What The Hell Is Going To Happen With Ben Simmons?
There are three options forward.
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Training camp is just over a month away, and Ben Simmons is still a Sixer. After months of reporting to suggest that both the Sixers and Simmons are eager for a separation, no trade has materialized, and Simmons is still here.
The only new information coming out nowadays, is essentially no information -- that is to say, that a deal is still nowhere close to being done. Multiple reports continue to suggest that the relationship between Simmons and the Sixers is fractured, but as far as an actual trade goes, there seems to be a complete and total lack of traction.
As much as the Sixers would like you to believe that this is all part of some grand plan to acquire Damian Lillard, that feels more and more like a pipe dream with each passing day that Lillard does not request a trade. Lillard, in all likelihood, wouldn’t wait this long into the offseason if he was going to demand out -- and if he was still in deep contemplation on the matter, there would likely be some reporting to indicate as much.
So, what now? Assuming the Lillard trade request doesn’t happen in the next month, the Sixers have three potential paths, as I see it:
Path #1: Trade Simmons for an underwhelming package of immediate contributors before training camp
Path #2: Trade Simmons for a package of picks/young players in hopes of later re-packaging it for Lillard or someone else
Path #3: Hold Simmons out for the start of the season in hopes that Lillard requests out mid-season
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I would be absolutely shocked if Simmons plays another game in a Sixers uniform. It’s over. The relationship(s) between him and the team/organization are toast. They cannot overcome the level of fracture that has happened, and I would bet heavily on Simmons being held out if he is still on the team come October.
That’s what makes path No. 3 so difficult. Sure, you look like a genius if it works out, but your leverage, insofar as you had any, is completely shot. You cannot hold a player out for an entire year, and other teams will know that the Sixers are desperate to end the saga altogether. As low as his value is now, you cannot convince me that his value would go up while being held out.
The only other paths on the table are not much better. Path No. 2 also runs you into enormous risk -- I’m envisioning it looking something like Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray, and a 2-3 first round picks. Sure, the flexibility that comes with staying young and adding some draft picks is nice, but there is no guarantee that it leads to anything that tangibly increases your championship odds. In general, swinging a massive deal with the explicit purpose of it being a stepping stone for another massive deal is incredibly risky.
Path No. 1 is something like the C.J. McCollum + Robert Covington deal that has been floating around as a hypothetical since the season came to an end. It’s the least satisfying of the bunch, but it puts a definitive end to the entire saga, and allows you to move forward into the season with a concrete vision of who you are.
That said, there is certainly a discussion to be had of what it means for the long term path of the team -- it may put a firm cap on the potential to build a championship team around Joel Embiid. How else are you supposed to put together the assets for a legitimate running mate for Embiid? Perhaps Tyrese Maxey + Matisse Thybulle + all the rest of your assets gets you in the conversation for a star, but not a Damian Lillard/James Harden type. And if you are unable to acquire such a player throughout the rest of Embiid’s prime, can you win a championship?
The point here is that all of these options suck, for one reason or another. Seven months ago it looked like Simmons was going to net James Harden. One month ago we’d hoped that he’d net Damian Lillard. Now, the market looks as barren as can be, and I’m wondering if the Sixers will have to choose between the Spurs and Timberwolves’ respective packages of moderately useful young players plus half decent picks.
I know I’ve been beating this drum a lot lately -- I wrote about my concerns here after the draft -- but needless to say, I do not feel good about the outlook of the Ben Simmons situation. It is crystal clear to anyone who has been following the reporting that he cannot play another game for this team, and it is also clear that the Sixers’ asking price is worlds away from where the market is. The stalemate here has to resolve somehow, and barring a Lillard trade request coming down from the heavens, we may be headed for an ugly ending. We are rapidly descending towards D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley o’clock, and no one should feel remotely good about that.