Ben Simmons must easily be the most hated player in Philadelphia irrespective of the sport in the passionate city. One very angry fan on vented his anger on Twitter and joined others to stomp on Simmons jersey evoking memories of Cleveland’s infamous night where several LeBron James jerseys were burnt by angry fans. LeBron James had committed to send his talents to Miami Heat to team up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade spurning Cleveland’s advances in free agency.
The NBA Playoffs are at the Conference Finals stage. In the Western Conference Finals the Phoenix Suns lead the best of seven games series 2-1 while in the East, Atlanta Hawks have taken a 1-0 series lead against Milwaukee Bucks in the ultimate David-Goliath battle between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Trae Young.
Three games into the West’s Final, enigmatic Paul George has showed both sides of his game vacillating between a complete meltdown to lose the game at the charity stripe In Game 2 and leading the charge in the Clippers win in Game 3. Yes the real Paul George-10th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft-showed up and the Pandemic P version of the former Indiana Pacers Forward has also showed up.
Philadelphia Sixers were expected to be competing in the Eastern Finals but got eliminated by the Hawks in a thrilling semifinal series that included Philly blowing a 26 point lead to the Hawks in Game 5 with the great Allen Iverson in attendance. A win there and Philly certainly go through to the Eastern Conference Finals and meet the minimum requirement of preseason expectations for the talented group of players.
Many have blamed Ben Simmons for the team’s elimination at the hands of Atlanta and have called for him to be traded. It sounds harsh that a soon to be 25 year old 6 foot 10 inch Point Guard, who is a three time NBA All Star, a two time All Defensive Team Member and the 2019-2020 season leader in steals could be traded. That aside, Simmons has career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals. It is easy to understand why he is regarded as the next LeBron because the man is a triple double threat every time he touches the court.
However, his inability to convert shots and worse, his reluctance to attempt shots is frustrating and isn’t helping teammate Joel Embiid’s game blossom further either. Giannis is far from the best shooter but he shoots from deep anyway and Luka Doncic has a poor rate of converting three pointers but that doesn’t stop him from chucking away shots from behind the line. Simmons simply won’t even attempt shots to bait defenders to make an attempt to guard him and relieve Embiid of double team attention and help defense plays from opposing teams.
Both players-Embiid and Simmons- have looked very uncomfortable playing with each other and the time has come to split them up and there is evidence to back this belief. For instance, Simmons best game of the season was against Utah Jazz without Embiid where he scored 42 points while converting 12 of 13 free throws. Yet the Australian Guard scored a combined 19 points in the last three playoff games against Atlanta.
Philadelphia went through a lot of suffering to get Simmons and Embiid and wouldn’t want to break them up so early in their prime years. Under former General Manager Sam Hinkie, Sixers set up to lose as many games as possible to get the best chance to land highly rated players in the Draft.
Looking at James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s careers move to stratospheric levels away from each other shows some players no matter how talented they are can’t truly maximize their potential when they are in close proximity. Durant was named MVP at OKC when Westbrook was injured while Harden won the top award when he was at Houston Rockets and with both men off the team, Westbrook finally broke through to win the Award and average a triple double for three seasons in a row.
Should Simmons get traded, the Denver Nuggets should be the destination with Michael Porter Jnr. and Aaron Gordon going in the opposite direction. Simmons contract matches the value on Porter and Gordon and the both sets of players fit in well with their prospective new teams styles. Simmons lines up at PF with Nikola Jokic at Center, Will Barton at Small Forward, Austin Rivers at Shooting Guard and Jamal Murray at Point Guard. With Murray set to miss significant time next season due to a knee injury, Monte Morris/Facundo Campazzo/PJ Dosier can slot in at PG in the starting unit. Such a lineup offers ample floor spacing around Simmons to hide his weakness and enhance his passing and defensive skills.
On the flip side, Sixers get Porter Jr. as a floor spacing Power Forward alongside Tobias Harris to make Embiid more effective against double teams in the post and Gordon as a backup Forward in the second unit. Seth Curry and a combination of George Hill, Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton should fill the Guard spots in case Danny Green doesn’t sign a new contract
Other teams like Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets are intriguing destinations but both teams have stumbling blocks to make Simmons effective. In Portland, there is the paint dweller Jusuf Nurkic and Houston has John Wall’s expensive contract for two more years. As such, Denver offers the best returns for Philly and the best fit for Simmons.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter