The Time To Trade Ben Simmons Has Truly Arrived
The rubber has finally met the road. It’s time to trade Ben Simmons.
Joel Embiid is playing like a bonafide MVP. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been big game hunting. And Ben Simmons is stagnating.
The Sixers have been stubborn about breaking up their star duo. Even amid rumblings that the team would ship Simmons to Houston during the James Harden sweepstakes, head coach Doc Rivers was steady in his resolve and trust in his Aussie All-Star.
Philly nearly pulled the trigger - Simmons was reportedly told to expect a trade. Perhaps player and team can bury this hatchet, but the tiger might be out of the cage here.
Right now the 76ers are at the top of the East. But that’s in large part thanks to how spectacular Joel Embiid has been playing, and frankly despite how poorly Simmons has been playing.
The pairing of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in Philadelphia has always been a tricky one. For reasons we’ll discuss, these two elite talents simply don’t compliment each other particularly well. It’s time.
Embiid The Great
The most pertinent reason for Philly to make a move has less to do with Simmons and more to do with Embiid. JoJo is playing the best basketball of his career, and, for once, looks to be in-shape and focused.
He’s putting up monster numbers so far during the 2020-21 campaign. His shooting stats - 54.5 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from three, 83.9 percent from the stripe - represent a massive leap in efficiency for Embiid. At the same time, he’s playing some seriously good defense.
Here’s Embiid’s shot chart. It’s important for two reasons:
First, it makes it clear just how dominant Embiid has been on offense. He’s getting it done down low and away from the basket. This makes knowing how or where to guard JoJo more difficult than ever.
More importantly, though, Embiid’s shot chart is worth referencing because as we’ll see, Ben Simmons, more than ever, is a hindrance to JoJo’s ceiling.
Embiid will turn 27 this march. He’s entering his prime, which, with his size and injury history, isn’t guaranteed to be as long as perhaps other star players. The Process finally is here, and the Sixers need to do everything they can to make the most of it.
Ben Simmons the point forward
Ben Simmons is also a unique and insanely talented player. But his strengths simply run counter to what Embiid needs in a running mate. Likewise, it’s limiting to Ben’s own greatness.
We’ve seen players like Simmo before. Though his reticence to shoot is exceptional, the way he plays isn’t too far removed from the likes of a young LeBron or Giannis. Simmons needs plenty of space in the lane, not seven feet and 280 pounds of Joel Embiid.
Embiid - who has been an absolute beast in the paint - has truly taken off this season. Simmons though, has struggled. Simmo’s shooting away from the rim continues to be a massive issue, and he’s having real trouble at the charity stripe, shooting just 64.2 percent.
Simmons is posting his lowest usage rate and field goal attempts of his career. He’s an All-Star having trouble with a slightly deflated role. Things like this happen all the time.
Unfortunately, though, the path for Simmons to get back into the swing of things likely means taking touches away from Embiid, or otherwise Tobias Harris or Seth Curry, both of whom are having fantastic years as well.
It’s the same problem Philly has faced for four years finally coming to a head. The best version of Ben Simmons takes away from the best version of Joel Embiid.
Why a trade makes sense
This is a simple instance of addition by subtraction. Already thinning out and optimizing the Sixers roster this offseason has Philly looking like a completely different beast - Daryl Morey needs to get bold here and take the next step.
A pass-first point guard who can shoot the three ball would give the Sixers a chance to really build around Joel Embiid the right way. Tobias Harris, meanwhile, is a much more logical complimentary piece.
JoJo himself has praised Tobi as of late. He recently said Harris is, “playing at an All-Star level...he should be an All-Star.”
With Embiid and Harris manning the brunt of the offense, shooters like Curry and Shake Milton (or whichever point guard the Sixers chose to replace Simmons) have plenty of space to operate. It would be a smooth, logical offensive system.
At present, when Simmons and Embiid share the floor, it’s still awkward. Simmons finds himself catching the ball in the post, or otherwise trying to create in a very crowded lane.
Boston, Milwaukee, and Brooklyn all have relatively thin benches. If Philly can swap Simmons for two competent players, it can quickly become one of the deepest teams in the East while preserving a unique and potent crunch-time five. A team like the Spurs or Knicks could help complete a trade like the above by giving Philadelpia a reasonable replacement point guard plus the parts to fill out the rest of its roster.
The Sixers could also go hunting for stars. Morey has a penchant for that, after all. Zach LaVine or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander fit better alongside Embiid and also help meet what would deservedly be a steep asking price for Simmons.
Like Embiid, he also deserves to be at the helm of his own offense. Just not in Philadelphia. As the centerpiece of his own offense, he would be truly spectacular.
There are, of course, reasons to keep Simmons around. He’s an absolute monster on defense. And perhaps more intriguingly, if Morey has his eyes on Bradley Beal or any other disgruntled star, Simmons is quite the trade chip.
We might never see Embiid play this well again. The Sixers need to trust the process here and lean in. And that starts by freeing Ben Simmons.