Last month, reports indicated that Ben Simmons had told the Philadelphia 76ers he wants to be traded and is willing to hold out of training camp to make it happen. The 76ers, meanwhile, are still hoping for a big return for the three-time All-Star, and have not been able to find a suitable deal yet.
With things at an impasse, and neither side interested in budging on their demands right now, there's a chance this could turn into one of the ugliest situations we've had in the NBA in a while. A report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst on Wednesday afternoon offered further evidence.
Per Windhorst, Simmons has made it clear to the Sixers that it isn't his job to improve his trade value.
“One of the messages Ben [Simmons] has sent back to towards Philly is that it’s not his job to fix his trade value…”— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) September 8, 2021
-ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the Jump regarding Ben Simmons and the Sixers pic.twitter.com/6Y0d4YbBcX
Windhorst's full comments:
One of the messages Ben has sent back towards Philly is that it's not his job to fix his trade value. It's not his job to correct his trade value or raise his trade value. That is not something that's on the menu for him. With that out there, I don't think he's interested in coming in and trying to change the situation.
One thing that's interesting is his contract is structured in a way that he's gonna get half of his money by Oct. 1. Sixteen-and-a-half million of his $33 million comes before he has to worry about getting fined a single dime. He's gonna have a war chest where he can just sit this out.
It's not as if there was a lot of hope that Simmons and the Sixers could fix their relationship at this point, but this report makes it pretty clear that it's unsalvageable. Once the petty comments like this start flying, it's over. The only question now is when Simmons gets traded.
He would already be gone if there was a deal out there that the Sixers liked, but a year after they were trying to trade him for James Harden, Simmons' trade value is the lowest it has ever been. He is coming off another poor showing in the playoffs, has major offensive limitations that make team-building a challenge and the Sixers have absolutely zero leverage.
The problem for the Sixers is that there's no way to improve Simmons' trade value if things stay the way they are. And to some extent, Simmons is right that it's not his problem. He's not in charge of the Sixers, and if he's traded it won't matter to him what sort of return they get. Plus, since he'll get half of his money up front, the Sixers' threats of fines if he sits out won't mean much.
Where this gets a bit frustrating is improving your trade value and improving your game go hand in hand. It is Simmons' job to do the latter, but if anything he's regressed in some ways on offense since he entered the league. Go back and watch clips from him at Summer League before his rookie season. It's like a completely different player.
He wasn't launching 3s all over the place, but he was knocking down pull-up jumpers with ease and looked much more dynamic. Now he basically refuses to shoot outside of the paint, can't make free throws and infamously passed up a dunk in the Game 7 loss to the Hawks. It doesn't make things any better when you learn that a few years ago he ghosted the Sixers' shooting coach to work out with his brother instead.
All of that isn't to say Simmons is a bad player. On the contrary, he's quite good, especially on the defensive end where he's arguably the best in the league because of his size, athleticism and versatility. He is a menace in transition and a gifted passer. But no one has ever denied those traits. They've simply hoped to see more, in particular in the playoffs, and it hasn't happened.
Crucially, it's not because Simmons has just failed -- that happens -- but because he seems to have adopted a laissez faire approach that crops up again in this report from Windhorst. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does make it difficult to get what you want. Which for Simmons at this moment is a ticket out of Philadelphia.