DISCLAIMER: The content described in this article may not age well due to the given release date of this article.
As the 2021-22 NBA season is about to start up this fall, one question remains unanswered. That question is linked to the NBA’s current punching bag: Ben Simmons. Simmons, a 6’10 athletic forward, had underperformed in last year’s postseason for the Philadelphia 76ers, as his team lost in the second round to the young Atlanta Hawks. In the series, Simmons shied away from scoring the basketball (both attacking the basket and shooting jump shots), especially during the end of games. He was also abysmal from the free throw line, shooting below 50% from that area.
This has led to the relationship between Simmons and the Sixers organization to be completely punctured. As of now, Simmons has refused to report for training camp for the upcoming NBA season for the Sixers. Several trade rumours have popped up for Simmons as it is evident that he will no longer be a member of the Philadelphia 76ers by the end of the current season.
Many teams have made their trade scenarios for Simmons. Despite the market being dry for a player like Simmons, it cannot be denied that the opportunity to get a player who has superstar potential is still an intriguing gamble. Despite his recent playoff blunder, Simmons is still an above-average playmaker and one of the league’s most versatile defenders. Not to mention, he is only 25 years old which is young in terms of NBA players that are developing. It wasn’t too long ago that he was the consensus #1 draft pick in 2016 as he has an NBA-ready body to take on the league’s most dominant players. He just needs the right system to unlock his full talent level.
However, Simmons’ low confidence to be an offensive threat still remains a problem for several teams who are looking to trade for him. There is an argument to be made that if Simmons was able to develop a consistent mid-range jumper and stronger mentality, he would be considered to be a much more valuable asset to other franchises.
Although there are teams that would be a great fit for Simmons, the mentality aspect would be a problem for most teams. The best teams that should trade for Simmons are ones that are willing to be patient with the development of Simmons without tampering with the current roster that they have. And there is a team out there that could take a risk on the young forward which may end up being a steal in the long run: the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs-Sixers Trade Scenario
The San Antonio Spurs, being a team that is hoping to find an identity after the departure of their multiple veteran players such as all-star caliber guard DeMar DeRozan and long-time Spur Patty Mills. And acquiring a young, budding player like Ben would be an interesting option for the Spurs to move along with. Simmons would be surrounded with a core of players who despite them being young, are players who are willing to play their roles effectively for any star player in the league.
Here is a trade scenario that would benefit both the Spurs and the Sixers for their respective plans for the present and future.
Spurs get: Ben Simmons
Sixers get: Dejounte Murray, Thaddeus Young, 2023 first round pick, 2025 first round pick (from the Chicago Bulls)
For the Sixers, they get a young guard in Dejounte Murray, who is in many ways a very similar player to Simmons. Murray, although not as skilled defensively as Simmons, is still a strong defensive point guard with elite playmaking abilities. Most importantly, he is a player who can help Philadelphia in the current term and is someone who is willing to shoot the basketball as he is steadily improving his 3-point percentages during his first few years in the league. Murray is also 25 years old, which means he still has time to develop alongside Philadelphia’s superstar centre Joel Embiid. Philadelphia would also get Thaddeus Young, an above-average forward with deep playoff experience and 2 first-round draft picks. One of the draft picks comes from the Chicago Bulls, who have the possibility to blow up their roster if their current roster does not pan out in the next few years.
For the Spurs, they would get Simmons but at the same time, they would not be giving up any of their younger, rawer players with higher amounts of potential. They also do not get rid of all of their draft picks for the future.
Primarily, there are a few, key reasons as to why Simmons should be a Spur this upcoming season to reshape his image as a player:
- Younger Roster That Suits Simmons’ Playstyle
- Small Market Benefits
- Gregg Popovich
Reason 1: Younger Roster That Suits Simmons’ Playstyle
To begin, if he were to join the Spurs, Simmons would be joining a relatively young team in which almost all of the players are under 30 years old. The team is filled with promising talent from players such as rookie Joshua Primo, defensive wing Keldon Johnson, and 3-point sharpshooter Derrick White. Not to mention, the Spurs are currently a team that is looking for a clear primary player to build around in the near future, and Simmons could attempt to be the new face of the San Antonio Spurs.
The playstyles that the Spurs’ players possess also compliments what Simmons does as both an offensive and defensive player. On the offensive end, the Spurs have several elite shooters for all 5 positions on the court that do not need the ball in their hand. Hence, it will maximize the ability for Simmons to relentlessly attack the basket and score more efficiently while allowing him to use his passing talents to kick out to 3 point shooters if he is double-teamed.
The Spurs recently signed players such as 7 foot centre Zach Collins, guard Bryn Forbes, and wing Doug McDermott, who are all above-average shooters who are capable of shooting above 40% from the three point line. These shooters alongside the other quality shooters could make interesting lineups that could help Simmons score more in a half-court setting.
This is a type of offensive strategy that is utilized to assist 2-time MVP and current NBA champion Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is a 7 foot athlete who drives to the basket using his strong build and gigantic wingspan. Antetokounmpo is not known to be a great shooter like Simmons, so applying the method that helped Giannis to win a championship towards Ben could lead to better success for the Spurs and Ben himself.
Considering that Simmons has played alongside 7 foot centre Joel Embiid who tends to clog up the paint for Simmons to operate (and vice versa) it would be intriguing to see how Ben would operate with an offense that has 3-point shooters spaced out for him.
As for defense, Simmons is one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA as stated before, as he can effectively guard any position ranging from point guards to centres. The Spurs could try running smaller lineups on the court where Simmons guards the opposing centre and where switching on defense is a lot easier to employ. All in all, there are a lot of flexible lineups the Spurs can run if Simmons possibly joins the roster.
Reason 2: Small Market Benefits
Although the criticism of Ben Simmons’ playoff failures is valid, the hatred for him may have gone overboard, especially now. It is gone to the point that local news stations are making jokes about how he is a literal trash bin flowing down the river. This immense amount of hate may be linked to how Ben currently plays in Philadelphia, one of the NBA’s and the United States’ most populous cities. It is a large market that multiple sports news outlets talk about, so Simmons’ name is bound to be mentioned more times than needed.
The deal about large sports markets such as New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia is that although there are more opportunities to expand an athlete’s brand, they are more likely to receive overdoses of criticism if they fail to meet expectations for their team.
With smaller markets, the opposite occurs. Although there are not as many opportunities for athletes to be more outgoing, the big advantage that not many people talk about is the lack of criticism that is swept under the rug for athletes playing for smaller-market cities. A mistake during a game is rarely to be mentioned by sports networks, and their mental health levels will most likely increase being in a lesser-known basketball team. San Antonio falls in the latter of the 2 categories, as even when the Spurs were a dominant franchise in the 2000’s and 2010’s, they still did not get enough attention for what they accomplished.
If Ben were to be traded to San Antonio, the attention about whether Simmons is properly developing will most likely be dropped from major sports media outlets. This is backed up by evidence from when his former teammate Markelle Fultz (who was also a #1 draft pick) was criticized when he was on the Sixers for having poor shooting mechanics and having no confidence to shoot in a similar way to Simmons. However, as he was traded to the Orlando Magic, a small-market team, he was rarely brought up again by news sources such as ESPN and Fox Sports. Hence, Ben being traded to the Spurs has a chance to allow him to regain his confidence without the added pressure from the media.
Reason 3: Gregg Popovich
The last reason as to why the Spurs should acquire Ben Simmons in a trade is someone who makes this transaction a huge risk but can potentially lead to Simmons being extremely successful: the Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich. For a little bit of background, Popovich is known to be one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NBA, as he has played a major role in helping the Spurs win 5 championships during his tenure as head coach.
Most importantly, he has a fiery desire that can be able to strengthen Ben’s mentality on the court. For most of his career, Simmons has had trouble having a “killer instinct” while playing games and has stuck on to being a passive player while on the court. Most of the coaches that have worked with him thus far have been very lenient with him not attempting to shoot jump shots to improve his offensive game. Hence, Simmons is seen by others as someone who does not care for helping his team win at the next level.
However, with a coach like Popovich, this scenario will not occur. Popovich is known as a tough-minded individual who although can sometimes go a bit overboard, is someone who will keep Simmons in-line and ensure that he develops into the player basketball fans have wished he could become. And if Simmons doesn’t comply, Popovich will most likely bench him for other players on the roster until Simmons is willing to improve aspects of his game that need work.
To sum up, there are many huge benefits for the San Antonio Spurs and Ben Simmons if they were to come together through a trade. However, there are downsides to the arguments that were made in this article. Simmons has stated during the wave of trade rumours that he prefers to play for a team in California due to him being a “young socialite”. In addition, having Popovich as a coach could possibly have a high chance of ruining Ben’s own confidence in himself due to Popovich’s fiery-like nature. There are big risks associated with this transaction, but the rewards are most likely worth it to get an all-NBA defender who has the potential to be one of the most elite players in basketball if developed properly.
Not to mention, rumours have popped out that Gregg Popovich will retire by the end of this season, so if the Spurs want to make this trade, they need to move on that deal right now.
Only time will tell whether this will happen. For now, the race to acquire Simmons is still on.
Spurs Sign Zach Collins. 2021.
- Cortes, Gregg Popovich. Getty Images, 2018.
Derrick White high-fiving a teammate. 2018.
- Wachter, Keldon Johnson pumped up after a play. USA TODAY Sports, 2021.
Spurs court redesigned for 2014-15 NBA season. 2014.
Links To Images:
Article Content Citations
“Bryn Forbes Stats,” Basketball Reference. [Online]. Available: https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/f/forbebr01.html. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].
“Doug McDermott stats,” Basketball Reference. [Online]. Available: https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mcderdo01.html. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].
“Joshua Primo College stats: College basketball at sports,” Sports Reference. [Online]. Available: https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/joshua-primo-1.html. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].
“NBA Trade Machine & Cap manager: Fanspo,” Fanspo.com. [Online]. Available: https://fanspo.com/nba/trade-machine. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].
“San Antonio spurs team info and news,” San Antonio Spurs Team Info and News | NBA.com. [Online]. Available: https://www.nba.com/team/1610612759/spurs. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].
“Zach Collins stats,” Basketball Reference. [Online]. Available: https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/colliza01.html. [Accessed: 10-Oct-2021].