At the end of the day, the Ben Simmons haters were right.
His offensive limitations were too much to overcome. There was no amount of defense and passing and playmaking that was capable of outweighing the shortcomings that rear their figurative, ugly heads on the other side of the floor. Maybe his unique skill set works in another system, on another roster, but it won’t work with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.
In truth, however, it was never about being right or wrong. It was about being fair. A lot of Ben Simmons neutrals, who tried to walk the most difficult tightrope ever, pointed out that his limitations typically manifest in fourth quarter, half court, postseason scenarios. It was never about beating the drum for the pro-Ben or anti-Ben side of a wide-ranging spectrum; it was about identifying the positives and negatives and then pragmatically parsing everything at the end of the season.
We now have more than enough evidence to know that Simmons has no future here. It just can’t continue. There is no way to justify paying max money to a non-shooter on a team that is led in scoring by a center. The spacing is clunky. The scheme is limited. There’s no way to make it work as currently constructed, but Daryl Morey did the best he could by fixing the mistakes of prior regimes, surrounding his star duo with shooters, and replicating what they tried with JJ Redick in 2017.
Now his real work begins.
I’ve said over the years that I would not split up Simmons and Embiid until another coach tried to make it work, and now we’ve tried that. It failed. Doc Rivers encouraged Simmons to focus on what he does well, and took a positive philosophical approach. He defended him in front of the media, to his own detriment. Everybody knows Doc was willing to eat the criticism and fall on the sword for an All-Star that couldn’t and wouldn’t shoot a 10-footer, so it’s hard to kill the head coach when we know he’s not going to rip his guy on a Zoom call. We went easy on Doc because we understood what he was doing, but unfortunately it all culminated in failure.
Simmons, for what it’s worth, does not want to leave. He might change his mind, but said this after Sunday night’s Game 7 loss when asked if he felt like he played his last game for the Sixers:
“I feel like we just lost Game 7. That’s about it…. I love being in Philly. I love this organization. The fans are great. Great people. I mean, I had a bad series, I expect (questions about my future). It’s Philly.”
He said the right things in the press conference. He wasn’t there offensively and “didn’t do enough” for his teammates. He’s come a long way in the presser department, but that’s not the improvement anybody should give a shit about. They need a fourth-year player to impact the game offensively in the fourth quarter, but they got this instead:
This does feel to me a little like the Carson Wentz situation. I know the on-field/on-court comparisons are not the same, since Wentz was playing like an MVP before his 2017 injury, but what I mean here is that the Philly+player relationship feels like it’s shot. It feels irreparable. That wire is so frayed that even if you keep it in place it’s going to be covered with ugly black electrical tape, a reminder of past issues that required fixing. It might snap at any point in time, and you’re always kind of thinking about that in the back of your mind.
Ben Simmons’ tenure just feels like its run its course.
And maybe a change of scenery benefits both teams. The Sixers bring in a traditional point guard and run a more traditional offense. They maximize the pieces around Joel Embiid, who isn’t getting any younger. And for Ben, he gets a needed reset in a smaller market where he can clear his head and start over, with plenty of years in front of him.
RE: trade value, I don’t think it’s as low as people say it is. There are plenty of rebuilding teams in the West that would be interested in Simmons. I think Portland would do that C.J. McCollum trade. Sacramento might be a willing partner. Tanking teams like Houston and OKC might jump in as a third party. If you trust anybody to figure it out, it’s Morey.
After sleeping on it, another year of Simmons in Philadelphia seems untenable. People felt this way last year, and even the year before, so it’s not like this is something new. But what matters now is that the most pragmatic and patient Philly sports fan would probably agree that it’s time for a mutually-beneficial parting of ways.
Shaq on Ben Simmons' postgame comments: "if he was in my locker room i would have knocked his ass out." pic.twitter.com/YmzfU4zHs8
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 21, 2021