Philadelphia 76ers: No, the Cavaliers won’t trade for Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Ben Simmons | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Star is garnering interest on the open market. Ignore it.

The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves at a crossroads brought on by their own malpractice. The front office has consistently failed to build a functional roster around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. As a result, the Sixers are on the verge of a third consecutive early playoff exit.

Naturally, fans and media talking heads have turned their attention to the areas of least concern. Rather than lamenting the egregious signing of Al Horford, the fatal flaws of Tobias Harris, or the rampant discontinuity in the front office, anger has instead been directed to Brett Brown and Philadelphia’s superstars.

I’m not going to advocate for Brett Brown’s firing. There’s really not much he can do with this roster. Give any coach four starting big men and half a competent ball-handler, and you’re bound to struggle. It’s 2020, and front offices should know better. The Sixers’ front office did not.

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As for Embiid and Simmons, the constant cries for a breakup continue to confound me. Nice alliteration, eh? The Sixers have been statistically dominant with Embiid and Simmons on the court since the duo’s inception. It’s the talent around them that continues to choke the paint and underperform.

And yet, despite Embiid and Simmons very clearly not being the problem, rumors are already a-flyin’ as the end of Philadelphia’s season edges closer. A recent report from details the remarkable optimism of the Cavaliers’ front office. The Cavs believe they have a good enough package to trade for Ben Simmons.

"“The Cavs believe they have enough to assemble an enticing package, especially with recent first-rounders littering the roster, a top six pick coming in October and a future first from the Milwaukee Bucks.Those picks, combined with one of the young guys and some salary filler, is a good start. It’s also why the Cavs have spent the first few years of the post-LeBron era stockpiling assets. In any potential trade discussion, the Cavs would cling tightest to Kevin Porter Jr.” — Chris Fedor,"

This is — and I cannot emphasize this enough — hilarious.

The Cavs have the least appetizing roster in basketball. Simmons is a top-20 NBA player, a 24-year-old at the beginning of a max contract extension, and one of the best perimeter defenders in recent history. If the Sixers do trade him, I’m doubtful Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and a few draft picks is enough to force Philadelphia’s hand.

The Sixers signed Simmons to a max contract knowing the fit with Embiid was imperfect. It doesn’t not matter, but by the same token, the narrative around Embiid and Simmons is a tired one. Until this season, Philadelphia’s starting fives were consistently the most dominant lineups in basketball.

When the Sixers surround Embiid and Simmons with shooters and quick decision-makers — or genuine third stars, such as Jimmy Butler — the results are positive. When you surround them with redundant skill sets, slow decision-makers, and reluctant shooters, it’s a recipe for underperformance.

Simmons was snubbed from Defensive Plyaer of the Year contention. He provides versatility unmatched elsewhere in the league — someone who can aptly defend Trae Young and Karl-Anthony Towns in the same breathe.  Someone who spends more time defending All-Stars than anyone else.

In addition to his elite status on defense, Simmons is one of the most potent transition playmakers in basketball. He generates innumerable 3-point opportunities for teammates despite Philadelphia’s distinct lack of shooters. Imagine if the Sixers had, you know, someone like J.J. Redick.

At the end of the day, I like Darius Garland as much as the next guy. He can be a fine point guard one day. I even voted him for All-Rookie second team. But Simmons is a generational talent, and there’s no one on Cleveland’s roster who can come close to scraping Simmons’ ceiling. Heck, I’m doubtful anyone on the roster will reach Simmons’ current level of play. Not to mention, a top-six pick in this year’s draft is fairly mundane value in comparison to recent drafts. And the Bucks’ pick… belongs to the best team in basketball.

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The Sixers’ front office is a mess and my trust in Elton Brand has run thin. Even so, they’re smart enough to recognize how rare it is to have two young superstars on the roster. And more importantly, two superstars who want to play together. They won’t break it up anytime soon. Especially not if the return is built around Darius Garland and a middling lottery pick.