Ben Simmons Is Garbage
And I would take him in a heartbeat
Last night in a make-or-break Game 7, the Sixers wilted against the (very good and fun) Hawks and Ben Simmons was a huge reason why. He played like a (small) role player, with just 5 points and 8 rebounds to go with 13 assists. These are good numbers for a third-tier guy, not the kinds of numbers you want your best player to put up. They are not even Draymond like numbers. Green famously scored 32 points in that 2016 Finals G7 loss, shooting well from distance and being a force.
Ben Simmons is not a good shooter or a good free throw shooter. These do not prevent you from scoring when it matters. Look at Giannis, who is also a terrible shooter (with god-awful form).
Antetokounmpo point totals for the Brooklyn series:
34, 18, 33, 34, 34, 30, 40
Simmons for the Hawks series:
17, 4, 18, 11, 8, 11, 8, 6, 5
It just is not the same. Ben Simmons shrank from the spotlight because he was not confident he could do what was necessary. Giannis struggled (that dropped pass late in game five was a killer) but he powered through that and focussed on what he did well (attack, attack, attack) in game six and seven. The contrast between the similar criticisms is stark: Giannis is a poor shooter and people are asking him to shoot less because he is not as effective as when he attacks and tries to score. Ben Simmons is a terrible shooter and people are asking hime to shoot more because he is ineffective.
That is all the difference. Ben Simmons is struggling because he cannot shoot well. He can probably be effective but doesn’t have the mentality right now. Confidence is everything.
Trade For Simmons
I am not super interested in what the Sixers do this offseason beyond being an NBA fan. Joel Embiid is a fun dude and I like seeing him play in big moments. Outside of the Sixers remaining competitive, I do not much care what they do with their roster. I do care if they think about trading Simmons as despite what we just wrote above, he remains a supreme talent.
If all he needs is a change of scenery to a less blindingly lit area? 2 I think the Spurs would be wise to think about picking him out of the bargain bin. The Sixers are more willing to trade now, than ever. His contract is huge … but the Spurs have a ton of cap space.
It would likely have to be DeRozan-for-Simmons. If you are a Philly guy, I can see how the prospect of a defensive liability, midrange lover with no desire to shoot the three is not much of an upgrade to Simmons in total. Simmons is an all-NBA defense kind of guy but that did not much matter in this series. They needed someone to score that is getting paid to do so. 3 But that is the nature of this scenario. Ben Simmons is damaged goods. Even if he plays outstandingly next regular season, he will have the specter of the playoff struggles hanging over him in a locker room and city that are ready to pounce on any misdeed.
For the Spurs, he could reset and restart. Maybe this is incentive to retain a Patty Mills (Aussies!). He could learn under Chip Engelland. He could be around a young roster with lowered expectations to build his confidence up. Getting the Spurs back into the playoffs would be enough, as the young guys develop. A sign-and-trade with the just-exiting-his-prime DeRozan plus a draft pick might be enough to entice Sixers executive Daryl Morey.
At the extreme, I would give up this year’s first rounder, and one of Derrick White, Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker IV to round it out. The Spurs could swap DeMar DeRozan straight up in a sign-and-trade for Simmons but I think the Sixers would want a little future hedge in the form of a draft pick.
The Sixers have no leverage right now and they can make it work with these two. Morey is notoriously unconcerned with the locker room vibe, but it will no doubt have an effect on everyone’s play. The Spurs do not have to do anything but sit and wait, but DeRozan’s contract is the only real trade chip — and that expires this offseason.
One of my favorite games to play is What Would I Do With My Lotto Winnings? So let us speculate:
Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Ben Simmons, Jakob Poeltl.
Forget about positions, as this is switchable 1-4 in most situations, and could probably be the following for extreme small-ball:
DJ, Lonnie Walker IV, DW, KJ, Ben Simmons.
The problem of course, is that the Spurs have shaky three point shooting and would be dropping one guy who refuses to shoot threes with a guy that refuses to shoot at all.
I like the idea of going with some switchable defenders everywhere and focussing the development on building a primary scorer from within. Lonnie Walker has shown some signs. Keldon Johnson as well. Maybe Ben Simmons turns into the guy everyone wanted him to be.
Let Us Be Negative
To be balanced, let us be negative. If such a scenario were to fail spectacularly it would be because Ben Simmons hates it here, does not develop, and is an albatross contract stifling the development of the team. While his defense is great, his defensive win-shares are at 3.3 vs DeMar’s 1.5. Overall, going by win-shares, DeMar is still the better player (7.4 to 6.0) 4 right now.
Also, the offense, in an offensive league would be awful. The Spurs would be banking heavily on development of Walker, Vassell, Simmons, Murray, Johnson, and Šamanić to turn into great players in a short enough timespan that the Spurs could still afford those guys and win. It would be a tough balancing act that might be too much for the current Spurs brain trust to manage.
Pop is going to retire this or next season (I am speculating) and whoever is next may not command the same respect and get the same development out of these players despite what we all hope.
A Big Ol’ BUT
BUT these are all things that could happen anyway. I like DeRozan, but he is 30 years old and likely is looking at his window for an NBA title closing much quicker than he would like. He will be valued on the open market but I cannot see an obvious contender (outside of Brooklyn, which will take anyone so long as they are cheap) valuing DDR’s contributions. The Sixers need a change and the Spurs/DeRozan may have just concluded their natural time together.
The Spurs are looking at the next few season with the same kind of problems as they would have if they were not to trade for Simmons. Who will score? Who will shoot the three at a decent clip not named Patty Mills? Who will coach this squad?
I like the idea of doing it with a (flawed) talent that can play a little defense and has all the skills necessary (he can shoot, just is afraid to). The Spurs have the kind of coaching staff that can help Simmons. (Chip helped make Tony Parker into a shooting threat! He helped Murray turn himself into a shooter! He helped Kawhi become Kawhi!)
Make it happen Brian Wright.
Doc Rivers is notorious for throwing his players under the bus. Josh Smith spent the night roasting him.
Like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, I don’t know, Chauncey Billups?
Tobias Harris, a one-time Spurs option for Kawhi Leonard has a big contract and was supposed to be that dude. Instead he is just fine.
This trade would heavily rely on the fact that Simmons is still developing and so would eventually be a better Spurs player than DeMar is now, of course.