By Matthew Green, Sports Talk Philly Staff
Ever since June of 2020 when the 76ers suffered a devastating elimination to the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Playoffs, Ben Simmons has fluctuated in and out of headlines across all media platforms. Simmons' silence, injury conspiracies, and rumored attitude issues following the Hawks series have fractured his relationship with the Philadelphia fans and organization. Though no trade has become official at this point, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the three-time All-Star will eventually be moved, as he has yet to suit up for the Sixers this season.
Currently, Philadelphia is about halfway through their 2021-2022 campaign and sit at fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 23-16 record. While the team lacks the star power that they would otherwise have with Simmons, they have been able to remain afloat without him. The Sixers are one of the hottest teams in the entire league. They have won seven straight games, including a December 30th, 2020 victory over the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.
A variety of factors have led to Philadelphia's recent success, but the core contributor has been the MVP-level of play from superstar Joel Embiid. Over the last seven games, he has averaged 32.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Despite all of the lineup shifts that the 76ers have had to implement due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, Embiid has consistently performed at a high level and is leading his team to big wins. However, many of his teammates have been able to rally behind him and provide productive games in many of the wins.
Furkan Korkmaz has scored in the double-digits in three of his last four games, including two 20+ point performances on January 3rd and 5th. Andre Drummond has averaged 9.2 rebounds per game and provides an energetic spark off the bench. Tyrese Maxey and Seth Curry have both stepped up to be Embiid's scoring costars in many of the games that Philadelphia has won. Matisse Thybulle has scored double-digit points in both of the team's most recent games, further proving that he has improved his offensive game while remaining a menace on defense.
The Sixers certainly have an exciting young roster that has found ways to win, but can they continue to win with Ben Simmons away from the team? Unfortunately, Philadelphia would simply not matchup well in a seven-game series against teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets that have multiple superstar talents. They may be able to get to the playoffs with their current roster, but they would likely struggle to go far.
It is hard to predict whether the team would continue to function off chemistry if Ben Simmons were to return to the team, but it is certain that they are better on paper with him. However, a Simmons-Sixers reunion seems highly unlikely at this point in the season.
ESPN Sources: Agent for Ben Simmons – Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul – met with Sixers’ Daryl Morey and Elton Brand to discuss status of stalemate today. Stances unchanged: Simmons no closer to playing this season – and Sixers determined to bring back a significant player in trade.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2022
With Simmons refusing to play in Philadelphia, Daryl Morey and the Sixers are really only left with one option if they want to be serious contenders this season: trade him.
Many people believed that Simmons would have already been traded, but Morey has remained patient for the right deal. It is hard to believe that Morey would rush to get a deal done at this point in the game, but the NBA trade deadline is creeping up fast and will be here February 10th. It is likely that Philadelphia could get a haul of picks and developmental players for Simmons, but they are going to be seeking for talent that can help them win right now. Rumored teams that have recently been floating around trade talks for Simmons include the Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics, and Atlanta Hawks.
John Collins, Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jaylen Brown are all names that would immediately make the 76ers a much better team than they already are. They may not have the accolades that Simmons has on his résumé, but they are talents that will immediately give the Sixers a much better shot to win right now and in the playoffs. Anything can happen in the world of sports, but the Sixers will likely be looking at another early playoff exit if they still have Ben Simmons on their roster and inactive past February's trade deadline.