The Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Atlanta Hawks in seven games in the second round of the playoffs. This came as a disappointing end to a highly successful season. Philly earned the first seed in a loaded Eastern Conference and saw vast improvement across the roster. And they did this despite playing a large handful of games without superstar center Joel Embiid and integrating Doc Rivers’ system in his first year as head coach.
But their playoff exit stings fans, media, and even perhaps members of the 76ers organization, have found an easy scapegoat. However, what everyone needs to realize is that maybe now is not the time for the 76ers to trade Ben Simmons.
Why the 76ers might want to trade Simmons
The arguments for trading Simmons appear obvious now. He is an offensive liability, plain and simple. He scored single digits in the last three games of the series against the Hawks. In the crucial Game 7 loss, he only had five points. Not only that, but he stopped shooting altogether.
Against Atlanta, Simmons attempted only three field goals in the fourth quarter. For someone who is supposedly a foundational piece of Philadelphia’s roster, this is inexcusable. In addition, he passed up easy looks, most notably an open layup late in the fourth quarter of Game 7. And to add to all of this, he set a postseason record for worst free throw percentage with a minimum of 70 attempts, as he made only 34.2%.
What members of the 76ers organization are saying
The Atlanta series revealed and accentuated the flaws in his game, and those are serious issues. Something is wrong when a team has to take out their star to run offense late in close games. However, the bigger issue is what those within the 76ers organization are saying about their star point guard. Head coach Doc Rivers, one of the most respected voices in basketball, did not give Simmons a great vote of confidence in his post-game press conference.
I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now.”Doc Rivers on if he believes Ben Simmons can be a point guard for a championship team
Of equal importance, Embiid, the face of the franchise, seemed to call out Simmons in his post-game press conference as well. When asked about when he thought the turning point in Game 7 was, he highlighted a Simmons play. Although he did not use Simmons’ name, it was clear that he was extremely frustrated with his point guard.
I don’t know how to say it – but I thought the turning point was we had an open shot, we missed, and we made one free throw.Joel Embiid
5 Reasons why the 76ers should not trade Ben Simmons
The playoffs were terrible for Ben Simmons. There is no denying that. But that should not cause the entire basketball world to forget everything else about Simmons. Until the playoffs, many considered him a solid point guard, in his own right. So let’s look at five reasons why the 76ers should not trade away Ben Simmons now.
1. Potential room for development
People forget that Simmons is only 24. This was his fourth NBA season. He still has time to develop more skills. If the 76ers trade him away now, it shows they are not confident in their player development. He needs to develop a jump shot, as the playoffs have made clear. But he can still do that. There is time for him to grow as a player. To fit next to Embiid, he will have to develop a little bit of a shot. But he doesn’t have to be the next Steph. If Simmons can follow the Giannis path on shooting improvement, that might be enough. He has to get decent, at least, and more importantly, confident.
2. He can be valuable on offense in other ways
For his career, Simmons is averaging 7.7 assists. More importantly, he is great at assisting on three-pointers. Since his first year, he leads the league in assists on three-pointers. His passing in and of itself is extremely valuable to the offense. He also found more value this year as a screener for his teammates and a cutter.
This forces defenses to account for him at all times and work to guard him. The 76ers can afford to work more of that into their offense. By the end of the playoffs, Simmons was standing around. That cannot happen. But peak Simmons on offense is a nightmare for defenses.
3. Elite defender
Ben Simmons was named First-Team All-Defense this year, and Philly was the best defensive team in the league. He finished second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. With his size, speed, strength, and length, he can guard all five positions. He averages 1.7 steals per game and can guard the opposition’s best player. For all of his offensive limitations, it is hard to trade the anchor.
4. Simmons can rebuild confidence
In the 2018 Playoffs, Simmons cracked 70% from the line, albeit on only 58 attempts. In the regular season, he is right around 60% for his career. Admittedly, this isn’t good, but certainly many notches above his 34% this postseason that has the whole league talking.
As teams adopted a “Hack-A-Simmons” strategy, his confidence plummeted. He needs to rediscover his belief in himself, and the coaching staff needs to help. But he is better than a 34% shooter from the line.
5. Low value now
If the 76ers are going to trade Simmons, now is certainly not the best time. Nobody is clamoring for a non-shooting point guard who just crumbled in the playoffs. Sixers GM Daryl Morey should exhibit patience and hope that Simmons comes back much improved next year.
While mid-year roster shakeups are less than ideal, the 76ers will not be able to extract enough value from a Simmons trade now. The 76ers have to walk a fine line, however. Joel Embiid is an injury-prone superstar in his prime. Who knows how many years he has left in his championship window?
The 76ers need to do what they can to maximize this opportunity. However, trading Simmons away now for next-to-nothing in return could be the kiss of death for their championship aspirations. Instead, Philly needs to remember its humble motto from the beginning of Embiid’s career and Trust the Process.