Not Trading Ben Simmons Is a Boss Move

Ben Simmons doesn’t want to be in Philadelphia anymore. He has hurt feelings because Doc Rivers refused to publicly say Ben Simmons is an elite player that can win a title. So Simmons pouted and even had the nerve to tell folks he thinks Rivers should have to apologize [for telling the truth as he sees it]. Simmons is trying to play hardball and is refusing to participate in training camp. It’s a strategy that the most elite players have used to get themselves out of town but Simmons isn’t an elite player. Will it work?

If the Sixers were gangsta, the answer would be no. But Daryl Morey and Co. will probably fold because they can’t handle the bad press. Things would be easier if Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard asked for a trade but both are keeping quiet which makes the price for Simmons something close to the Mendoza line.

Simmons has been in the league for five years. In 2016, it was assumed he was some variation of LeBron James. On draft night 2016, Simmons was represented by Rich Paul and despite glaring weaknesses, he was the number one pick. But. Simmons never exhibited competitive willfulness. He couldn’t save a group of teenagers at LSU so why would anyone think that playing with men was going to change what we saw of him in college?

Ben Simmons was the #1 pick but his college team, the LSU Tigers, couldn’t even qualify for the NCAA tournament. They had a losing record, a red flag for Simmons future ability to impact winning at an elite level.

The scouts at Draft Express summed it up this way:

“There’s little question that Simmons was unfairly labeled as a generational talent going into his freshman season by uninformed voices in the media. He could still develop into a unique mismatch in the NBA, particularly if he shows a willingness and openness to address his flaws.”

There it was. During his draft evaluation, the word flaw was in the same sentence as Ben Simmons. Red flag #2.

Ben Simmons was the first number one draft pick to attend college and not qualify for the NCAA tournament. Simmons inability to get teammates around him to rise to the occasion in a weak SEC conference said something about his leadership ability and competitive will and ability to make shots. Yes, he got his. 19 and 11. But he lost to College of Charleston too. He frequently played as if LSU was a dress rehearsal for his #1 pick and NBA career. Frankly, he was arrogant about it.

If Simmons cares so little about winning crucial college road games at Tennessee or Kentucky that could have delivered LSU to the NCAA tournament, how much will he consistently care about competing over a far more physically and mentally draining 82-game pro season?” (Draft Express)

In college, Simmons was often lazy on defense, didn’t play hard all the time, and could not shoot. His athletic highlights were extraordinarily impressive for a college kid but he’s a man now and the excuses are gone. The reaction to his playoff shot attempts went viral with Shaq to Magic Johnson to disgruntled Philly fan weighing in.

Simmons has never been a maniacal competitor and at times has been proud of it. But now Paris is burning and Simmons can’t escape the flames, burns, and damage. His fans like to compare him to Lamar Odom but Odom loved to shoot.

Lefties Shot Attempts (Avg/per year) Percentage of Shots, Layups (1st 4 Years) Percentage of Shots, Jumpshots (1st 4 Years) Mid-Range% (10-16 feet) 3-Point% Playoff Shot Attempts (34 games)
Lamar Odom (1999-2013) 742.35 23.3% 61.2% 34.6% 31.2% 472
Ben Simmons (2017-   ) 797.0 52.8% 24.5% 29.4% 14.7% 336

Shouldn’t he have worked on his “skills” after the Sixers were bounced out the bubble? We like to blame all the negative things that have happened last season on the quick start but that wasn’t Ben Simmons problem since he had 131 days to improve. What was Simmons doing?

But first his special talent(s): He’s a premier passer with excellent court vision. He plays in the post. He’s hyperathletic in a Blake Griffin kind of way. He is an open-court player that excels at turning defense to offense, ala LeBron James: get the rebound and flat out go. He is a quality rebounder with great instincts for the ball.

Now the rest: he can’t score in the half-court. He approaches the game as if he knows he’s the most talented person on the court and is bored by it. It has been a rude NBA awakening. His wingspan is not particularly impressive at seven feet. He’s an average pick-and-roll player and put a small athletic wing on him and he struggles.

He doesn’t take on contact like you would think, considering his size. And he is passive in a Lonzo Ball kind of way. He doesn’t shoot threes so he doesn’t stretch the floor. He fits with a team, if traded, that has a lot of good outside shooters, not one that needs him to create space for them. Think Blazers. But they aren’t trading Lillard unless he asks for it.

The biggest red flag about Simmons game is desire. He plays scared but is paid like an elite shotmaker. Team Simmons floats out the theory that he is shooting with his wrong hand but that’s an excuse. There have been great lefties at his point forward position like Lamar Odom. It’s the attempts, not the makes. It is the lack of want-to. Ben Simmons cheats the game.

In college, Simmons was accused by many of being a stat-padding freak. Several teammates on the Australian national team weren’t very complimentary of him either. But he isn’t Jahil Okafor, a lottery burst.  Nor is he Lamar Odom.

Ben Simmons has a lot to offer. But first, things first. Forget the Doc Rivers apology thing. No one owes you anything. Compete 24-7 to up your trade value and then address your weaknesses wherever you land. In other words, stop playing the victim.

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