July 07, 2021
There’s just no way Ben Simmons can come back next year.
All of us – including and especially Simmons – need a fresh break from this relationship. When people say something’s mutual, it never is. But this is mutual. Yes, the wise words of Michael Scott ring true once again as the entire city needs to see a life beyond Simmons. A life where he can flourish on another team while the Sixers address the needs of the more important piece on the team.
Watching the Suns dismantle a hobbled Bucks team should have you thinking the obvious: There isn’t anyone on the floor better than Joel Embiid. That’s it. That’s what this is all about, why The Process did work and why there’s still a pretty decent window for Embiid to bring a championship to Philadelphia.
It’s just not happening with Simmons.
Again, every single member involved in this hovering drama constantly following Simmons – including Ben himself – walks away happy. You as the fan gets what you want, a legit shot to see Embiid dancing during a championship parade down Broad Street. But let’s start with the man himself at the center of trade rumors and work our way back to the rest of us.
This past season was pretty rough on the Sixers point guard. It felt or sounded like Simmons was – by far and away – the biggest culprit for one of the biggest post-season meltdowns in team history. He was historically bad from the free-throw line and disappeared late in games, even passing up wide-open dunks in the process. Even Embiid was looking around in shock and dismay as Simmons did the unthinkable.
The free throws aren’t going away, yet if he ever figures it out, Simmons will be a monster in the NBA. The problem here is that Embiid’s timeline of success is simply not congruent with Simmons. The latter can easily move on to another team and gradually work to become an improved player on offense, but that’s not “win now” mode and it doesn’t work paired with Embiid.
Daryl Morey actually would actually be doing Simmons a favor by allowing him to grow and improve at a rate more conducive to his own window of development, rather than on the Sixers' timeline. Meanwhile, Simmons is free to live his life – lavash house and new girlfriend(s?) – without idiots on Twitter or the radio drawing some ignorant conclusion about that impacting his basketball game. See? It's a win-win, especially for Simmons.
It’s impossible to ignore the postgame press conference where Embiid was vocally frustrated with Simmons. It’s also equally impossible to deny the body language we saw on the floor. This is Embiid’s team, yes, but most importantly it’s his time. The man missed out on the MVP only because he missed games, nothing else. While Embiid fought through a knee injury – for better or worse at times – throughout the series, Simmons did everything he could to avoid getting back to the free-throw line.
The two tried it out with a better coach this year and it’s just not the best fit. The team’s window is Embiid’s window, and every single move they make should reflect a major push to win now. How in the world would Embiid benefit from the return of Simmons when a trade could net another scorer who could complement the big man even better? Why would Embiid even push to bring Simmons back after it was so clear how frustrated everyone was at the end of the Hawks series?
The easy answer is Embiid knows he’s better off sacrificing whatever they will lose on defense to make life easier on offense.
The push to improve the optics and reception of the Sixers front office only began last year with the hiring of Morey. Make no mistake, while myself and so many others have a ton of trust in Morey, that doesn’t undo the years of dysfunction that preceded him.
Morey is in a great position for two reasons, both a matter of timing that can really help his quest to build a winner. The first is based on a pretty reasonable belief that a lot of vocal fans want Simmons out, and are willing to accept 75 down to 65 cents on the dollar. Morey has the power to appease them by moving Simmons and bringing a pretty strong sense of confidence over the city. At the very least, Morey was able to do something nobody before him – back to Sam Hinkie – could do, trade away a big piece to make the current team better.
That works with the second point about positioning for Morey, he’s the perfect hatchet man for this job. He has zero ties to Simmons outside of what ownership mandates. If the team is already taking calls on Simmons, then Morey has been given the green light. Normally we see front offices have the same person who made the mistake of drafting a player, turn around and try to trade him. There’s a major motivation, to a fault at times, that drives said GM to overcompensate for an unrealistic concern. That won't be the case here.
Morey comes in with a fresh pair of eyes and zero ties to Simmons. That’s the perfect combination to continue the upward trajectory for Morey and this city.
I don’t care if you can’t see the true value in Simmons or you are a staunch supporter of him staying here, we all win with a trade. Your life is just easier. You won’t have to either A) struggle every night trying to comprehend how a guy making THAT much money puts up so few points, or B) struggle every night trying to explain to Fan X why they are wrong about the Sixers' point guard.
Defending Simmons doesn’t have the R.O.I. to justify going at it with people on Twitter for hours, or weeks, or months or an entire season. You won’t be able to convince someone new to the game, or someone who checked out during the tank why they are wrong. The player isn’t going to turn his game around in the next year or two, so you’ll keep having the same arguments over and over. That's a hard pass for me, as I try and save you from your own misery.
We don’t always see a mutual breakup or even a mutual decision made to break from a business relationship, but this is the case here. The time is now to trade Simmons and let him be his own player elsewhere. Remember, everyone in this thing wins, including yourself.
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