The Ben Simmons Saga Continues
By: Devin Zanskas
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, “Ben Simmons has concluded that he’s done playing with Joel Embiid. While it’s not personal, Simmons believes that playing around Embiid’s style is not conducive to the way he needs to play.” Previously, front office personnel met with Simmons, where he told them he wasn’t interested in playing for the 76ers, and he would not be joining them for training camp. Although it’s quite dramatic, it’s hardly surprising since Embiid and Rivers’ Game 7 postgame comments were so damning. Embiid was rather candid with the media after Simmons passed out of a wide-open dunk, stating “I’ll be honest, I thought the turning point was when we had an open shot, made one free throw, and missed another. Then they came back down and scored.” The open shot that he mentioned was the passed-up dunk. As if that quote didn’t throw Simmons under the bus enough, when reporters questioned Rivers on the possibility of Simmons being a championship point guard, Rivers said, “I don’t know the answer to that right now.”
At just 25 years old, Simmons has been named an Allstar in three of the four seasons he’s played. He also was selected to the All-Defensive first team the past two years, while finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting for the 2020-2021 season. The rarity of a 6’11”, 240-pound point guard that can not only defend all positions, but also find the open shooter after attacking the rim with a head of steam, is what made him a top draft pick. This was the best season the 76ers have had since Simmons was drafted, winning the number one seed in the eastern conference ahead of the Nets’ Big 3, and the eventual NBA champions, the Bucks. During the recent meeting, Rivers pitched the idea of utilizing Simmons similar to how Milwaukee uses the reigning Finals MVP. The issue with that approach is that Simmons is not Giannis. Despite the outstanding ball handling for someone of his size, Simmons does not put the same pressure on the rim that Giannis does, taking just a sliver over ten total shots per game. Meanwhile, Giannis got the line 9.5 times per game last year.
Unfortunately, what’s getting in the way of finding a destination for Simmons is his tough fit with many teams, including those that are ready to win. ESPN reported Embiid’s response to Simmons not being able to see a future work between the two of them, “It’s kind of surprising to me. We’ll say that, even going back to the reason we signed Al. We got rid of Jimmy, which I still think was a mistake, just to make sure Ben had the ball in his hands. That’s the decision they made. Like I said, it is surprising.” For how rare of a talent that Simmons is, there’s plenty of evidence that he needs to be surrounded by four shooters, a pick and roll operator, and also a rim protector next to him. In other words, he truly needs a team built around his strengths and weaknesses. Per Bleacher Report, Simmons was eyeing three California teams, presumably excluding the Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs in 15 seasons. However, the Lakers traded for Westbrook instead, the Warriors are wary of a Simmons and Draymond lineup, and the Clippers don’t have the assets to acquire Simmons, given that they wouldn’t consider moving Kawhi or George. Simmons may have to accept that his best route out of Philadelphia might be towards a team that still needs to learn how to win.