Many assume Ben Simmons is still going to be traded.
A skeptic would deduce the disgruntled point guard’s return to Philly to undergo COVID-19 testing, take a required physical and meet with team’s brass is merely a prerequisite to getting his money and being traded.
A skeptic would also point out how Simmons’ holdout while demanding a trade with four years and $146.6 million left on his contract could set a bad precedent for the NBA.
Who’s to say another unhappy-maximum-salary-contract player wouldn’t copy Simmons’ move if it was successful?
League officials, team executives and owners must have paid close attention to the Simmons Saga.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The saga will not be over until Simmons is either fully committed to playing out his contract or is traded.
But without a doubt, it is the Sixers who are the ones benefiting from Simmons ending a 14-day holdout.
His presence will help the team from a competitive standpoint, assuming he plays. The Sixers are worse without him. That’s not a good thing for a team that starts three of their first four games on the road and has a tough stretch in November.
As I noted before, a great time to unload Simmons would be after Dec. 15, the first day this summer’s newly signed free agents can be traded. That timeframe provides a bigger pool of potential trade partners.
But by then, the Sixers will have played 28 games into an 82-game season. A slow start could dampen their championship hopes.
That may not be a concern for Simmons. Aside from not having to pay more fines, one could argue that coming back to the organization does nothing for him.
His trade value isn’t going to skyrocket just because he’s back in the building. Nor is it going to rapidly increase by playing in games unless he suddenly becomes a can’t miss three-point and free-throw shooter.
Potential traders should already know exactly what they’re getting from the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder. Simmons is an elite, multifaceted playmaker. He excels in the open court and can guard positions one through four. In addition to being a point guard, the 24-year-old excels as a backup power forward and small-ball center.
But he struggles in the pressure-filled postseason when the game goes to a half-court setting. That’s when his lack of perimeter shooting and weak foul shooting can be exploited.
None of this is a secret. Teams don’t need to see Simmons post a triple-double against the New Orleans Pelicans in next Wednesday’s season opener to make a decision.
Potential trade partners can’t pay attention to his interactions with teammates and dealings with media and fan scrutiny. Even if things go better than expected, who knows if this is just for the short term?
Teams know who Simmons is and have to accept it. There’s nothing he has to prove. Everybody knows who he is on and off the court. Teams are going to believe his track record, not what happens in the next few weeks.
That’s why it’s tough to figure out what coming back accomplishes for Simmons, aside from saving him money.
Simmons could have agreed to return and give 100% in exchange for the Sixers agreeing to trade him. But there’s no guarantee the Sixers will make a deal without getting equal value.
That’s why the only entity that truly benefits from his return, especially if Simmons plays, is the Sixers.
Let’s face it, this current group loses a lot of its competitiveness without Simmons.
“I’ve always said that I believe that he gives us the best chance to win,” Joel Embiid said. “We are a better team, with him than without, that’s for sure.”
Combo guards Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey are the primary starting point-guard candidates without Simmons. However, Tobias Harris is the team’s best initiator of the offense.
Knowing that, the Sixers ran a chunk of their half-court sets through the power forward and Embiid in the preseason. They would receive the ball in the perimeter and pass to cutting teammates and/or find open three-point shooters.
Defensively, Simmons’ ability against the opposing team’s best player, regardless of positions one through four, was a “huge luxury.” Without him, the Sixers are forced to defend collectively.
The Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed in last season’s postseason, the Sixers had high hopes for a similar achievement this season. But now they’re expected to fall behind the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat.
Although the Sixers finished with the Eastern Conference’s best record last season, they’re not expected to contend with the projected conference powers.
So the Sixers want Simmons to play to help win games.
In addition, if he’s insistent on leaving, the hope for Simmons is that playing increases his trade value. But if the Sixers can’t get anything for him, maybe they’ll try to convince him to stay.
The Sixers are trying to win a championship. They believe they’re in a better position to win it with Simmons on their roster.