More Sports:

October 05, 2021

What's the latest on the Ben Simmons trade rumors front? And why does the Sixers guard really want out?

Here's a look at what they're saying...

Sixers NBA
Ben_Simmons_shot_2_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons.

UPDATE [7:39 p.m.] — While I was rounding up rumors, our Sixers beat writer Kyle Neubeck was out doing some actual reporting on the Ben Simmons situation. I highly recommend clicking over and reading the full thing, but here's a snippet in case you're not sold. 

After being fined for missing Philadelphia's preseason loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday night — a penalty of roughly $360,000 — Simmons' representation had another discussion with the players association in which it was reiterated they would be unable to recoup the money being deducted from the $8.25 million sitting in escrow, sources say, and it was communicated to the Sixers that these early fines were perhaps higher than they expected. 

If the earlier link above wasn't enough of a clue, you can read the whole thing right here (then can come back and read the rest of this rumor roundup). 


The Sixers played their first preseason game on Monday night, and All-Star point guard Ben Simmons was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he was lounging in the pool of his new L.A. home with British girlfriend Maya Jama (loved you on "Glow Up," btw). Maybe he was in a gym perfecting the perfect angle for his new offseason workout video. Or maybe he was playing some video games to pass the time while he hold outs. 

The only thing we know for sure is that his bank account got $360k-plus lighter as the organization was able to hand out a significant fine, a single game check for the missed preseason opener. 

For now, both sides seem to be holding the line, with the latest salvo coming on Friday when it was reported that the Sixers will indeed be withholding the $8.25 million Simmons was due on the first day of October, an act some referred to as "a declaration of war." With the sides as far apart as ever, it's anyone's guess who blinks first — or when that even happens. 

Simmons' case is unprecedented, given that he still has four years left on his massive contract and plays (played?) for a team that had been and was again expected to be in contention for an NBA title. But after his own shortcomings came to the forefront in yet another postseason — his inability and unwillingness to do the one thing that really matters, shooting the basketball — his teammates and coaches decided they'd had enough, with Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid expressing their frustration to various levels. Simmons, meanwhile, wanted fans to focus on the things he does well, like his defense and his passing, despite what everyone was seeing play out on the court night after night, a star player not just disappearing but becoming a flat out liability in the most important moments of the game. 

From there, things have only escalated, and from the outside, it's hard to see how Simmons justifies his actions here. But each week it seems as though his camp offers a new complaint, which both strengthens his stance while simultaneously revealing that none of these things are what really matters to the 25-year-old star. It's all about how others viewed him. When examined through that lens, almost all of his decisions make sense. Dating TV stars and IG models? Check. Pumping out workout videos that give the appearance he's made massive improvements in his game (only to show up with the same warts year after year)? You bet. And being afraid to shoot, the one area of your game that's lacking and could produce an embarrassing airball? That certainly tracks as well. 

The list goes on and on, but it's clear Ben Simmons is a closely guarded person who cares a great deal about how he's perceived, if not by individuals then by the world at large. And if you take that carefully crafted self-image to the extreme, perhaps it's the thing that's been holding him back more than anything else: fear of failure. That's becoming a theme with Simmons — and we'll get into a bit more on that before we're done — but first let's check in on the latest news and rumors surrounding the (soon-to-be-ex?) Sixers guard... 

'F**k that... they can't cave'

Chris Mannix | Sports Illustrated

Over at Sports Illustrated, veteran NBA writer Chris Mannix took a look at the Simmons situation and believes that the Sixers know they can't give in to Simmons demands — and Simmons doesn't appear to be backing down any time soon, meaning this could go on for a while. If it does, how the rest of the Sixers play could have a huge impact on how patient Daryl Morey and Co. are. It's also worth noting that December 15 is an important date since that's the first day newly-signed free agents are allowed to be traded, which could potentially increase the number of suitors for Simmons. 

But by that point, the hit to Simmons' wallet might be more than enough to entice him to at least return, which according to other reports could come under the guise of injury to avoid ever returning to game action for Philly. In the meantime, here's more from Mannix... 

It’s war now between the Sixers and Simmons, and both sides appear dug in. Simmons is clearly willing to sacrifice some money—skipping the four preseason games alone will cost Simmons a cool $1.4 million, per ESPN—while Philadelphia is unwilling to be bullied into making a deal just to rid itself of the distraction. Rival executives, even those interested in prying Simmons away from the Sixers, agree. “F**k that,” says an Eastern Conference team exec. “You let a guy force his way out with four years left on a max contract and you set a terrible precedent. They can’t cave.”

Simmons is in a foxhole, alone. His teammates are frustrated. The front office is frustrated. Sixers fans are frustrated. [...]

The first few weeks of the season will undoubtedly influence Simmons’s future. Even without Simmons, the Sixers are pretty good. Embiid is an MVP frontrunner. Harris is coming off an All-Star caliber season. Seth Curry and Danny Green are proven shooters. Maxey showed promise last season. If Philadelphia gets off to a good start—hell, if the Sixers get off to a decent start—the front office could test Simmons’s resolve.

And that’s the other unknown. Just how far is Simmons willing to take this? Simmons knew what he was getting into. His agent, Rich Paul, is among the savvier in the business. And Simmons has $57 million in on-court earnings to fall back on. But he’s bleeding money. And he’s going to bleed more. Just missing the first month of the season will cost Simmons north of $7 million. Banking on the Sixers to falter, for Morey to get desperate, is a sizeable risk.  []

Six Simmons suitors...

Keith Pompey | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Late last week, we got some new reporting on the situation from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who reported that there are still six teams checking in on Simmons. That was accompanied by a lot of claims made by Simmons' camp about his desire to leave, when it was made known to the team, and how he was "mentally exhausted" playing for the Sixers (to which I'd say, "Man, welcome to 2021, we're all mentally exhausted").

A league source said the Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors, and San Antonio Spurs are still inquiring about Simmons’ availability. [...]

The Sixers’ position that they’re not going to trade Simmons just to make a trade has been consistent. They’re trying to win a championship, and believe they’re in a better position to win one with him on the roster. [...]

But it is unprecedented for a maximum-salary player who’s in the second year of a five-year extension to hold out and plan to never play for that franchise again.

The Inquirer also learned that the Sixers weren’t as blindsided by Simmons’ desire to be traded as one would think. His agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, informed general manager Elton Brand of Simmons’ trade wish around three days after the team was eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He then informed Morey shortly after that.

As a result, some in Simmons’ camp don’t believe the Sixers really expected him to return this season. One source, pointing out how the Sixers attempted to trade Simmons twice, said the team clearly wants to trade him. The source said the Sixers are just determined to do it on their terms.  []

Sure, the Sixers attempted to trade Simmons before, including earlier this year when they were going after James Harden, a clearly better player. And it's really jarring to hear someone complain about a team, with whom you are under contract, wanting to make a trade "on their terms." Yes, player empowerment is at an all-time high in the NBA — and that's a good thing — but getting traded is kind of part of the deal. Players, especially underperforming malcontents, are moved all the time. 

If you think you're special, maybe consider why they want to trade you in the first place. 

...But none make sense

Kurt Helin | Pro Basketball Talk

Before we take a look at some of the individual teams Pompey mentioned above, we come to Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk, who says these six teams being linked to Simmons don't really amount to much because, as our own Kyle Neubeck has outlined more than once, they can't really offer anything the Sixers want, which is a star player to replace Simmons with. 

The problem is none of those teams is making an offer that interests the 76ers, who are looking for veteran players to put around Joel Embiid on a win-now team.

Minnesota is rumored to be the most aggressive team, going back to the day Simmons was made available. But with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edward both off the table (as they should be), it’s hard to construct a reasonable trade offer around D'Angelo Russell and picks. The Pacers could be a dark horse to land Simmons, but it would take the 76ers coming way down on what they are seeking in a deal. The Raptors were rumored to be talking about a trade around Pascal Siakam, but Toronto told him he would not be traded, and he doesn’t want to be anyway.   []

Still, let's take a closer look at some of those potential suitors... 

Detroit Pistons

Sean Corp | SB Nation

The first of the teams we'll look at is the Pistons. Their fans have to want a star player like Simmons, right? RIGHT?!

Does that mean I want him on the Pistons? Ugggggghhhhh ... I was afraid you were going to ask that.

In my heart of hearts, the answer is no simply because Simmons brings a lot of talents but an equal amount of potential headaches.

Trying to determine what the fit like would be in Detroit would require us to figure out what it would actually cost Detroit. The answer begins with Jerami Grant and continues toward perhaps a Killian Hayes or a lightly protected future first-round pick.

That’s not nothing, but on a pure talent basis getting 25-year-old All-Star Simmons who is a defensive player of the year candidate is an upgrade over the extremely good but never going to be great Grant.

A deal like this was actually floated by our Sixers friends at Liberty Ballers. They determined Hayes was actually too high a price to pay for Detroit and a bad fit for Philly, which I totally understand. They swapped out Cory Joseph for Hayes and also calls Saddiq Bey off-limits. Joseph, it should be noted, along with Kelly Olynyk, couldn’t be traded until December because they are newly signed by Detroit.  []

San Antonio Spurs

Andy Bailey | Bleacher Report

Over at Bleacher Report, Andy Bailey took a look at some hypothetical trades, including one for Simmons. But this probably isn't getting Sixers fans — who, like the team they root for, are looking for a star player that might not be currently available — all that excited.

The Trade: Ben Simmons for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 first-round pick


Both sides might still be feeling each other out. Philly probably has its heart set on a star. The Spurs can't offer that, so they may be hoping that the drama following Simmons continues to drive his value down.

If they're willing to make some concessions, this is a potential win-win deal.

Dejounte Murray and Derrick White aren't stars, but the former can provide a lot of the point-of-attack defense Simmons does. White, meanwhile, is a steady hand as a backup guard. And both have shown significantly more than Simmons as shooters (even if neither profiles as a game-changing floor-spacer).

This move reduces the Sixers' star power, but it could also make them deeper and adds ammo for future drafts or trades.  []

Indiana Pacers

Brian Windhorst | ESPN

This is not the first we've heard about the Pacers. They've been linked to Simmons for a while now, and just last week on ESPN's The Jump, Brian Windhorst called them a sleeper in the Simmons sweepstakes (at the 2:30 mark).

Cleveland Cavaliers

Chris Fedor | (via Twitter)

The Cavs are another team that has been mentioned several times, but again, it's hard to see a fit from a personnel perspective. 

You can read more on what they have to offer from Kyle Neubeck, here.

Simmons needs a hug

Louisa Thomas | The New Yorker

And finally, we return to the heart of the matter. And that's this: no matter where Simmons goes, the same issues are going to follow him unless he either goes somewhere where his team isn't expected to compete OR he takes the necessary steps to improve his game. Louisa Thomas of The New Yorker wrote a great piece on Simmons and spoke to David Thorpe of TrueHoop, who also works with some NBA players as an independent coach. And he felt that Simmons could follow the Giannis Antetokounmpo model.

"Antetokounmpo isn’t generally a good free-throw shooter, either; videos of him shooting air balls during the playoffs went viral," writes Thomas. "But Antetokounmpo seemed to shrug off any embarrassment. In the last game of the N.B.A. Finals, Antetokounmpo took nineteen free throws. He made seventeen of them, and his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, won the title."

Compare that to Ben Simmons, who went to the line 14 times in Game 5 against the Hawks and made just four free throws. And then in the final two games, it was clear he wanted nothing to do with the charity stripe, highlighted most clearly by his decision to pass in this situation:

Here's more from her story...

I asked Thorpe what he usually did with N.B.A. players who struggled at the line and sought his help. He described several drills: one intended to make sure that the feet are positioned correctly, so as to line up the ball with the center of the rim; one used for triggering muscle memory, the way golfers do by taking phantom swings; one that involves intentionally overshooting the basket. He also said that he’d give Simmons a hug. Getting to the free-throw line is an essential tool for winning basketball games, and Simmons needs to be willing to get there even if, Thorpe said, he misses every free throw. (“Of course, you want to make them,” he added.) Players are allowed only six fouls, and the opposing team should try to draw them. “In the N.B.A.,” Thorpe said, “no one wants to foul out.” Plus, after a team has committed five fouls in a quarter, each additional foul brings free throws, no matter where on the court they happen—another crucial advantage for the foul-drawing team. There are great players—Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Wilt Chamberlain—who shot terribly from the foul line while still leading their teams to titles. Simmons, Thorpe said, will “have to get comfortable with missing.”

That can be hard. “Ben loves to be efficient,” Simmons’s brother told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan last year. “He wants to make the correct move—not the wrong move—and sometimes that’s a hindrance. You need to experiment with things, and sometimes you might fail. The acceptance of failure is something Ben needs to be comfortable with. That will come along through hard times, experiences of losing.” But, so far, the experience of losing seems to be having the opposite effect: he appears to be shying away from failure rather than embracing its educational potential. The latest report is that Simmons’s decision to leave Philadelphia was prompted by a conviction that he cannot succeed with Embiid, and that he needs a team built around his strengths. (Embiid, in response, sniffed, “Our teams have always been built around his needs.”) But, wherever Simmons ends up, he’ll have to deal with the experience of going to the free-throw line, where he has only ever been on his own.  []

The kicker in all this, which really highlights Simmons' fear of failure, is this quote from his brother to ESPN's Jackie MacMullen last year.

"Ben loves to be efficient," he explained. "He wants to make the correct move—not the wrong move—and sometimes that’s a hindrance. You need to experiment with things, and sometimes you might fail. The acceptance of failure is something Ben needs to be comfortable with. That will come along through hard times, experiences of losing."

He's been getting that experience for years now — he's never been out of the second round of the playoffs — but the problems remain the same. 

Soon, they could be someone else's problems. 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports