July 13, 2021
The Sixers have, "opened up trade conversations" on Ben Simmons in pursuit of another All-Star next to Joel Embiid, according to a new report from Shams Charania of The Athletic.
While this is not exactly a surprise — we have spent most of this offseason running through and directing various potential trade packages the Sixers might get back for Simmons — it is a significant marker in the offseason nonetheless.
Here's what Charania had to say on the matter.
After a disappointing defeat in the second round of the playoffs to Atlanta, the 76ers and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been surveying the landscape for ways to improve their roster. Philadelphia lost to the Hawks in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, culminating in coach Doc Rivers and MVP runner-up Joel Embiid singling out Ben Simmons’ play.
The mandate was for Simmons and Embiid to coexist on the court this past season under their new head coach and regime and to make a deep playoff run. Neither was accomplished. By all accounts, Embiid and Simmons have never been closer — off the court. But from Simmons’ inclusion in trade packages for James Harden with the Houston Rockets during the season to critical comments made about him from key 76ers people after Game 7, the writing is on the wall for Simmons and his future with the franchise.
The 76ers have opened up trade conversations surrounding Simmons and have engaged with teams, sources told The Athletic. Those sources also say that teams that have engaged with the 76ers about Simmons have been met with a high price threshold for the three-time All-Star.
“(The 76ers) want an All-Star-caliber player in return,” one source with knowledge of the ongoing talks said. [The Athletic]
This is the first time that a report has come out focusing on the Sixers' end of things, rather than the teams trying to bid on Simmons and what they might get back if they agreed to a deal with, for example, Minnesota and Golden State. The Sixers' long-held position, even dating back to the early days of the Morey-Rivers regime, has been to try to make things work with the pairing on hand.
Signaling a willingness, if not the intent, to trade Simmons is something that puts everybody on the clock. The language of Charania's reporting reads like a purposeful leak, almost a challenge from the Sixers to the rest of the league to get their best offers in while the opportunity is still there. And when combined with the knowledge that Simmons' representation previously met with Philadelphia's front office to discuss the future of the partnership together, the writing is on the wall here. This is accelerating toward a deal in one form or another.
(You can read that two different ways. One could argue this means the Sixers already have offers in that they'd be comfortable accepting if nothing else comes in for the rest of this month, or that the Sixers are so low on satisfactory offers that they're fishing for something better with a brazen leak. I would lean toward the former because I don't think it would be difficult for them to continue gauging the market while offering repeated denials throughout the process.)
Draft night, then, still appears to be a pretty important milestone for Philadelphia. If the Sixers are dead-set on pursuing an All-Star in return for Simmons, a high bar to clear, there's a high likelihood of first-round picks, near-term and long-term, being involved in such a deal. The moment their 2021 pick turns into an actual player, rather than a theoretical asset to be used by another team, it immediately decreases in value akin to a car leaving the dealer's lot for the first time. The next two weeks will be absolutely pivotal in the Simmons trade race.
Rivers' comments following Game 7 were eye-opening at the time, and as we've mentioned in this space previously, they were especially significant because of the positions Rivers has held behind the scenes. As the Sixers' brass debated the merits of trading Simmons for, as an example, James Harden, Rivers was one of the biggest advocates for keeping the young core they had together and seeing what difference he/they could make by working with the Australian himself. Like most around the organization and the city, Rivers' eyes are wide open now, having been through the worst playoff nosedive of Simmons' career to date.
Internally, the new Sixers' brass has had no reservations or misunderstandings about who the best and most important player on the team was or is. Dating back to last offseason, pleasing Embiid was an organizational priority, a fact reflected in how their two younger stars reacted to the various wheelings and dealings of the summer. The big fella, who is far less active on social media than he was as a young player, repeatedly took to Twitter to blast out his excitement as the Sixers brought in Rivers and a decorated staff of assistant coaches in the offseason, as Simmons mostly remained silent aside from the odd retweet here or there about his partnership with esports outfit Faze Clan. Rivers also came in and immediately signaled the intent to play through Embiid first, second, and third, and he no longer giving Simmons de facto control of the second unit as Brett Brown did before him, force-feeding Embiid/Simmons lineups as much as possible to see exactly how far they could take the partnership (and, in fairness, because they helped Philly win a lot of games this year).
In previous seasons, Embiid routinely (and not especially artfully) made note of having to adjust how he plays offense to accommodate Simmons, explaining the three-point shots that angered traditionalists as a necessary part of the game. Sideswipes at Simmons were at a minimum this season, and while Embiid declined to offer thoughts on changes to be made this offseason, his post Game 7 comments (which admittedly more nuanced than many have suggested) revealed frustration that bubbled back to the surface after a buddy-buddy year with Simmons.
All of this is to say that the ending to this movie, broadly speaking, seems pretty obvious. To borrow from recently-retired broadcasting legend Marc Zumoff, I'd advise everybody to hang on as we come in for a landing.
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