Whether it’s Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum or somebody else, Philadelphia 76ers fans who are ready to move on from Ben Simmons are salivating over his potential replacements in droves. However, it’s entirely possible that Simmons will be back again next season, his playoff struggles notwithstanding.
And, really, Simmons’ detractors would do well to remember that he was the driving force for Philly’s second-ranked defense and one of the Association’s elite distributors in 2020-21.
Love him or hate him, the Sixers wouldn’t have entered postseason play as a No. 1 seed or had realistic title hopes without him.
Nevertheless, the former No. 1 overall pick has become a scapegoat of epic proportions.
So much so, in fact, that a major sports outlet just put out a feature calling his very presence on the Sixers’ roster throughout the season the team’s biggest misstep during the campaign.
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B/R: Not Trading Simmons Is Philly’s “Biggest Regret”
On Tuesday, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz attempted to identify the biggest regret from the ’20-21 campaign for every team in the NBA. Some of his picks were no-brainers, i.e. the Detroit Pistons pricing themselves out of keeping Christian Wood and the L.A. Lakers leaving themselves with a dearth of outside shooters.
However, his Sixers regret — not trading Simmons “months ago” — is definitely a matter of debate.
“Simmons has taken a similar path as NBA Top Shot,” Swartz opined. “If you were involved with either, it would have been best to cash out months ago while the value was at its highest.”
Of course, there was no way of knowing that Simmons’ shooting struggles would hit their apex during these playoffs. And even during a postseason run in which he shot 34.2% from the line and looked timid offensively, Simmons still boasted a top-notch net rating of 12.9.
Moreover, Danny Green — the team’s net-rating leader at 18.9 and a key cog on both sides of the ball — missed Philly’s last four playoff games. Had Green not gone down, the Sixers could still be playing now.
Swartz isn’t wrong, though, when he writes, “Trading [Simmons] now means taking a major hit on anything Philly could have gotten last offseason when his stock was still extremely high.”
Still, that’s not to say that his value is low, or that it can’t recover. Big names are being bandied about as trade compensation and that will continue to be the case going forward.
Also: trading franchise players in their early 20s who are locked into long-term deals is usually bad for business. Unless you have a very good reason to do so. Speaking of…
The Sixers Tried to Swap Simmons for James Harden
As noted by Swartz himself, Sixers president Daryl Morey actually did have that very good reason. Namely, a potential reunion with former NBA MVP James Harden, his Houston Rockets cornerstone. And he seemingly did his best to make a Simmons for Harden swap work.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey even reported that Simmons and Matisse Thybulle had been informed by their agents that they were likely Texas-bound. In the end, though, no trade came to fruition. The Morey factor was reportedly too much for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta to handle.
Given the fact that the Sixers actually dangled Simmons in their pursuit of a top 10 player — and may have tendered an offer better than what the Rockets actually got for Harden — calling the non-trade a “regret” may be something of a reach.
On the other hand, if there had been some other big-time scorer on Philly’s roster instead of Simmons during the playoffs, things may have played out differently for the team.
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