The Philadelphia 76ers are stuck in the middle of their own
drama, and it could continue into the 2021-22 regular season.
Philadelphia is fed up with 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons’
lack of development as a scorer. When Simmons passed up a wide-open
dunk under the basket against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern
Conference Semifinals, Joel Embiid and head coach Doc Rivers
threw him under the bus for his
timidity in game-changing situations. Simmons and the Sixers
certainly seem destined for an eventual breakup, which would
probably be best for both sides. (UPDATE: Simmons'
reportedly informed the Sixers that he wants out and that he intends to
skip training camp while he waits for a trade).
Philadelphia needs to further allocate resources to help Embiid
become even more of a two-way monster. Simmons should hope to land
in a situation where he’s valued as the face of the franchise and
where he can be properly utilized within a system. If Simmons were
to land in a place where he can play a similar role to Giannis
Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, maybe he could eventually reach the
ceiling many expected coming out of LSU.
Whether Simmons sticks around in Philadelphia or is traded
elsewhere, the 76ers are poised to be among the elite teams in the
Eastern Conference thanks to Embiid’s emergence as one of the best
centers in the NBA. Last season, Embiid averaged 28.5 points, 10.6
rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks per game with an outstanding
63.6% True Shooting percentage. Ranking No. 4 in my 2021 NBA unicorn rankings,
Embiid’s unique two-way takeover ability makes him special.
The window is still wide open for the Sixers to figure out how
to take the leap from consistent playoff team to NBA Finals
contender. Embiid recently signed a four-year max extension with
Philadelphia, and Sixers GM Daryl Morey will need to construct the
perfect roster around the dominant center during that time.
Before Morey took over last offseason, former Sixers GM Elton
Brand signed Simmons to a rookie-scale max extension and Tobias
Harris to a five-year max extension. Coughing up that much money to
that duo and locking them in as Embiid’s sidekicks was a huge
gamble. Before arriving in Philadelphia, Harris had been shipped
around in multiple trades, playing for five teams in eight seasons.
While he's a solid scorer and an average defender, he has yet to
make an All-Star appearance.
Back to Simmons, his seeming reluctance to expand his shooting
profile has put the Sixers in this tough position. Philadelphia is
being stingy in trade negotiations involving Simmons because they
know he's the key to reeling in a true 1B to Embiid’s 1A (and they
understandably want to get as much back as possible for the
Defensive Player of the Year runner-up).
The Sixers' front office will be paying close attention to the
Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards. Will Damian Lillard
and Bradley Beal end up staying put past the 2021-22 season? Right
now, it’s anyone's guess. Holding onto Simmons for a few more
months is worth it if Morey has a shot at landing Lillard or Beal,
even if training camp will be awkward. Depending on what
happens moving forward, perhaps the Blazers or Wizards would be
interested in a package consisting of Simmons and some young
prospects (like Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle).
Even if Simmons is eventually traded for picks and prospects,
the Sixers can still make a championship push with Embiid, Harris
and a plethora of floor-spacing shooters surrounding them.
Currently, here’s how the Sixers’ rotation looks entering the
Starters: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias
Harris, Joel Embiid
Bench: Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse
Thybulle, Georges Niang, Andre Drummond
With a loaded rotation, Philadelphia should still slot in as a
top-four seed in the Eastern Conference standings. However, teams
like the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Chicago
Bulls are right on their heels. Sleeping on the Sixers is a
dangerous game to play, though. There's a reason they finished as
the No. 1 seed last season. With Embiid showing no signs of slowing
down, the Sixers will continue to be a perennial powerhouse who
always have a shot to make a deep playoff run.
However, the cloud that is the Simmons situation will continue
to hang over this organization until a resolution is reached.
Regardless of what happens with Simmons, Philadelphia should
still hover around the 50-win mark. But at some point, it's
possible that this situation could shift from awkward to toxic.
That's certainly a risk that Morey and his staff must consider as
they weigh their options.
If there's no movement on the Lillard or Beal front, Philly's
best bet may be lowering their outrageous asking price for Simmons
(reportedly four future first-round picks and an All-Star player)
and finding an immediate resolution. Imagine how good the Sixers
could be if they dealt Simmons to Sacramento (for Buddy Hield) or
San Antonio (for Dejounte Murray) or Minnesota (for D’Angelo
Russell)? There’s some package out there that would create a
win-win for both parties, potentially making Embiid’s life easier
around the basket by adding a score-first floor-spacer and giving
Simmons a fresh start.
It was a rather quiet offseason in the City of Brotherly Love
outside of this ongoing Simmons drama. Bringing Drummond and Niang
aboard helps fortify the frontcourt depth behind Embiid. Re-signing
Green and Korkmaz to multi-year deals provides much-needed
three-point shooting. Maxey (who looked terrific in Summer League
action) and Thybulle should take big steps forward in their
Everyone will be watching to see what unfolds in Philly. Until a
resolution is reached between the Sixers’ front office and Simmons,
this roster's floor and ceiling remain murky.