playoff game in 12 years.
Sadly, William Hill doesn't offer free throw props on Simmons (or any player). He is given an Over/Under of 13.5 points. Embiid is set at O/U 33.5 points, a number he has topped three times in this series – Philly is 1-2 in those games.
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