It certainly doesn’t sound like Sixers‘ star Ben Simmons will be attending the team’s training camp. Could that actually work in the team’s favor?
The Sixers are an absolute mess. Fragmented as a franchise, the Sixers are stuck talking to Ben Simmons‘ agents, and Doc Rivers has even taken to ESPN in an effort to get the all-star to return to the team.
With the tension between Simmons and the Sixers dating back prior to Doc Rivers’ somewhat critical (but very valid) quotes following the game seven loss, the former number 1 pick appears willing to do whatever is necessary to be traded. With the chances of him reporting to camp seeming slim to none, could the Sixers prove to get the upper hand by allowing him to do just this?
How Good is Ben Simmons?
This has become an increasingly difficult question to answer. Let’s start with what he is not. Ben Simmons is not good enough to be the focal point on a championship-contending team. The limitations in his game may not even allow him to be the second or third option on a solid squad. He also is certainly not good enough to hold an organization hostage and force his way out of a deal that still has four remaining years on it.
What Ben Simmons is not is a below-average NBA player. He is the Sixers’ biggest trade chip to use to surround Joel Embiid with the best possible talent and a guy the franchise has a ton invested in. Selling him as “damaged goods” where the team would not receive a player of equal production back could ultimately cripple any championship hopes the Sixers hold. With the sour tastes left from his playoff performance remaining in the mouths of GMs across the league, any deal accepted now would be unlikely to provide a return that improves the Sixers’ chances of competing.
What Happens if He Isn’t Traded?
As it stands, Ben Simmons is still under contract for four more years. Regardless of how he feels, the Sixers are in control of the decision for where he will play next season. Training camp is set to begin on September 28th, and if Simmons elects to hold out in the way he says he intends to, the Sixers will be 100% in their rights to fine him for each day he misses.
The relationship between Simmons and the Sixers is likely already damaged beyond repair, and this would almost certainly be the case if this is how it plays out. It is also much easier to say you will be sitting out in theory rather than putting it in practice, and the $35 million he is set to be paid is high motivation to come to camp.
How Does This Help the Sixers?
There likely isn’t a solution where the Sixers fully come out as winners in this scenario but refusing to accept a discounted price for Simmons is essential from the Sixers’ perspective. While there have not been many reports of what offers the Sixers have received, very few of the rumors result in the Sixers coming away with an exciting package.
Even if Simmons sits out in the way he says he will, the Sixers will still be a decent team. Tyrese Maxey will likely receive the promotion to the starting lineup, and the team will have a chance to evaluate how high his potential ceiling is. It will also give a larger sample size to see what the post-Simmons roster will need. Some extra time to evaluate if it will be more impactful to add more shooting, a legitimate point guard, or something else is not a terrible tactic.
This gamble would ultimately be rooted in the belief that the trade value of Ben Simmons cannot go any lower. Even with his flaws, he is a very impactful basketball player. There is a real argument to Ben being the best defender in the league, and he is extremely effective in the fast-break. The 3-time-all-star has shown enough flashes over his career that teams will remain interested whether he steps foot on the court to start this season or not.
If the season kicks off and an expected contender does not get off to the start, they hope, the market for Ben Simmons could increase. A desperate team looking for an impact player to spark their season could be the ‘Get Out of Jail Free Card’ that the Sixers are in need of. When considering teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and the Washington Wizards are potential candidates to be in this position, it may be worth it to let things unfold.
Regardless of what decision is made to handle the situation going forward, no one should feel great about getting to this point. The relationship between Simmons and the Sixers had been damaged for quite some time, and the decisions made by Rich Paul and the rest of his camp have almost certainly broken it beyond repair. Even though this feels as if it has dragged on for too long already, there is a real chance the Sixers may be content sitting back and allowing things to unfold even longer.