the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Sam Bradley '23
Towards the end of the last season and through this offseason, Ben Simmons did everything in his power to alienate the 76ers organization. This conflict originated from his involvement in trade talks back in January and the Sixers’ first-round exit from the playoffs, despite being the #1 seed and being hyped up as playoff favorites in the East. This led to him formally requesting a trade from the 76ers organization and burning all bridges with the team. Yet, no trade has occurred. Over the past few months, it has become increasingly evident that the NBA, the 76ers, and Ben Simmons himself all have a very different perception of Simmons as a player.
From Simmons’ perspective, he is a former #1 overall pick getting paid $34 million a year, whose lack of playoff success is directly attributable to the Sixers’ inability to construct a roster worthy of playoff contention. He’s a phenomenal athlete, a lockdown defender, and an above-average playmaker. He believes he has enough sway in the NBA to request exactly where he would like to end up via trade, as only top players do. On the other end of the spectrum, the NBA sees Simmons as a guard who is neither aggressive enough to be a paint scorer nor possesses an outstanding mid-range or 3-point shot.
Additionally, Simmons is known to get into his own head after a poor sequence of plays, only compounding his trouble on the court. This effect seems to be weighing on him not just from play to play but also from game to game. Each year since his rookie season, he has taken fewer and fewer shots, likely because it is simply not beneficial for him to be the one taking the shots. He is known to be a good passer, but this alone is not enough to justify his potential cap hit or the resources necessary to acquire him. Likewise, he is a great defender, but primarily on the perimeter. And elite defense isn’t the sought-after skill it once was. In a league where the average points scored per game has steadily increased every year over the past decade and is now nearly 20 points higher than it was in 2010, scoring takes priority over all else. To keep up with high-powered teams that have three #1 options like the Brooklyn Nets, you need to be a dominant scorer in one way or another. Simmons is not.
Somewhere in between is the 76ers view of Simmons. They were the ones that spent the prestigious first-overall pick on him after all, and he has been a net positive for their franchise over the past four years. But he has been a limiting factor in their playoff chances and his inability to be the second option to Joel Embiid has left the offense largely on Embiid’s shoulders. Late last season, there were instances where Simmons was even a liability in crucial offensive situations to the point where he was benched if they needed to recover from a deficit. For your second-highest-paid player to not be considered top five in scoring capability by his own organization is an unbelievably bad problem. If they are allowed to replace him with a legitimate second option, they should jump on it. But coming off the worst year of his professional career, it doesn’t seem like Simmons will command that kind of value on the market.
The result of this is a stalemate of sorts, where the 76ers aren’t able to receive what they feel is a fair asking price, and the rest of the NBA is unwilling to overpay for a player who has only shown regression since his rookie season. In an era of the NBA where you can seemingly dish out contracts worth eight figures annually to average players, Ben Simmons’ deal isn’t as impressive as it seemed upon signing. But $34 million for a player who isn’t either a knockdown shooter or an elite interior presence is still not justifiable in the eyes of statistically-inclined GMs. Additionally, his recent behavior of holding out, missing practices, and being fined for ‘detrimental conduct’ in Philadelphia will likely become a massive red flag to prospective teams looking to make a deal.
So what’s next for Simmons? It seems like he will either begrudgingly play out the rest of the season, or a desperate small market team will overpay the 76ers for the former ‘Rookie of the Year’. But until then, Ben Simmons is back to being an expensive, timid guard with below-average shooting, whose greatest asset is becoming less and less valuable in today’s NBA.