The Golden State Warriors could have added a three-time All-Star to their roster on Thursday, July 29. Instead, they walked away from the table.
Golden State is reportedly out on former Rookie of the Year and All-NBA selection Ben Simmons, of the Philadelphia 76ers, according to a report from Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Warriors reject #Sixers’ steep asking price, walk away from Ben Simmons trade centered on Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman and four first-rounders,” Pompey tweeted Thursday morning, just hours before the start of the 2021 NBA draft.
Is Simmons Juice Actually Worth The Squeeze?
As to Simmons’ true value, reasonable NBA fans and analysts may differ.
The Sixers forward has been in the league five seasons, sitting out the entirety of his first year with an injury. During the four years that followed, he has been named Rookie of the Year, selected to three All-Star teams, earned All-NBA Third Team honors in 2020, and is regarded as perhaps the best and/or most versatile defender in the entire league.
However, his presence in Philadelphia has grown unpalatable for the notoriously hard-nosed fans of that franchise, who have derided the young star for his inability to consistently make, or even take, jump shots, namely from behind the 3-point line.
During the team’s 2021 playoff run, which ended in a Game 7 loss to Trae Young and the upstart Atlanta Hawks, Simmons disappeared offensively down the stretch in pivotal fourth quarters. The majority of NBA analysts argued that the forward became unplayable in close games, seemingly afraid to shoot or even be fouled, due to continuing struggles from the free-throw line.
The Sixers entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After they lost in disappointing fashion, neither head coach Doc Rivers or MVP candidate and team leader Joel Embiid came to Simmons’ defense when asked about running the team back as constructed next year, or if Philadelphia could ever win a title with its current roster.
All that rhetoric fed into a public perception of Simmons that is “less than” from a fan perspective, which could have fed into the Warriors decision to walk away from the table, believing that Philadelphia was simply asking too much for a star whose stock is at an all-time low.
Warriors Overvaluing Picks, Undervaluing Desires of Superstar TrioUpon closer examination, however, it doesn’t appear that the Sixers were asking for too much.
Both lottery draft picks from this season were expected to be inclusions in any trade the Warriors might make to land an All-Star caliber player. Lottery picks are nice assets, but the 2021 NBA draft is widely considered to contain four or five top flight prospects, with a significant drop off after that. The conversation around the value of Golden State’s two lottery picks changes substantially if the Warriors held a top-4 selection along with No. 14, rather than No. 7 and No. 14.
Any general manager or president of basketball operations worth his or her salt, which the Sixers’ Daryl Morey most certainly is, will not agree to trade away a superstar caliber player without having a tangible young piece included in the return. Picks are nice, but they exist in the abstract. Philadelphia needed something real, and that something was second-year big man James Wiseman.
Wiseman likely has a bright future, but he underperformed during his rookie season before suffering structural damage to the MCL in his right knee, which sidelined him for the stretch run. He could be great, but he isn’t yet, and won’t likely realize whatever potential greatness is within him early enough for it to matter to a “win-now” Warriors team, like the one Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson have expressly told management they want to pursue.
Wiggins would be included in the deal solely to make the money work, as he is due more than $30 million per season in each of the next two years and salaries need to line up for trades of this nature to meet NBA standards.
Finally, two future first-round selections, the last element of the deal proposed by Morey, aren’t projecting to be highly valuable assets to the Warriors if they intend to go all-in on the next few years. The return of Thompson all but guarantees Golden State is out of the lottery and in contention the next several seasons. The addition of a player like Simmons to the roster the Warriors already have solidifies title contention for multiple years.
Late first-round picks, which are what Golden State is likely to garner over the next 3-5 years, are not worth haggling over, especially as part of a legitimate attempt to return to the kind of greatness that saw the Warriors land in the NBA Finals five straight years, winning three championships.
Golden State President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers may just be playing hardball, believing he can drive down Simmons’ price. If that is the case, he’s playing a dangerous game. Anyone with any league experience will tell you, NBA All-Stars in their early 20s don’t exactly grow on trees.