Ben Simmons was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and virtually everyone believed he was a certain star. After one season on the shelf with a foot injury and a Rookie of the Year campaign, this season was expected to be his breakout campaign. That hasn’t happened. Now, as the Philadelphia 76ers continue to look disjointed, many are wondering if it’s time to trade Simmons.
Joel Embiid is clearly the centerpiece of whatever the Sixers do in the future. The 24-year-old center ranks 10th in the NBA in PER and is averaging career highs in 26.9 points, 13.5 rebounds and minutes per game while adding 1.9 blocks. He also ranks 21st in Real Plus-Minus (3.39)
Simmons is the other perceived centerpiece in Philadelphia, but he and Embiid really don’t work well together on the court. While Simmons is having a nice second season — he’s averaging 16.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists — he absolutely refuses to shoot the ball from outside the paint. He still has yet to attempt a 3-pointer.
As we all know, the paint is Embiid’s domain, which means Simmons’ attacking usually creates a crowded situation down low. The offense is disjointed with the two of them in the game together.
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After a blowout loss Wednesday to the Washington Wizards, the Sixers have now scored 105.7 points per 100 possessions in 366 minutes with Simmons, Embiid and Butler on the floor — about equivalent to Detroit’s 23rd-ranked offense, per NBA.com.
Additionally, Simmons and Embiid only run about 4.5 pick-and rolls between them per 100 possessions. When you consider that fellow star Jimmy Butler wants to drive to the rim constantly too, that’s not a recipe for success in today’s NBA.
The Sixers are 27-15 and currently have the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s a solid spot, but this was supposed to be the year they took a huge leap forward, especially with LeBron James moving out of the East.
Right now, if you line Philly up against the conference’s other top dogs, it would be hard to take them over the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers or Boston Celtics. Being the fifth-best team in the East isn’t good enough considering the talent the Sixers possess.
Embiid isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be the face of the Sixers for a long time. His best fit would almost certainly be with a versatile primary ball-handler who can also spread the floor. Basically the guy Markelle Fultz was supposed to be.
Honestly, someone like Devin Booker would pair really well with Embiid. Would the Phoenix Suns be interested in a swap? Making a call couldn’t hurt. There are a number of young players who might be better fits if the Sixers choose to go that route.
Simmons is a fantastic talent, but he’s limited offensively. I’m not suggesting the Sixers have to move him. They certainly don’t. But the Philadelphia’s front office has to figure out what it wants the team to look like long term.
If Embiid is the guy for the Sixers, Simmons may have to change his game to fit the big man’s.