The Philadelphia 76ers, coming off a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors Sunday night, may be in for a roster overhaul they never expected. After their second straight 50-win season, the Sixers find themselves in the same place they were in last season. A second trip to the second-round and nothing to show for it but questions.
As they begin their offseason, GM Elton Brand must decide who stays and who goes. Will Jimmy Butler return? What about Tobias Harris, J.J. Redick or Mike Scott? All important pieces to the Sixers’ puzzle but the big question is: what do they do with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons?
Both players are signed for next season. So, Brand will have to make a big trade here. Trading Embiid will bring in a monster haul for the Philadelphia 76ers as he’s regarded as one of the best big men in the NBA. But still, is it worth it? The NBA has shifted gears in terms of how Centers’s are used. Teams nowadays have the “small ball” tactic but Embiid is a throwback player that any team would love to have on their roster.
In 2018, Embiid averaged 27.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Why give that up? Not forgetting to mention, his on/off court approach to the game. Embiid is a rare find and trading him away may set the franchise back years. Yes, he could bring in two first-round picks or a superstar like Anthony Davis but why snatch away another high-profile player like past years with the trading of Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson? Trading Embiid is not the answer.
On the other side of the coin is Ben Simmons.
Simmons is a potential walking triple-double on a nightly basis. However, his shortcomings continue to reveal themselves in tight situations. During the regular season, Simmons averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 assists, and 8.8 rebounds. Solid numbers for any player but we would find out against the Raptors just why the Sixers may need to trade him.
During that series, Simmions, a 6-10 PG averaged just 11.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. If Simmons were not an All-Star, this would be acceptable. But the issue here is, he is one. With Kyle Lowry of the Raptors struggling, Simmons was not able to take advantage. His dribble penetration was non-existent and that’s a major problem due to his inability to take perimeter shots.
With Simmons struggling, Jimmy Butler and Harris were forced to do entirely too much. This is the concern Brand must have as he looks for answers this offseason. If he had to choose which of his cornerstone pieces to trade, then Simmons would be the easy answer.
While Embiid will draw a bigger interest, teams will still be willing to take a chance on a pass first PG. There was a time when Jason Kidd was reluctant to shoot from the outside and the same went for Rajon Rondo. What Simmons needs is a coach who wants more out of him. As it stands now, Brett Brown is not that guy. He seems to be complacent with Simmons’ shortcomings and refuses to desire more out of his All-Star player.
But where and for whom is the question?
What the Sixers’ offense need is a player who can not only penetrate but be willing to take the open jump shot regardless if they miss or not. Defending Ben Simmons is rather easy. Just continue to play off him. By doing so, a defense then takes him out of the offense. There were too many times that the Raptors had the Sixers playing 4 on 5. Simmons was forced to bring the ball up but then had to hand off and let either Butler or Embiid force a bad shot.
A player with Simmons’ size and ability to get to the rim should be a good thing but it has hindered his growth and the Sixers’ success. Another issue Brand will have to address is how bad does Simmons actually want it? A strong case in point is that in Game 7, Simmons attempted just five shot attempts. While the Sixers are known for spreading the ball around, this was a do-or-die situation. As the dictator of the offense, it was Simmons’ duty to assert himself more. He failed.
If Brand is serious about making a move, then he has to go for a player like Jrue Holiday or Mike Conley Jr. I agree that giving up on Simmons may be a bit premature, but this team is a PG away from winning a championship. Now, what Brand can do if no trade is explored is still find a suitable PG and move Simmons to PF.
Ben Simmons is a good player. However, the Philadelphia 76ers need him to be great. The hard truth is, maybe he can’t be great in the City of Brotherly Love. The Sixers trusted the process and it has carried them to two 50-win seasons and the second round the last two years. Maybe it’s time to pull a Sam Hinkie. Break it down, just to build it back up.