The Philadelphia 76ers trade old / sad Ben Simmons.
The Philadelphia 76ers acquire new / happy Ben Simmons.
Let’s take a look at the contract numbers.
What do you know? It’s a perfect match. Trade approved!
And now, the breakdown.
It all came to me as I had the pleasure of taking in a home game versus the Spurs this weekend as a birthday present. My wife and I were sitting there in these wonderful seats watching 7 foot Joel Embiid push the ball full court, multiple times, surprisingly with a good amount of success. He got to the bucket, drew fouls, and/or made a smart pass. That’s when it hit me. Didn’t we have a guy who could do this, but with even more downhill speed and a better knack for hitting an open man for a dunk or a three (not to mention, a smoother Euro step to create his own shot)?
My attention later shifted to Danny Green. I like Danny Green (definitely more than the two guys sitting behind us. They had a lot to say about Danny Green). But I like Ben Simmons better. Because, at this point, Danny Green shoots a few threes and occasionally breaks up a pass in 20 minutes per game. Ben Simmons does more, and we need more.
Ben Simmons can guard KD. And Giannis. And DeMar DeRozan. And Trae Young. And Jayson Tatum. We need that, and the rebounds that come with it, plus those slick assists off the break.
What are the downsides? There are three. We already know what they are, but let’s get into it anyway since we’re here.
1. Shooting. Pretty important, for sure. But to be honest, not everybody needs to shoot from everywhere on the court all the time. Giannis is nine years in and his best shot is, and always will be, driving to the hoop and throwing it down with two. Highly accurate and effective. Ben can do that six to eight times a game. At will. I’m good with that. If he wants to drop 3s, mid-ranges, and hook shots next year, that’s a plus. He needs to be a threat, definitely. And that threat will buy Embiid more rest, which is key to a deep playoff run. But with the collective firepower on the team, if Ben does what he does on both ends only a tad better than he did last year, the Sixers — at 22–16 today, with pretty much everyone missing time due to COVID and injuries — are a vastly better team, and dare I say, a championship contender. (Remember who won the East regular season last year, and who was 8–2 this year before Embiid got COVID? Exactly).
2. Free throws. New Ben Simmons needs to be a 75% free throw shooter, minimum. I’m not sure what he’s been doing the past few months. Hopefully working with somebody on free throw mechanics and focus, shooting 500+ a day, and hitting more than 75%.
3. Fit / Mindset. This is the big one, but let me ask this question. Let’s say you somehow move Ben Simmons for Brandon Ingram, maybe in a three-team deal. Does Ben Simmons play for his new team or does he continue sitting? The answer here is key, because if he plays, that means the idea of suiting up for the Sixers is the sole issue. If he sits, then it’s something else. My money says he plays, because who is trading for somebody to sit? So this is a fresh start thing (which we all knew since last spring). But guess what. You’ve missed half the season. So if you spin this right, there’s a whole fresh start right here waiting to happen. (Ask Kyrie about it. Seems doable).
Philly is a tough, special place, no doubt. Showing back up is going to be one of the hardest things he will ever have to do. Other than coming out of the visitor’s locker room, especially if it were to ever happen during a playoff series.
I can’t begin to put myself in the middle of the Sixers organization to analyze all of the dynamics at play, nor in Ben Simmons’ head to understand how he is feeling. We all heard what Embiid and Doc said after the ATL playoff loss. We saw the adjustments that were made to keep him off the foul line late in games in that series. His overall numbers dwindled, and his FT percentage was catastrophic. But at the end of the day, Doc said let’s get back to it and work it out. Ben said nah, I’m good on that. And I guess he thought it would be a simple break-up. Maybe it should have been. But most things never are; life’s weird that way. Which takes me right back to where I started this piece. How many 6’11” guys have handles, vision, speed, and court sense to do what he does? How many were defensive player of the year runner-up? Who are you trading Giannis for? No, Ben is not Giannis. But who are you trading Giannis for? You’re not. Because you need Giannis to do what he does. Same as the Sixers need to benefit from the things that old Ben did and get the value add of new Ben.
Final word, the hole’s been dug. Clearly. Each day it just gets a little deeper, whether we talk about it or not (and, I commend the Sixers for not talking about it and putting their focus on the court). Winning has a way of working these things out. And therapy. I, for one, would love to trust in the healing process and witness the magic that can happen on and off the basketball court. Philly, I think we can get over ourselves. Can you, Ben? Let’s make the trade.
Brian Peterson is not a sportswriter. He’s supposed to be promoting the relaunch of his book Higher Learning: Maximizing Your College Experience (check the new website!), but he went to a Sixers game on Friday and found himself here on Medium because he’s tired of reading about other Ben Simmons trades that make no sense.