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July 04, 2024

Sixers mailbag: Ben Simmons won't return to the Sixers... right?

Answering some of your questions about the remainder of the Sixers' offseason.

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Ben Simmons 7.4.24 Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Is Ben Simmons returning to Philadelphia entirely out of the question?

Perhaps the most crucial questions regarding what next season's Sixers team will look like have been answered over the last several days, but many uncertainties still linger. Let's take a crack at breaking down what may come next for President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey and his front office.

From @76ersFRA: Ben Simmons to the 76ers. Discuss.

I did not have this topic on my bingo card for Sixers offseason discussions, but here we are. Rumors have circulated that the Brooklyn Nets could buy out Simmons before the beginning of the final year of a five-year max contract that the Sixers originally signed him to.

When you strip the situation of its context, it's not hard to get there: the Sixers need someone who can defend power forwards and lack intuitive passers. Simmons, though, has played 57 total games over the last three seasons, and when he has played, he has been a shell of himself: not only have his shooting woes failed to improve, but frequent back injuries have sapped his athleticism to the point that even his defense is not the same as it once was.

Additionally, I think it is worth taking a moment to remember just how messy Simmons' exit from Philadelphia was. There was the passed up dunk in Game 7 against the Atlanta Hawks in 2021, the boos, the trade demand, the refusal to meet with the team, the training camp holdout, Simmons being kicked out of a Doc Rivers practice and suspended by the team for a game he had no interest in participating in, the regular season holdout, the trade finally happening, Joel Embiid's "biggest hater's funeral" tweet, the eventual return as a member of the Nets filled with LeBron James-returning-to-Cleveland-esque boos, and everything else that has happened since over the last three years or so.

I bring up all of that to say this: it would be one hell of a story, but don't count on it happening at any point in the near future.

From @mely3: Who are your favorite realistic to acquire by trade to play the four?

The power forward position is clearly the Sixers' biggest hole right now. Paul George and Kelly Oubre Jr. can both slide up there in a pinch and Ricky Council IV has the requisite physicality to handle the position at times, but none of those players figure to be permanent fixtures at the position.

What the Sixers choose to do with Paul Reed's contract — they have plenty of options — will determine their spending power, whether it be through trade or free agency, to fill out the remainder of their roster. I'll run through a few trade targets at various price points:

Sixers free agency primer: Literally everything you need to know

• The Sacramento Kings may not have a solidified answer at backup center. Could a trade involving Reed and stretch four Trey Lyles make sense? Lyles, 28, has played 18.5 minutes per game and made 37.3 percent of his three-point attempts over the last two seasons. He would not be a heavy-minute starter for the Sixers, but he would be a reliable rotation piece in a mold that Embiid has enjoyed playing alongside in the past.

• The Oklahoma City Thunder have remarkable depth, and jack-of-all-trades forward Kenrich Williams remains a favorite of mine. Williams has two years left under contract with a team option for another season. The Thunder signed former Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein to a massive three-year contract, so Reed may no longer make sense for them. But Williams' versatile defense in the frontcourt and improved three-point stroke make him an interesting target for the Sixers.

• The Chicago Bulls are headed towards a youth movement, and that could mean that Torrey Craig, who will turn 34 years old in December, is available. Craig opted into a $2.8 million player option for next season, and it is hard to imagine the Bulls driving a hard bargain for him. Craig has made over 39 percent of his three-point tries in each of the last two seasons, and at 6-foot-7 and 221 pounds, is a sturdy defender on the wing

• The Memphis Grizzlies have four hefty contracts on the books moving forward and have always been hesitant to pay the luxury tax. With a talented young stretch four in Santi Aldama eligible for an extension this offseason, if the team cannot find common ground with him, could he become available? Aldama, 23, has averaged 23.9 minutes per game across 138 appearances (55 starts) over the last two seasons, posting 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest and shooting over 35 percent from three-point range on rather significant volume (4.1 three-point attempts per game).

From @MrEd315: What letter grade would you give Sixers for its offseason efforts in rebuilding this roster?

Right now, their grade is still an incomplete, of course, because they still have about 40 percent of a roster to fill — including an entire position on the depth chart. But it is hard not to see Morey and co. being well on their way to earning an A.

For 12 months, everything decision the Sixers made was made through the lens of enabling them to acquire a high-profile star this summer. And after all of that planning, they ended up with George, who very well may end up being the best player in the NBA to change teams this year. And it was not merely a bet on talent; George's on-court fit with Embiid and Tyrese Maxey figures to be pristine.

With that being said, how a front office rounds out a roster is crucial, particularly when they are hoping to contend for championships, so the job is far from done. But the most challenging and important part of roster construction has been accomplished over the last week.

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