The Philadelphia 76ers opened training camp on Sept. 28, one day after the hot topic at media day was the one player not in attendance. Erstwhile All-Star point guard Ben Simmons continues to hold out. He and his camp have not relented in sending the message that the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up in 2020–21 won’t don the red-white-and-blue (and occasionally black) uniforms of the 76ers again.
According to a recent report, his desire to leave the city of Brotherly Love in his rearview mirror is so great he’d even welcome a trade to the franchise with one of the two most prolonged playoff droughts in NBA history. We’re a long way from the “Ben Simmons wants to go to one of three teams in California” reports.
The impasse continues between the 76ers and Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons has reportedly been in a funk since the abrupt end to the playoffs for the top-seeded 76ers. After Philadelphia was upset at home in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Simmons took a lot of the blame. He was ghastly at the foul line throughout the playoffs. He hit, a particularly low-water mark against the Atlanta Hawks at 33.3%. Let’s be real: 15-for-45 is a lousy 3-point shooting line, for crying out loud.
Simmons infamously passed up a wide-open dunk in the fourth quarter of Game 7 and finished the series with zero shot attempts in Games 3 through 7. Coach Doc Rivers and superstar Joel Embiid were lukewarm at best in their defense of the Australian star.
At media day, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey launched a monologue about how Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers patched their differences. Simmons and his camp weren’t buying what the Elvis Presley of basketball analytics was selling.
Unless Simmons returns and shoots like Stephen Curry, his trade value is as good as it’s ever going to be. He’s played four seasons; we know what he is. Simmons is a defensive savant as well as a terrific playmaker and penetrator. But he scares only his teammates and fans with his perimeter shooting.
Simmons is reportedly willing to go to the Sacramento Kings
In early September, reports indicated Ben Simmons listed three preferred destinations, all in California. The Golden State (the state, not the Warriors) has four franchises, making the assumption easy. The Sacramento Kings were the likeliest candidate to be off the list.
But according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, a trade to Sactown might be on the table. Aldridge maintains the Kings can make a better offer for Simmons than can the other potential contenders (the Indiana Pacers and the Minnesota Timberwolves). But he also reported that Sacramento isn’t off-limits for the star:
“I’ve written this on Simmons to Sac before, and the rationale still holds. Simmons is an elite defensive player. He’s an elite passer. He has four years left on his deal. (He would have no problem going to Sacramento, I’m told, so strong is his desire to get out of Philadelphia.)
“The Kings were historically bad defensively last season. Simmons wouldn’t be a savior, but with him and (De’Aaron) Fox and whichever one of (Tyrese) Halliburton and (Davion) Mitchell the Kings kept in this scenario, Sac would suddenly become a problem defensively, wildly switchable, and able to get from defense to offense in a heartbeat.”
The assumption is that sweet-shooting and defenseless wing Buddy Hield would be in a potential Simmons deal. As Aldridge pointed out: The Kings wouldn’t shoot as well without Hield, but they were 10 games below .500 with him. It would be hard to get worse.
Ben Simmons would be a massive score for Sacramento Kings GM Monte McNair
Monte McNair took over the personnel decision-making for the Sacramento Kings in September 2020. Five-plus years of Vlade Divac yielded nothing but more playoff-free seasons. Last season was the 15th straight year the Kings missed the postseason. That matched the dreadful Buffalo Braves/San Diego Clippers/Los Angeles Clippers punchline from 1977–91.
Ben Simmons is not a player the Kings even get a meeting with during free agency. Acquiring Simmons would put the Kings in contention for a playoff berth. He’s also got four years left on his contract. A team couldn’t get a longer-term commitment from a star player in free agency without Bird rights.
It’s worth the gamble for McNair and the Sacramento Kings. Ben Simmons would make them competitive. And it’s worth anything to avoid being a bigger joke in NBA history than the pre-Lob City Clippers.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.