Ben Simmons Trade Rumors: 76ers Hesitant to Break Up Embiid Tandem Amid Interest

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons plays during Game 7 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly still "reluctant" to trade Ben Simmons despite his offensive woes that have led some to believe that a divorce would be the best move for both parties.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons' agent, Rich Paul, met with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand at the pre-draft combine to discuss Simmons' future. No trade request was made by Paul on Simmons' behalf, but the two sides did explore whether a deal "makes sense."

Teams have been inquiring about Simmons' availability at the combine. Despite Simmons' cache around the NBA being at its lowest point since he entered the league, Wojnarowski reported his trade value remains "significant."

Simmons is coming off a miserable 2021 postseason where he averaged 11.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists, numbers that look fine on paper but lack the context of his deep struggles as a scorer and at the free-throw line. He shot a ghastly 34.2 percent from the line in the postseason and scored just 18 points over the final three games of Philadelphia's second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks regularly fouled Simmons to put him on the line, and the situation culminated late in Game 7 when Simmons passed up a wide-open dunk to give the ball to Matisse Tybulle—seemingly out of fear of being fouled. Thybulle converted only one of two free throws, and Joel Embiid called Simmons' decision the turning point in the Sixers' 103-96 loss.

"I ain't shoot well from the line this series," Simmons told reporters after Game 7. "Offensively, I wasn't there. I didn't do enough for my teammates. ... There's a lot of things that I need to work on."

Morey would not publicly commit to Simmons returning Tuesday at his season-ending press conference, but he also said he believes the Sixers are in a position better than the vast majority of the league.

"We have a very strong group we believe in," Morey said. "None of us can predict the future of what's going to happen in any, in any place. We love what Ben brings, we love what Joel brings, we love what Tobias [Harris] brings. In terms of what's next, we're going to do what's best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster."

Wojnarowski's report says the Sixers believe they can work with Simmons to rectify his offensive game, which would likely include an overhaul of his shot and working on his confidence.

However, it's fair to wonder if the situation has reached a point of no return. Sixers fans loudly booed Simons at several points in Game 7, and Embiid's public criticism underscores that the frustration has seeped into the locker room as well.