Simmons trade talk stirs the pot
HE led Philadelphia to five straight wins to start the new NBA season but the knives are back out for Ben Simmons.
Talk about trading the talented Aussie star became a hot topic after the 76ers' exit from the playoffs earlier this year and less than 10 games into this campaign some have started singing a similar tune.
This time former NBA star Kendrick Perkins is leading the charge. A championship winner with the Celtics in 2008, the 14-year league veteran who retired in 2018 said the 76ers made a mistake by keeping Simmons over Jimmy Butler and believes the franchise should look at trading its star point guard.
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"I'm taking Jimmy Butler over Ben Simmons all day, man. Jimmy Butler was a better fit for Joel Embiid than Ben Simmons, I'll tell you that much," Perkins said.
"I would, I would try to trade him. I would try to see what offers I could get for him but yeah, I would try to move him.
"Obviously he's not the Big Philly. You know, Big Philly is there to stay. Big Joel Embiid is there to stay.
"I would consider trying to move Ben Simmons. I don't know where to but I just don't see that working, I don't see that working one bit."
Being at the centre of trade talk is nothing new for Simmons. The 2016 No.1 draft pick was named Rookie of the Year in 2018 and became an All-Star last season but still some critics - like Perkins - believe his lack of a jump shot and question marks over his chemistry with teammate Embiid should convince the Sixers to explore other options.
There was some chat linking Simmons to the LA Lakers last off-season because of his close relationship with LeBron James, while he was also mentioned in discussions by NBA commentators when hypothesising where wantaway New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis would end up.
In January, before Davis eventually settled on the Lakers, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Marcus Hayes posted a piece calling on the 76ers to offer up Simmons as trade bait.
"If the Sixers can trade Ben Simmons for Anthony Davis before the February 7 deadline, then they should. Slam dunk. Mic drop. It might rock The Process. So what. Processes change," Hayes wrote.
ESPN writer Zach Lowe summed up the reality of the trade hype around Simmons earlier this year when he said: "Every time they (the 76ers) lose a high-profile game - and almost always to the Celtics - there is an immediate flurry of legitimate media coverage that says they should just trade Simmons now because Simmons and Embiid don't work together."
The popular opinion was Embiid, Simmons and Butler couldn't function on the floor together after the latter arrived in Philadelphia from Minnesota and while Sixers coach Brett Brown admitted there were teething problems with the new combination, Simmons maintained the critics were wrong.
Butler was traded this past off-season to Miami in exchange for Heat wing Josh Richardson and Sixers fans - and Perkins - may be getting nostalgic after he drained 34 points and 22 points in his past two outings.
But while Perkins has wasted little time this season beating the drums for a Simmons move away from Philadelphia, not everyone is on board. Radio.com's Dave Uram said the move "makes absolutely no sense" because the Sixers would be foolish to jettison Simmons before he reaches his full potential.
"Simmons may lack a jumper, but he's still a transcendent, unique 23-year-old talent whose ceiling isn't close to being reached," Uram wrote. "He's 6-foot-10 (2.08m) and can dribble, pass, defence, dunk and sprint with the best of them. Imagine if he starts shooting 15-footers regularly."
Simmons is recovering from a shoulder sprain suffered against the Jazz last week. The Sixers lost that game - their second defeat in a row after going down to Phoenix in a performance that saw Simmons savaged by the US media.
"Here's the thing - all the summer mixtapes on Instagram, all the pre-season claims about dedication to your craft, all the stories about grinding in the gym, none of it means absolutely anything if it doesn't amount to changes to your in-game habits," wrote Philly Voice's Kyle Neubeck.
"His interest in the three-point line is still zero, his attempts at jumpers are almost exclusively of the ugly, fading away from 12 feet variety, and through six games he is getting to the free-throw line less than last season."
The Athletic's Jackson Frank described Simmons' night against the Suns as "absolutely brutal".
"He rarely applied pressure at the rim, looked tentative as a dribble-drive creator, lacked finishing touch and couldn't contain Devin Booker when it mattered late," Frank wrote.
"The ball was largely taken out of his hands in the half court, and while he set a number of good screens to spark open looks, six points on 2-of-8 shooting won't cut it. A weird and disappointing game for the third-year guard."
In seven games this season Simmons is averaging 13.1 points, 6.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds per outing.