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Why 76ers’ Ben Simmons trade options are more limited with the team in win-now mode

A few years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were in the business of trading established players for future assets in the form of draft picks or young, unproven talent. That is no longer the case. After making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals twice in the last three years, and having center Joel Embiid finish second in MVP voting this past season, the Sixers are firmly in win-now mode. This limits the options when it comes to a potential Ben Simmons trade.

Simmons had a less-than-stellar semifinals series against the Atlanta Hawks, and he shot a historically poor percentage from the foul line during the postseason. In 12 playoff games, Simmons made just 25 of his 73 attempts from the charity stripe, which equates to 34 percent — the worst mark in a single postseason in NBA history for a player with that many attempts. Simmons’ struggles from the foul line clearly shook his confidence, and that leaked over into other areas of his game. In the full seven-game series against Atlanta, Simmons took three total shots in the fourth quarter. He didn’t attempt a single shot in the fourth quarter in five of the seven games.  

Simmons’ struggles, combined with his perceived lack of improvement over his four seasons with the Sixers, led to an explosion of trade speculation on the internet after the Sixers were eliminated. Simmons’ agent has already met with Philadelphia’s front office regarding his future with the franchise, but no trade demands were made. And while some Philadelphia fans are eager to unload Simmons, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will likely approach things in a much more measured manner. 

Based on his track record, it’s safe to say Morey will evaluate all options when it comes to improving the Sixers over the offseason. Morey was reportedly willing to trade Simmons for James Harden during the season, so he obviously wouldn’t be opposed to doing so — if the right deal were to present itself. But that doesn’t mean he’ll make a deal just for the sake of making one. And because the Sixers are in that win-now mode, the number of acceptable, or attractive, offers will likely be slim. 

If the Sixers were a couple of years away from true contention they could afford to take on promising, albeit unproven young players, or even draft picks in exchange for Simmons. But that’s not the case. Instead, the Sixers need a star-caliber player — ideally a guard to play alongside Embiid — that can contribute at a near-elite level immediately. That means that offers centered on draft picks likely won’t move the needle for Philadelphia. 

For example, the Golden State Warriors could potentially offer the Sixers both the seventh and 14th picks in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft for Simmons, but how would that help Philly in the short term? The Sixers need to do everything that they can maximize Embiid’s prime as a player and to built a complete team around him, and trading for picks or unproven players doesn’t help to do that. By failing to do so, you also run the risk of drawing Embiid’s ire. Now, if the Warriors were willing to part with Klay Thompson (they’re not), that might be a different story. 

If you’re going to trade a player of Simmons’ caliber, you need to get a player, or two, in return that will improve the team markedly. The Sixers are well aware of this, as they’re reportedly only willing to move Simmons in exchange for an already established All-Star-caliber player. They’ve reportedly already turned down offers for the three-time All-Star, including a deal from the Indiana Pacers that featured a first-round pick and Malcolm Brogdon.  

This is a wise approach from Philadelphia, though it may ultimately make finding a deal difficult, as there aren’t typically too many All-Star-caliber players available on the market. The Sixers are hoping for an opportunity to land Portland Trail Blazers star guard Dame Lillard, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, and for good reason. If you’re going to trade Simmons, Lillard is the exact type of player you’d want in return. A star that provides the team with something it didn’t previously have, that projects to pair excellently with Embiid and that could immediately raise the team’s ceiling, especially on the offensive end. If Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal became available, he’s another guy that the Sixers could feel good about flipping Simmons for. 

There is still a strong market for Simmons, but teams having interest in him is different than teams being willing to part with prized pieces in order to acquire him. After his postseason struggles, teams might be hesitant to trade too much for Simmons. That, combined with the very specific type of return that the Sixers are looking for, will likely limit the amount of viable options for a trade involving Simmons over the offseason. 




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