Has Philadelphia 76ers point forward Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, played his last game as a member of that franchise? That seems to be the consensus around the league after Simmons' embarrassing performance in the Sixers' shocking Eastern Conference semifinal series loss to the Atlanta Hawks. SportsLine NBA oddsmakers favor Simmons playing elsewhere to open the 2021-22 season with the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Spurs, Bulls and Warriors as early leaders to acquire him.
There's no doubting Simmons' talent. He's a deft passer and rebounder and a terror in the open court. The Aussie is still only 24 (25 in July 20), is a three-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-Defensive First Team (runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year this season). However, the modern-day NBA is all about shooting, and Simmons either won't or can't shoot jumpers.
In that seven-game loss to the Hawks, Simmons attempted just three combined fourth-quarter field goals. Three! None in Game 2 or Games 4-7. Late in Sunday's Game 7, Simmons appeared to have an open lane to a dunk to tie the game at 88, only to pass the ball at the last second to rookie Matisse Thybulle. He was fouled and made one of two free throws – Philly was never able to tie the game after that as the Hawks then ran off a 5-0 spurt to lead 93-87 with 2:31 left and never looked back.
"Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don't know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored," Sixers superstar Joel Embiid said.
That doesn't exactly sound like an endorsement of keeping Simmons. In the series, he averaged just 9.8 points per game and was 15-for-45 from the free-throw line. He shot 34.2 percent overall from the charity stripe in these playoffs, the worst free throw percentage in NBA playoff history for a player with at least 70 attempts. Oh, and Simmons attempted one three-pointer all postseason. He missed.
"Offensively, I wasn't there. I didn't do enough for my teammates. ... There's a lot of things that I need to work on," Simmons said.
Coach Doc Rivers had to pull Simmons in clutch time throughout the series because of concerns the Hawks would purposefully foul him and due to the fact they weren't even bothering to cover Simmons on the perimeter. Simmons wasn't on the court for the final 54 seconds Sunday with the 76ers down by four points due to his three-point and foul shooting issues.
Rivers was asked after the loss if he believes Simmons is a championship-level point guard: "I don't know the answer to that."
Remember, new GM Daryl Morey offered Simmons to the Houston Rockets this past winter for James Harden, but the Rockets liked the Nets' package better. The one issue with trading Simmons now is that his value has never been lower. He also has four years left on a contract worth $147 million. NBA trades have to nearly match salaries.
There's NO question the Sixers need more shooting around Embiid. Sixers fans are dreaming of Simmons for Washington's Bradley Beal or Portland's Damian Lillard. The latter is a pipe dream, but CJ McCollum certainly could be had from Portland. That trade straight up works salary wise. So would Simmons for Beal, but the Wizards probably wouldn't do that unless Beal told them he wanted out/wouldn't sign an extension.
Simmons for Chicago's Zach LaVine is very interesting as LaVine is entering the final season of his contract in 2021-22. The Bulls may not want to give him the max and Simmons is about 18 months younger. Simmons for LaVine and throw-in Al-Farouq Aminu works salary wise.
Another rumor out there is Simmons to San Antonio for a package built around young guard Dejounte Murray. Or perhaps to Golden State, which reportedly offered a trade built around the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft (which became James Wiseman) for Simmons. Philly said no. Perhaps the Dubs could offer Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves' 2021 first-round pick? Golden State gets that as long as it's not in the Top 3. Can you imagine Simmons, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and a healthy Klay Thompson on the same team next year?
Utah may have hit its ceiling with the current group and perhaps can dangle Mike Conley and others for Simmons. The Jazz badly need defensive help after getting torched by the Clippers in the West semifinals. A Simmons/Rudy Gobert duo – Gobert won his third Defensive Player of the Year Award this season – would be a terror defensively.
Rebuilding teams like Houston, Oklahoma City and Cleveland all have potentially interesting assets in terms of draft picks, veterans (Kevin Love, for example) if they believe Simmons can be salvaged.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will Ben Simmons be with the 76ers to open next season?
- No -250
- Yes +180
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Favorites as Ben Simmons' next team if traded
- Trail Blazers +250
- Spurs +300
- Wizards +400
- Bulls +400
- Warriors +500
- Thunder +600
- Cavaliers +700
- Jazz +800
- Rockets +1000
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