When Ben Simmons walked off the court with a non-contact knee injury during the Philadelphia 76ers game against the Washington Wizards, everyone hoped for the best. As the star forward went to the locker room in Orlando’s bubble, many thought it might only be a short-term injury.
At first, the star seemingly avoided a devastating setback. Initial reports were positive with no swelling in the knee, which left many hoping it would be a day-to-day injury.
Then, the news dropped on Thursday. The All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick suffered a partial dislocation of the left knee cap. In medical terms, a subluxation. He’s now considered out without a likely return date.
Could this have been Simmons’ final appearance in a Sixers uniform following a near half-decade of injuries, flashes of potential and what-could-have-beens? It’s more than possible. I break it down below.
It’s already known that embattled Sixers head coach Brett Brown has called Simmons out multiple times for his inability (or unwillingness) to expand his offensive game. It’s been a big story behind the scenes in Philadelphia. A point-forward that can’t even pop up and hit an mid-range jumper being asked to run an offense in the modern NBA.
Brown might be out of a job following the season. But that doesn’t mean general manager Elton Brand will wash his hands of the issues we’ve seen from Simmons since he made his debut back in 2016-17 after missing his entire first season with a foot injury.
The one issue that could prevent a blockbuster trade is Simmons’ massive extension. Said contract calls for $170 million over five seasons and doesn’t go into effect until next season.
Given the current economic climate around the NBA during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it could be hard for Philadelphia to move Simmons’ contract. It would take a matching of contracts and a team willing to commit to him through the 2024-25 season.
Despite some of the issues we have seen surrounding Simmons in the City of Brotherly Love, he would still have some value on the trade market. A team with shooters won’t rely on Simmons expanding his shooting would view the 24-year-old forward as a valuable asset.
Simmons likely finishes the 2019 campaign averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists while leading the Association with 2.1 steals per game. He’s also shot at a 58% clip from the field. Given the mismatches Simmons causes, it makes sense for a team operating under a different scheme to continue having him be a ball-dominant player.
It became clear last summer that Elton Brand and Co. were looking for more shooting. That’s the only way to explain the now-foolish signing of veteran big man Al Horford. Philadelphia’s biggest issue with Simmons on the court is the team’s lack of outside shooting.
Assuming for a second that Joel Embiid remains the face of Philadelphia moving forward (not a guarantee), Simmons doesn’t necessarily seem to be a long-term fit. Getting someone who can hoist from the perimeter while providing an inside-out game with Embiid would make more sense for the 76ers in the modern NBA. And while Embiid has nothing but great things to say about his teammate, this pairing doesn’t seem capable of championship contention moving forward.
Of course, Philadelphia is not going to give Simmons away for pennies on the dollar. As noted above, he would bring back a lot in return. It’s now all about finding fits for the 24-year-old All-Star.
Those are just three examples that come to mind. Though, there’s a lot of other potential scenarios out there.
What we do know is that this current iteration of the Sixers is not a championship-caliber team. Taking into account Brown’s questionable status moving forward and Simmons’ recent injury, it makes sense for Philadelphia to kick the tires on a potential trade come October.
Whether that happens depends on all the variables listed above.