There are few players across the entire NBA who are as controversial as Ben Simmons. The former Sixers star’s unique play style earned him a near cult following during his early time with the team. The excitement of his distinctive style began to decrease throughout his four years in Philadelphia and feelings especially soured during his failure to suit up for the team last season. Simmons joined his former teammate JJ Redick on the Old Man and the Three Podcast where the two reflected on their time in Philadelphia. They discussed a variety of topics and Redick also asked if he had any regrets during his tenure to which Simmons replied that he did not:
Simmons Appears in a Much Better Mental Space
One of the more positive takeaways of the interview was the mental space that Simmons appears to be in. The former number one pick has had some public struggles with mental health in the past and this was attributed to his inability to get on the court last season which was further discussed on the podcast.
While many dismiss the legitimacy of his mental health, it was clear his off-court demons were making an impact on his play. In his final postseason with the Sixers, Simmons shot just 34.2% at the free-throw line. While he was never known for his shooting efficiency, Simmons is still a career 59.7% free-throw shooter and even connected on 70.7% in his first postseason during the 2017-18 season.
The free-throws may be the clearest statistical evidence of mental issues clouding his play, but the regression in his confidence was clear. Getting a fresh start with a new team was necessary for Simmons continued growth and, as he alluded to in the interview, he has been given a clean slate at a location he believes is where he is supposed to be.
Should Simmons Have Regrets?
It is great to see Simmons be in a better mental space, but this does not necessarily mean he handled things in the proper way when exiting Philadelphia. The failure to dunk the ball was pointed out and is certainly one Sixers fans still hold onto, but is far from the only poor decision by the former star.
The regrets should lie deeper than his on-court performance. The disappointing postseason exit in 2020-21 will always sting but cannot be entirely attributed to Simmons in the way some view it. What he was in control of was the handling of his desired exit which he eventually received.
Following the postseason meltdown, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports and Simmons’ long-time agent met with Daryl Morey and the Sixers organization to discuss his future. It was made clear that this was NOT a public trade request but the writing was on the wall for his time in Philly. After his poor playoff performance and the worst statistical regular season of his career, his trade value was also at an all-time low.
As Daryl Morey searched for fair value for the franchise’s biggest trade chip it simply wasn’t there. Simmons made it clear he desired out, but the options to send him simply weren’t appealing and would put the franchise in a difficult spot. Rather than play to increase his value and create an easier exit route, Simmons remained away from the team. It took a disaster to occur in Brooklyn in which James Harden forced himself out for the former Sixers standout to finally get his wish.
Overall it is great for both the Sixers and Ben Simmons to have gone their separate ways. His first step into the public media since the heavy criticism was clearly intended to move on from his past and set the slate clean in Brooklyn. The Simmons era in Philadelphia is over and the Sixers should have no regrets about this either.