Since 76ers general manager Elton Brand said during an Aug. 25 press conference that he isn’t planning to trade Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, it appears that Simmons, a two-time All-Star, will be back.
Of course, things change, and what if Brand is overwhelmed by an offer for either Simmons or Embiid? Brand is looking to rebuild the Sixers, a team that entered 2019-2020 as a major contender in the eyes of prognosticators but disappointed after being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics.
Even if Brand decided to trade Simmons, this is not the time because of his most recent injury. Plus, new coach Doc Rivers expressed confidence during his introductory press conference that he can improve Simmons' game.
Here is a look at the positives and negatives of Simmons:
The minuses of Simmons
Simmons, 24, suffered two key injuries this season. He missed time with a lower back injury, but used the months during the NBA stoppage to heal. He then suffered a left knee injury on Aug. 5 in a game against Washington that required season-ending surgery.
Even if the Sixers wanted to trade him, they would not get a full return before teams were convinced that he was healthy.
After missing his entire rookie season with a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, Simmons was a model of durability the next two seasons, playing in 81 and 79 games, respectively.
Simmons played 57 of 73 games this season. He didn’t appear bothered at all by his back injury when he returned in August, but now the question will be how well he bounces back from his knee injury.
In the summer of 2019, we kept seeing videos of Simmons shooting threes in the gym, and there was hope that he would actually attempt to shoot more.
Then came the season, and he attempted just seven three-pointers (making two). Yet it isn’t just about threes for Simmons.
The theory that if he started shooting threes, defenses would have to play up on him and he could drive around them, is not realistic. Unless he showed he could consistently hit a three, defenses are going to sag off him, hoping he does attempt them.
Where Simmons has truly failed is even attempting many medium-range jumpers. This season, he had 640 field goal attempts. According to Basketball-reference.com, all but 37 of those attempts came from 10 feet and in, including 413 at the rim. Only 30 of those attempts were from 10 feet out to the three-point line.
The fact that Simmons scored so much with teams playing off him because of not respecting his shot, shows what a talented finisher he is. But there were a lot of open 11-to-15-foot shots that he simply refused to take.
In the playoffs, those points near the rim are more difficult to come by, which is why Simmons would be a much more effective scorer if he could take a few more med-range jumpers, not to mention a few more threes.
What has been encouraging is that he has increased his free-throw percentage, from .560 to .600 to .621. That is still well below the league average (.773), but at least it is showing an upward progression.
Giving up this early on him would be a major gamble, especially with all the versatility he has on both ends of the floor. Even if he never is willing to shoot from the perimeter, he can still be a contributing player, but will never reach his full potential. There is still a lot he contributes on the offensive and defensive end, and the Sixers will likely hope that Rivers will be able to help Simmons reach that next level. But that will only come with his willingness to shoot more from the outside.
Simmons led the NBA in steals per game (2.1). According to basketball-referene.com, he was eighth in the NBA in defensive box plus minus (2.3), which is the defensive value when the player is on the court. That meant the Sixers were 2.3 points per 100 possessions better with Simmons on the floor defensively than with average production from another player.
Simmons is also an outstanding passer, with great vision while also taking advantage of his height to see over defenses. He was sixth in assists per game (8.0). Simmons was 18th in assist percentage (33.8) which is an estimate of percentage of teammates field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor.
At his height, he is also a good rebounder, finishing 22nd with 7.8 rebounds per game. Simmons is also able to get a rebound and lead the fast break. According to NBA.com stats, he was eighth in the league in fast break points (3.8 per game).
Simmons turned 24 in July. His five-year, $170 million extension begins this upcoming 2020-2021 season.
Giving up this early on him would be a major gamble, especially with all the versatility he has on both ends of the floor. Even if he never is willing to shoot from the perimeter, he can still be a contributing player, but will never reach his full potential. There is still a lot he contributes on the offensive and defensive end, and the Sixers will likely hope that Rivers will be able to indeed help Simmons reach that next level that will only come with his willingness to shoot more from the outside.