2. Choosing Ben Simmons over Jimmy Butler
Speaking of the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade, it is one of the biggest turning points of the franchise. Sixers fans fondly remember the 2019 team that took the NBA champions to seven games before losing on the traumatic Kawhi Leonard shot, but that team did not last long.
There are many theories as to why the team fizzled out, but it does seem like the Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler duo was never going to carry into the next season.
Butler has gotten much more ball-dominant as he has aged, and for good reason. In that playoff run alone, Butler became the de facto point guard of the team and had more signature moments than Simmons has had in his entire career.
It appeared as if Brett Brown unlocked something with that version of the team with an offense running through Butler and Embiid. As short-lived as it was, it was the best star pairing Embiid has had to this day.
If Butler stayed, there’s no limit on what he and Embiid could have accomplished.
Since then, both players have gotten significantly better. Unfortunately, the Sixers still viewed Simmons as the future of the team, who still insisted on being the point guard of the team. Butler also appeared to have clashed with the front office and ownership at this time, which led to the decision to keep Simmons and building around him instead.
Ben Simmons was extremely valuable at this time. He was coming off of his first all-star selection and had just begun to develop into an elite defensive weapon. The Sixers could have gotten a ludicrous haul for Simmons had they chosen that route, while holding onto Jimmy Butler. It also would have of course helped the Sixers avoid the entire Ben Simmons debacle that paved the way for their downward spiral.
It would have been a bold move to trade Simmons given his age, unique talents, and upward trajectory, but Simmons had his red flags and the organization failed to recognize them. Jimmy was not perfect either, but he was undeniably a better fit with Embiid than Simmons, and it was always fanciful to think this was not Embiid’s team.
Year after year the organization has been unable to bring in the requisite talent to surround Embiid and while it was logical to try the Simmons pairing for a time, they had a way out with Jimmy Butler that could have been wildly successful.