With training camp set to open on Sept. 28, the clock is ticking for the Philadelphia 76ers to resolve things with unhappy star Ben Simmons. Simmons says he won’t report for camp, while the 76ers retain the option of withholding his first salary payment for 2021–22 due on Oct. 1. Rumors have surfaced that people in the NBA expect a Simmons trade to go down within days.
It’s been a turbulent offseason for Philadelphia in the wake of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Simmons disappeared offensively late in games throughout the series. His free-throw shooting compounded the problem, reaching a level where coach Doc Rivers couldn’t play him late if the 76ers led. Simmons reportedly wants out, to the point he doesn’t want to wear a Sixers uniform again.
The Philadelphia 76ers have the leverage over Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is entering the second year of a five-year, $177.2 million extension he signed in July 2019. The contract doesn’t include an option year, so the Philadelphia 76ers have him locked down for the next four years unless they choose to send him elsewhere.
The structure of Simmons’ contract also gives Philadelphia added leverage. The two-time All-Defensive selection is due 25% of his salary, roughly $8.25 million, on Oct. 1. Should Simmons not report, the Sixers could theoretically withhold the check until he does.
The player hasn’t helped his position. The 76ers haven’t liked any trade offers thus far and are hopeful Simmons getting back on the court could help his value. He reportedly told the club it wasn’t his job to increase his trade value.
Wanting out and not trying to facilitate that request doesn’t seem like an excellent strategy for Simmons. But that’s where we are.
Reports say the Philadelphia 76ers have a sleeper destination in the mix
Sam Amico of HoopsWire reported that the Philadelphia 76ers have talked about potential Ben Simmons moves with “multiple” teams. There is an expectation around the league, according to Amico, that Simmons will be an ex-76er before the Oct. 1 payday.
The hefty contract makes for a challenging trade, considering 11 teams are hard-capped at the luxury-tax apron, and 12 are more than $34 million over the salary cap.
Amico tweeted that the Denver Nuggets are a sleeper team in the Simmons sweepstakes. With roughly $1.4 million left before hitting the luxury tax line, the Nuggets would seem to be an unlikely suitor for a max contract player such as Simmons.
But with MVP Nikola Jokić in line for a $241 million supermax extension next summer and promising young star Michael Porter Jr. on the clock for a rookie extension, the traditionally thrifty management team in Denver may roll the dice on making a title push this season.
As for a simple trade, the odds of that are slim, per an Amico tweet.
“Don’t think in terms of straight-up trades,” Amico cited one general manager as saying. Multiple teams almost certainly must be involved to accommodate the salaries involved.
Ben Simmons in a battle of egos
The egos in play are enormous. Ben Simmons is a superstar with a broken jump shot, a power forward body, and a point guard game. He’s also an elite defender. But he’s also exhibited difficulty dealing with criticism. Teammate Joel Embiid exacerbated that while trying to defend Simmons (sort of), insinuating on Twitter that his teammate might not respond well to critiques from fans and media.
Daryl Morey, the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, is a cult hero among the analytics crowd. His innovative moves with the Houston Rockets opened the door to the pace-and-space era, where all baskets are dunks or 3-pointers.
No one wants to budge in this battle of wills. Morey reportedly wants not just a king’s ransom but potentially a ransom for an entire royal flush. Simmons seems to feel the organization hung him out to dry after the playoff loss.
The Defensive Player of the Year runner-up also reportedly has three preferred destinations, all in California. But he’s due a 15% trade kicker if he goes anywhere and, without a no-trade clause to hide behind, the decision is ultimately up to management.
The Philadelphia 76ers believe they are in their championship window right now. Ben Simmons was a vital piece of that effort, but the longer this situation lingers, the more toxic it becomes for the organization.
The fate of The Process hangs in the balance.
Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.