The “Process” 76ers once had a promising core featuring top picks Ben Simmons, Dario Šarić, Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor, and Joel Embiid.
Only Simmons and Embiid remain as the Sixers enter media day and training camp this week — and that could change soon. Simmons has stood firm with his trade demand and continued what’s been an anything but normal journey.
At one point, there was a legit debate on whether Embiid or Simmons was the franchise cornerstone. Embiid’s growth into an MVP candidate combined with Simmons’ lack of improvement as a shooter have ended those talks and opened up new ones, and those conversations have resulted in discussions about the latter’s future.
Simmons isn’t expected to be in Philly’s future and a lot comes with that. Here are a few topics to consider.
Where the Sixers stand
When Doc Rivers got the Sixers job, he spoke confidently about his feeling towards Simmons. He even said early in the NBA season season that he doesn’t care about Simmons looking for his own offense.
It wasn’t hard for the fan base to trust him, either. After all, Rivers won an NBA championship with Rajon Rondo, a point guard who didn’t shoot much and struggled when he did so. That trust was put into question in the playoffs. Simmons was removed from the game during key stretches late in the fourth quarter, and Rivers didn’t issue the same vote of confidence at the end of the season when he declined to answer a question about Simmons’ ability to handle point guard duties for a title team.
Rivers put an end to any questions on Simmons when he appeared on ESPN and said he wants to bring him back. This message had already been communicated to Simmons in a meeting, so it’s hard to see that changing his situation with the team.
The Sixers hold some leverage because they could potentially fine Simmons for missing training camp practices, but he doesn’t appear fazed. Philly is in a lose-lose situation where Simmons’ trade stock is not at the same level, and he isn’t interested in playing to boost that value.
What’s the holdup?
Trading Simmons is not easy. Yes, he’s a young, desirable player, but he has four years left on his contract. The Sixers would need a young tantalizing player to remain competitive in the East, and a boatload of picks won’t work.
Last season is a distant memory. Acquiring a player like James Harden is much more unlikely, but the Sixers aren’t giving up on that dream. A source told the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey last month that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey wants a “kings ransom.”
Simmons’ strong stance against playing in Philly only hurts Morey’s bid for that kind of deal. It’s looking like the Sixers will need to lower their price, or bank on Simmons seeing those fines add up and changing his mind.
Simmons is set to lose a lot of money when he doesn’t appear at training camp. In addition to potential training camp fines, he could lose out on $227,613 for each preseason game missed. He’d be looking at losing almost a million dollars before the Sixers regular season starts against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 20.
Simmons and his agent, Rich Paul, will either stand firm or sacrifice millions. On the Sixers side, they must figure out how a Simmons return would impact team chemistry. By all accounts, his teammates want him back and recently tried to stage a meeting in Los Angeles. Embiid and Danny Green both think fans should ease up on Simmons.
No Simmons means a promotion for Tyrese Maxey or Shake Milton. If he returns, that player will likely be asked to give up that starting spot.