In what might be some of the least surprising news of the offseason, Ben Simmons has drawn the line and made it official that he will not play another game for the Philadelphia 76ers.
ESPN Sources: Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons will not report for opening of training camp next week and intends to never play another game for the franchise. Simmons hasn’t spoken to team since a late August meeting when he communicated this message to Sixers officials.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 21, 2021
Following what happened during and right after last year’s Game 7 loss to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semis, it seemed like this was always going to end this way. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid just don’t fit well together, and the situation has clearly reached its boiling point.
However, the 76ers don’t seem to be in any hurry to move him. They set their asking price at the beginning of the offseason, which is reportedly a king’s ransom, and have not budged. Still, this is the NBA, and the power is with the players; when an All-Star player wants to be traded, he usually gets his wish. So, should the Hawks have any interest in Simmons?
I mentioned yesterday the idea of trading for Simmons on Twitter, and the responses varied, but most want no piece of the former #1 pick, and understandably so.
The contract is gaudy. Simmons is owed over $33 million in 2021-2022, and that number gradually rises each season until it reaches $40.3 million in 2024-2025. That’s a ton of money for a player who has shown no signs of improvement as a scorer and is borderline unplayable down the stretch of games in the playoffs, as we saw last postseason against the Hawks.
However, Atlanta has been linked to Simmons in trade rumors throughout the offseason. We have no way of knowing whether there is any truth to these rumors, but there are a few reasons I could see Travis Schlenk being interested in the three-time All-Star.
First and foremost is his fit with the Hawks. I actually think it would work out quite well if Simmons were willing to take on a different role in Atlanta. He could serve as a small-ball five and also play some power forward, which would allow Trae Young to make the most of his elite slashing and finishing ability.
Simmons’ defense would be a welcome addition as well. The Hawks took a giant step forward in that department last season, but they’re still a middle-of-the-road team as far as defense is concerned. With Simmons on board, they would have the potential to become an elite unit. His ball-handling ability would also boost Atlanta’s transition game, and he could serve as a backup point guard at times when Young heads to the bench. There are so many areas in which Simmons would help improve the Hawks from last season; he’d just have to be willing to take on a new role, something I’m not entirely sure he wants to do.
Another reason the Hawks might have interest in Simmons is their inability to attract stars in free agency. Because the Hawks have been so bad for so long, they’ve never been able to sign marquee free agents. Now, that might change with Trae Young and company, but there are no guarantees. Travis Schlenk may feel like his best chance at acquiring an All-Star is through a trade, and he has all the pieces to make one happen.
As I (and several others) have brought up this offseason, the Hawks are in the ideal position to land the next disgruntled superstar that becomes available, which just so happens to be Ben Simmons. They have a boatload of young talent, moveable contracts, and all of their picks. If Philadelphia is looking for the right deal, nobody can make a better offer than Atlanta.
The last thing I want to talk about is Simmons’ contract — but in a more positive light. No, I’m not sure Simmons is worth $33-40 million per season; however, it’s not that egregious when you think about it. There are players left and right that haven’t made a single All-Star game and are scheduled to earn between $25-30 million. Simmons has made three in a row, is only 25-years-old, and his contract numbers are only going to look better as the salary cap continues to rise. Is he slightly overpaid? Perhaps, but I don’t believe that’s the most significant concern in this dilemma.
I do find a Ben Simmons trade to Atlanta unlikely, simply because I’m not sure Travis Schlenk is ready to cash in on some of his trade chips just yet. Players like Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, and Onyeka Okongwu have so much untapped potential; it might be wiser if the Hawks play the wait-and-see approach.
It’s not like the Hawks didn’t have success last season with their current group, and they only improved their roster over the summer. Plus, it’s challenging to forecast what the team that trades for Simmons will be getting. Given all of that uncertainly, a Simmons trade to the Hawks seems far-fetched, but I wouldn’t totally count it out.