Ben Simmons

We sit less than 70 days away from the start of the 2021-22 NBA season. As Summer League continues on and free agency mostly comes to its conclusion, it’s time to answer some of your questions. Put in different terms, it is the middle of August. It is very hot outside. I am looking for reasons to stay out of the heat. So, what better time to do a Sixers mailbag than now? 

@PatrickO_Leary

The Sixers would be best served not panicking. Let him sit. He’s under contract until 2025. Simmons has no leverage in the situation. If he chooses to make a scene, the Sixers should find a way to grow comfortable with the awkwardness. He’s their biggest trade chip and their primary vehicle to acquiring Damian Lillard, should he become available. So, trading him hastily to avoid discomfort could jeopardize and, perhaps, mortally wound their future if the return doesn’t create a pathway for them to become a better team.

If Simmons wants out, it’s in his best interest to show up and play. The better he plays, and he’s generally been a very good regular season player in his career, the more trade interest there will be. But, Rich Paul is a major factor in that conversation. He could easily drag the Sixers through the mud and direct his client to sit out. But, it’s probably in his best interest to show up and ball out if he really wants to leave. For the record, some in Simmons’ camp have remained insistent that he is open to returning to the team despite all that has happened since the final buzzer of game 7. 

@sixercountry

Georges Niang is a very good pick-up. Not the flashiest name, and his contract reflects role player value. But, he’s a monumental upgrade over Mike Scott. The most important asset he offers is shooting at the power forward position. His efficiency on high volume over the last few years indicate that the shooting success is real. On top of that, he can put the ball on the floor and attack close-outs on line-drives. Niang’s passing and creativity is perhaps a bit underrated, as well. 

The only real downside is that he doesn’t promote the defensive optionality that the Sixers love. He guards strictly other power forwards and lacks the foot speed to stay in front of guards or wings if switched onto them. So, there is legitimate potential that he could be a liability on defense. But, he’s a major upgrade on offense.

@bapter223

Korkmaz’s return, on paper, presents a significant road block to Joe’s opportunity for minutes. But, Korkmaz should be viewed as a situational player. If he’s off that night, Joe should be the beneficiary of some more minutes. But, with Tyrese Maxey’s emerge as a point guard, Shake Milton is logically in line for minutes at shooting guard. So, even if Korkmaz is off, it’s difficult to find minutes for Joe.

If he were an inch or two taller, the vision of Joe getting minutes at small forward would be much more realistic. His wingspan certainly teases the possibility. But given Joe’s lanky frame, that he can defend opposing small forwards is a difficult argument to sell. There will be nights when the Sixers look lethargic on offense and, perhaps, elect to go for a small-ball lineup with lots of shooting. Maybe his name is called then. But, Isaiah Joe being the beneficiary of significant minutes is a difficult sell. 

I will say that it’s in the best interest of acquiring Damian Lillard that Doc Rivers and company give Joe a chance. Every young, cost-controlled wing prospect is another asset that could appeal to Portland.

For now, your best bet is Paul Reed cracking the rotation in his second campaign.

@clarencecooper4

There are a couple of factors that make this deal inconceivable to me. First, CJ McCollum as the only win-now piece of a return for Ben Simmons is not good enough. Second, Draymond Green seems like a Warriors lifer. I don’t see him going anywhere.

I will say that there’s a real possibility that Jonathan Kuminga ends up in Portland if there’s a three-team deal involving the Blazers, Warriors, and Sixers that sends Lillard to Philadelphia. 

@pbraxmeier

It seems inevitable that he will ask for a trade. He has to decide between wanting to win elsewhere and staying loyal to Portland. It’s clear he can’t accomplish the former in Portland. Right now, you’re waiting for him to evaluate the situation and consider giving them a chance to start the season. Ultimately, I think his goal is to avoid looking like the bad guy. So, it makes sense that he gives them a shot, knowing that he’s done, and then requests out early in the season.

The Simmons situation depends entirely on Lillard’s decision. It’s clear Philly is positioning itself for Lillard. If he decides he’s had enough before training camp starts, it’s certainly possible they deal Simmons prior to the start. If not, then Simmons will likely have to decide whether to come to camp or sit out until the situation is resolved.

The multi-team possibility seems increasingly likely. A rebuilding team–which Portland would ostensibly become–might prefer picks for a fresh reboot. If that’s the case, a three-or-more-teamer makes sense. If Portland opts for the soft refresh, perhaps Ben Simmons is a desirable piece for them and it’s a two-teamer. It depends on Portland’s vision for its rebuild and how much they value Ben Simmons.

My guess is that Simmons will don a Warriors jersey next season, so, yes, he’ll end up in California.

I think it’s inevitable that Lillard will come to terms with the reality that he needs to be traded in order to win a title. So, I don’t envision Morey–a reputed star-hunter–moving on from him. For the sake of the question, my guess is that he tries some other tactics to attract Lillard to Philly for a brief period of time. If that doesn’t work, he assesses the star landscape and makes a decision about whether or not keeping Simmons is the best option.

I haven’t heard anything about their plans for the trade exception. It would make sense, especially for future trade equity, if they use it to acquire multiple players on less expensive deals that add up to the total exception amount. But, I have no feel for their plans for it.

@aaronsniper7

Unless there’s a third team that has a star they’re willing to depart with to acquire those pieces from the Spurs and send said star to Philly, this wouldn’t be an appropriate return in my eyes. The Sixers are far better off holding onto Simmons through this rough patch than they are trading him for pennies on the dollar.

@vinfosh

I want everyone to know that I am not part of this bit at all. To answer the question, it’s always been Jason Blevins, the yoda and Sixers beat writer of The Painted Lines. But, Mike Kaye of NJ[dot]com is a recent mentor, too. For those who don’t know Mike, his Eagles content is electric and he really enjoys colorful socks. Just make sure that, if you ever encounter him, you don’t refer to NJ[dot]com as NewJersey[dot]com. That’s a government website. It really grinds his gears.

@ChuckAFAF

Tough one. I suppose Tom McGinnis is first in line. After that, I would go with Tom McCarthy, the TV voice of the Phillies. If NBC Sports Philadelphia goes for a national name, I’m high on Brian Anderson from TNT and Bally Sports Wisconsin.

I never considered the possibility that his tenure would end, too. I don’t see why that would be the case. So, I guess he stays.

Ryan Murphy

This submission came via Twitter direct messages. Since that was the context, I’ll keep his handle private.

“In a percent, what are the odds Ben Simmons is starting on opening night for the 76ers?”

I’m not confident in either possibility. Right now, I’ll go 60/40 in favor of him not being there. The moves they’ve made this offseason suggest that the Sixers are positioning themselves for a Simmons trade sooner rather than later.

“Say the Sixers get bounced first round of the playoffs, is Doc’s job in danger?”

Well, that would certainly be a story. I would think it is absolutely in danger in that scenario. The last two conclusions of his seasons have been quite damning. A first round failure–assuming everyone is healthy–would be unacceptable.

“What most needs to happen for this Sixers team to win a championship? (Players developing, trades, signings, etc.)

Health, first and foremost. The Sixers likely beat the Hawks if Danny Green is healthy. But, that a role player like Green could shift their chances that substantially speaks to bigger issues with the team. They need to acquire a legitimate point guard and shot-creator to control the offense in the playoffs. If Lillard becomes available, they must win the sweepstakes. If they get him, the Sixers are an undisputed title contender. Third, they’re going to need luck similar to what they had this past season. They’re not getting through both Brooklyn and Milwaukee. They need to find a way to take care of their business and then hope that their Eastern Conference foes fall behind them in the standings. If they can earn that 1-seed again–and ostensibly avoid one of Brooklyn and Milwaukee until the Conference Finals–they’ll be in a position of strength.