It’s not that the Clippers should be falling all over themselves to bring in a guy like disgruntled Sixers star Ben Simmons, not with his well-documented offensive woes, enormous remaining NBA contract and apparently over-sensitive nature. Indeed, the list of persistent suitors for Simmons, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey, does not include L.A.
It is odd that the Clippers have not, at any time during the Simmons saga, inserted themselves with an offer, despite the fact that Simmons has, according to an earlier report from Pompey, listed the Clippers as one of his desired destinations. The situation has gotten dire for both sides, with Simmons sitting out of training camp and the Sixers declining to give Simmons the first payment, of $8.25 million, on this year’s contract.
The Clippers have the assets to put forth a reasonable offer but, according to one league source, “The Sixers are not looking for reasonable offers in all of this. They want a star in return. The only way the Clippers could get involved is if they give up Paul George.”
That is not happening. So the Clippers remain on the sideline—unless they can play a trump card that might appeal to Sixers coach Doc Rivers, the former Clippers head man.
Can the Clippers Wait on a Price Drop?
Still, given the corner into which the Sixers are backed in this situation, it is possible that the asking price on Simmons comes down eventually. They simply can’t play out the entire 2021-22 season with Simmons holding out—that is nearly unprecedented in the NBA.
A price drop on Simmons would be the case in most similar scenarios, though this one could be different, for two reasons: First, because Sixers GM Daryl Morey is in his second season with the Sixers, has public backing, and can afford to be stubborn; and second, because Simmons has five years on his contract and has very little leverage on hand.
Thus, the Sixers are holding out for stars, with Damian Lillard being the dream target for Morey and Philly. The Blazers have given no indication of moving Lillard, though, but that shows where the bar is for the Clippers—the equivalent of Lillard in L.A., with Kawhi Leonard hurt, is George.
“Everybody is looking at that situation and no one wants to go in and help the Sixers by making a good offer, not when you still think you can lowball them because of all the baggage Simmons has now,” the league executive said. “But if you start to undercut the price, then the Clippers have something reasonable to offer, in the ballpark of other teams.”
How Bad Does Doc Rivers Want Terance Mann?
What would that look like? That goes back to Doc Rivers, who, during his final season with L.A., tried to make current Clippers wing Terance Mann into a point guard. Mann was a rookie, did not get much playing time and the experiment did not go all that well. Since then, Mann has thrived in a more off-the-ball position, but there is no doubt that Rivers took a liking to Mann during their one season together.
And if there was a moment when Simmons, perhaps, first became disillusioned with the Sixers and Rivers, it might have been on March 27, when Rivers and the Sixers played at the Clippers, his return to L.A. Mann went 10-for-12 from the field and scored 23 points, while Simmons scored 15 points but also had six turnovers and was DQ’d with six fouls.
After the game, Rivers mentioned that Mann went into the Philly locker room before the game and told Simmons he better be ready because, “It is going to be a long f***ing game.” He was right, but Simmons could not have been pleased with Rivers for sharing that story.
That begs the question: Would a package built around bringing Mann to Philadelphia be enough to make the Clippers part with Simmons? Could Rivers’ appreciation of Mann’s game persuade Morey into thinking L.A. has the assets to make the Sixers a contender?
If Mann is an acceptable centerpiece, then the Clippers could credibly add players like Luke Kennard (Joel Embiid needs shooters) and/ or Reggie Jackson (without Simmons, the Sixers would need point guard help). Add power forward Marcus Morris—a stretch-4 with the kind of toughness that Embiid and all of Philly would embrace—and you’ve got an impressive package going to the Sixers for Simmons.
It does not have the star return that Morey is looking for, unless you consider Mann a potential star. He won’t ever be on Simmons’ level of course, but packaged with, say, Morris and Kennard, the Sixers would have a rotation that would be well suited to emphasize Embiid’s strengths and contend in the East.