Ben Simmons’ future is a big topic around the NBA, and not just in 76ers communities.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers started internal discussions about Simmons this week at the NBA’s pre-draft combine in Chicago. ESPN reported Thursday that Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, met with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand.
“Paul engaged the Sixers on whether it makes sense to work together to find a trade before the start of next season,” Woji reported, “but no request was made and the sides are expected to continue talking ahead of the July 29 NBA draft and August free agency, sources said. The 76ers are committed to keeping Simmons as a central piece of their franchise, sources said.”
As anyone would expect, other teams watched Simmons’ offensive struggles in the Sixers’ round two loss to the Atlanta Hawks with interest. Over the final three games of that series, Simmons averaged 6.3 points and 9.0 assists, shooting 42.95 from the floor, and 35.0% from the foul line.
More from Woj’s report:
“Teams have been using the Chicago pre-draft camp to gauge the Sixers’ interest in trade packages, sources said, although Philadelphia remains reluctant to break up the tandem of Joel Embiid and Simmons without maximizing a return and exhausting all possibilities to improve Simmons’ offense, sources said.”
The Simmons-Embiid pairing was very effective for the Sixers this season after a relatively off year during the 2019-20 campaign in which Al Horford’s presence had a significant impact. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Sixers outscored opponents by 16.0 points per 100 possessions when the two All-Stars played together during the regular season, and by 19.2 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs.
Woj’s reporting links with Morey’s comments at his end-of-season press conference, where he was flooded with questions about Simmons. He did not specifically say Simmons will be a Sixer next season, though he spoke positively about the team’s core of Embiid, Simmons and Tobias Harris.
“We’re committed to this group,” Morey said. “This was a really good group that played at a very high level. Obviously, part of my job is to self-reflect, read what others are writing, because you can learn from that. And a lot of what I’m reading, I frankly don’t understand people saying the Sixers are in a bad situation. I don’t choose to come here, (head coach Doc Rivers) doesn’t choose to come here if this a bad situation. Really, 25 or 26 teams in this league would love to be in our situation with an MVP-caliber top player, an All-Star, a near-All-Star, great young players who are signed for the long term, good veterans.
“So we’ve got a good foundation, we just have to do better. I have to do better; everyone has to do better. And that’s the bottom line. That’s the challenge, and I can tell everyone in Philadelphia there’s going to be a ton of effort up and down, from myself and the front office to the coaching staff and the players, who are being challenged as we speak in meetings with Doc Rivers on how they can get better, as well.”
Simmons has four years left on his rookie maximum extension. His salary for the 2021-22 season will be just over $33 million, per Spotrac.