Of course the Philadelphia 76ers should have an offer prepared for the reigning MVP.
Twitter has run amok with hypotheticals lately. Some have pondered the nature of a Ben Simmons–Giannis Antetokounmpo swap. Should the Philadelphia 76ers swap non-shooter for non-shooter, with the reigning MVP’s contract set to expire at the end of 2020-21.
It is difficult to encompass the spirit of my answer to that question without delving into NSFW vocabulary. So, to keep things PG for the kids reading at home, just know the answer is a resounding yes.
Look, the Bucks might not trade Antetokounmpo. He might even want to stay. That is all very possible, and there’s no current reporting that Philadelphia would even consider an offer for the soon-to-be-two-time MVP. With that said, the Sixers do have Ben Simmons. Not many trade chips are more appealing.
The Sixers have essentially stripped their roster bare and dished out all their cap space to five misfit players. There are not many ways to improve this roster — which just limped to a sixth-place finish and a first-round exit — that don’t involve a trade. I have been sternly against the notion of trading Simmons, but if the Antetokounmpo situation boil over to a trade request, then consider this an exception to my rule.
Antetokounmpo had a meeting with Bucks ownership to discuss the future of the franchise on Saturday. He also unfollowed all his Bucks teammates on Instagram. You can never read too far into social media, but in the NBA, smoke is smoke. And there’s a thin layer of smoke covering the floor in Milwaukee. Giannis is not the type to troll an entire fanbase.
The Sixers should have Ben Simmons in the trade holster and ready to fire if Antetokounmpo hits the market. Simmons is only 24, has made two consecutive All-Star appearances, and just finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He’s also under contract until 2025. I understand the hesitance to trade him.
With that said, Giannis is only 25, has made four consecutive All-Star appearances, and just finished first in Defensive Player of the Year. Giving Simmons up for an expiring contract is risky business, but for some players, you bet the whole farm. Giannis is one of the three best basketball players on the planet. End of story.
This season, Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and a steal and a block per game. He did so in just 30.4 minutes per contest, in part because Milwaukee often had its victories sealed well before the end of the final quarter.
Antetokounmpo shot 55.3 percent from the field, and is one of the most efficient interior scorers in basketball. His athleticism is already the stuff of legend, and on defense, he’s one of the few players who can exert a bigger impact than Simmons. Despite all the lazy narrative shifting that happened during Milwaukee’s postseason collapse, Giannis still deserved Defensive Player of the Year. It was a no-brainer.
If the Sixers can compete for a championship with Embiid and Simmons, which I firmly believe, then they can compete for a championship with Embiid and Antetokounmpo. The fit is imperfect, but unlike Simmons, Antetokounmpo does venture out to the 3-point line on occasion. And, if bully-ball is going to work in 2020, then gosh darn it, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo will make it work.
The Sixers could bludgeon teams into submission in ways even the Embiid-Simmons pair couldn’t dream of. Embiid and Giannis would hoard the glass, consume the paint, and put endless pressure on the interior. The Sixers would need to reshape the roster around them — more shooters, even more importantly, an increase in playmakers — but you go to bat with Embiid and Giannis in the frontcourt seven days a week. At a certain point, talent overrides fit in this league. The Sixers would have two top-10 players.
It’s natural to be standoffish at the idea of trading a 24-year-old superstar who is under contract for four more years. And again, the circumstances under which the Sixers should trade Simmons are exceedingly limited. But Giannis Antetokounmpo is Giannis Antetokounmpo. You push your chips to the middle, you try to convince him to stay, and you go compete for a championship.
This obviously changes if Giannis explicitly states he will not re-sign in Philadelphia. In that case, you pass and ride out the Simmons era. But if Giannis is willing to give the Embiid partnership a chance — if he sees a possible future in Philadelphia — the Sixers need to jump on the opportunity.