Ben Simmons was the driving force behind the 76ers surging from 28 wins two years ago to 52 last season, and he was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year award.
In the span of two years, Ben Simmons went from “guy who couldn’t lead LSU to the NCAA Tournament” to one of the 10 best players in the NBA (according to me, at least). I believe Simmons is the best player under the age of 25 in the NBA.
Simmons has enjoyed a meteoric rise off the court as well, and is now dating model Kendall Jenner. The two are reportedly living together this summer in West Hollywood, renting a place for $25,000 a month. Jenner previously dated Blake Griffin … and the two broke up shortly after he was traded to the Pistons.
At the end of this summer, Simmons will return to Philadelphia and who knows what will happen to their relationship. He’s only 21. But this much we know: Simmons had eyes for LA coming out of LSU. He refused to work out for any NBA team, and behind the scenes, there was more than a little scuttlebutt that Simmons wanted to be in LA. His agent is Rich Paul, LeBron’s longtime friend who has often gotten what he’s wanted in the NBA (see Eric Bledsoe, Tristan Thompson, John Wall, JR Smith, etc).
Ultimately, Ben Simmons wasn’t able to “pull a Porzingis,” and he worked out for the 76ers days before the draft. Ultimately, a foot injury kept him off the court for his first season, and now he’s got two of his five seasons complete on his rookie deal.
Simmons has three more years before he can hit restricted free agency. Historically, stars of his caliber never leave their teams this early.
But did all of that change with Kevin Durant’s move in 2016? This is the staggering list of NBA stars who have changed teams since Durant’s move:
Kevin Durant, free agent (OKC –> Golden State)
LeBron James, free agent (CLE –> LA Lakers)
Gordon Hayward, free agent (Utah –> Boston)
Kyrie Irving, demanded trade (CLE –> Boston)
Paul George, demanded trade (IND –> OKC)
Kawhi Leonard, demanded trade (SAS –> Toronto)
Carmelo Anthony, demanded trade (NYK –> OKC)
Jimmy Butler, traded (CHI –> Minnesota)
Blake Griffin, traded (LAC –> Detroit)
Chris Paul, picked his landing spot (LAC –> Houston)
That’s 10 of the 25 best players in the NBA changing teams in the last 2 years. That’s an insane amount of talent on the move. What’s clear: The NBA is a player’s league like never before. Superstars want what they want, and they want it now. And increasingly, they’re getting it.
Now what you don’t see on that list is anyone with five or less years of experience. It’d be too bold of a player on a rookie contract to demand a trade … right? Kyrie Irving spent six years in Cleveland; Butler had been in Chicago for six (the last couple were turbulent).
It would be unfathomable for Ben Simmons to try and force his way to the Lakers in the summer of 2019 or 2020. Except that the perfect storm is coming into focus: Celebrity girlfriend; his agent just got his marquee client (LeBron) to LA; Simmons “only” got a 5-year, $12 million sneaker deal (Andrew Wiggins got $11 million); and let’s not forget, Ben Simmons is calling himself “Fresh Prince” … there’s a 97% chance that’s the headline all over websites and newspapers if/when he lands in Los Angeles.