At this point every member of the basketball community seems to know that the Chicago Bulls need a point guard.
Just about every realistic and unrealistic option has been connected to the Bulls’ impending offseason search over the past couple of months. The Philadelphia 76ers’ polarizing Ben Simmons is one of the more high-profile options mentioned.
Adding a third All-Star to the Bulls roster to play with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, even if it meant parting ways with Patrick Williams, Coby White, Thaddeus Young, and Tomas Satoransky, would be worth it.
Not everyone shares that opinion. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley answered a fan’s question on Twitter this week concerning a potential trade that would land Simmons in Chicago.
As usual, Cowley didn’t hold back.
Simmons Called ‘Mentally Beaten Down’
Cowley was asked if he would trade for Simmons, and his response was “not for this mentally beaten down version.”
That’s a tough take, but there is some validity to it considering the way Simmons’ and the 76ers’ season ended. Simmons’ unwillingness and/or inability to take and make perimeter shots cost the 76ers in a major way in their loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Simmons’ poor free-throw shooting was arguably an even bigger issue. He took a beating from fans and members of the media for his shortcomings on the NBA’s biggest stage, and his teammate Joel Embiid and head coach Doc Rivers threw him under the proverbial bus after the loss.
For statistical reference, Simmons shoots just under 15% from 3-point range in his career, and he’s only attempted 34 of them in four seasons in the league. He’s made five of those attempts. Simmons has converted on just under 60% of his free throws as well.
He was even worse in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Simmons made just 33% of his foul shots, and he did not attempt a 3.
Simmons accepted the blame for the 76ers’ loss, and he vowed to work on his game during the offseason. He even turned down an opportunity to represent his native Australia in the Tokyo Olympics so that he can focus on his craft.
It all sounds like an admirable approach and signs that a young player like Simmons is taking the right steps to improve. Apparently, it is not enough for Simmons to escape Cowley’s dreaded labeling.
The 76ers May Well Hold Onto Simmons
All the trade speculation may wind up a moot point.
The 76ers general manager Darryl Morey has remained committed to Simmons, despite the instant trade speculation that arose following the postseason failure. Even Rivers backtracked on his comments by saying, “I want him back.“
Let’s not forget, Simmons is still a 6-foot-11-inch, athletic player capable of playing four — or perhaps all five — positions. He is an excellent passer and finisher, and one of the league’s premier defenders.
Simmons owns career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. In the 2019-20 season, he had the most steals per game of any player in the league, and he had the second-highest overall number of steals (119), trailing behind only James Harden (125).
He’s also turning just 25 years old on July 20.
Translation: There is a lot to like about Simmons and reason for the 76ers to hold onto him, at least through the offseason and closer to the 2021-22 NBA trade deadline.
This approach would give the 76ers an opportunity to see how much Simmons has developed over the summer. If he can show even a little improvement in his ability to take and make perimeter shots and free throws, he becomes an infinitely better player.
That would make Simmons the kind of guy Philly probably isn’t in a hurry to dump. If that comes to fruition, he could go from “mentally beaten down” to a candidate for NBA’s Most Improved Player.
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