The worst-kept secret in the NBA is that the 76ers are willing to trade Ben Simmons.
They already tried to ship him to the Houston Rockets in January in exchange for James Harden. And based on his postseason play, there’s a sense around the NBA that he’s going to be shopped again.
Actually, a new team might be a good thing for the three-time All-Star, and the Sixers.
But, as expected, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey wouldn’t tip his hand in regard to Simmons’ future in Philadelphia.
“We’re committed to this group,” Morey said Tuesday when asked if he expects Simmons to be on next season’s roster.
“This is a really good group that played at a very high level,” Morey said. “You know, obviously, part of my job is to self-reflect, read what others are writing because you can learn from that. And a lot of what I’m reading, I frankly don’t understand. You know people are saying the Sixers are in a bad situation.
“I don’t choose to come here, [coach] Doc [Rivers] doesn’t choose to come here if this is a bad situation.”
Morey, the former general manager of the Rockets, said the Sixers have a good foundation in league MVP runner-up Joel Embiid, Simmons, All-Star snub Tobias Harris, and young players signed long-term. He said the bottom line is that everyone has to do better.
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“That’s the challenge,” Morey said. “I can tell everyone in Philadelphia that there’s going to be a ton of effort up and down, from myself, the front office, the coaching staff, and the players who are being challenged as we speak in meetings with Doc Rivers on how they can get better as well.”
While that may be true, the growing sentiment in Philadelphia and around the league is that a change of scenery would be good for Simmons and the Sixers.
So Morey was asked again if Simmons will be a Sixer next season.
“We have a very strong group that we believe in,” he said. “None of us can predict the future of what’s going to happen in any place. We love what Ben brings. We love what Joel brings. We love what Tobias brings.
“In terms of what’s next, we are going to do what’s best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster.”
Does that mean that Morey would move Simmons if the possibility was there to improve the team?
“Not addressing Ben Simmons,” he said, “but any move that will help our team win the championship or improve our odds, you know we will look at and do if it makes sense to do that.”
Morey knows that publicly admitting to seeking to trade him would lower Simmons’ already dwindling trade stock.
League executives witnessed Simmons’ poor foul shooting and fear of shooting the ball in the postseason. So it will be hard to move him and get equal value in return. His contract also is a problem.
Simmons still has a guaranteed $146.6 million and four years remaining on that contract. An elite team does not want to tie up that much cap space on a guy who’s been a nonfactor in the postseason. And this postseason was the worst of his three.
Simmons shot just 25-for-73 (34.2%) from the foul line, marking the worst postseason free-throw shooting in NBA history. He also took only three shots in 56 fourth-quarter minutes during the seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Atlanta Hawks. None of the fourth-quarter shot attempts came in the final four games.
Simmons passed up an open dunk with the Sixers down, 88-86, with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in Sunday’s Game 7. Upset fans burned his jersey following the game. Now his work ethic has also come into question.