The Philadelphia 76ers were shocked at home by the Atlanta Hawks in Game 7. A season of high hopes was dashed by a less talented opposing team as well on their own home court. The ability of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to lead a team to contend has been a question for years now. This year’s latest pre-finals exit only makes those questions louder. The 76ers now need to make a decision. Run it back with the same core, or make a big trade. There are 3 players on the roster who might be moved in a blockbuster trade. Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmons. Of those players, Ben Simmons seems to be the odd man out. However, there is still an argument to be made for keeping the core together and giving it another shot. Let’s examine both options.
The Case for Running it Back:
The 76ers are a very talented team. Joel Embiid is as good as any center in the league. Ben Simmons could have easily been the Defensive Player of the Year, DPOY, and is an elite playmaker. Tobias Harris is an excellent 2-way player who is proving that his contract was well worth it. The 3 players led the way for Philadelphia and are surrounded by solid players such as Furkan Korkmaz, Seth Curry, and Matisse Thybulle.
The team boasts a wide array of skillsets and playstyles among their main contributors. They absolutely have the roster for a Finals run. Let’s not forget that they were a miracle shot away from a Finals berth just 2 years ago. The main core and key supporting cast members are locked in for at least 3 years, meaning no new big extensions can take place. The thought of letting this core grow together over the offseason and another regular season is compelling. The hope being that the talent all clicks together with chemistry, and that pushes the franchise over the edge.
While familiarity and chemistry are no guarantee, it may be the best bet of any move this summer to finally vault the 76ers back into the Finals. While the offseason is unpredictable, here is what the potential 2021-2022 lineup would look like.
PG: Ben Simmons
SG: Seth Curry
SF: Furkan Korkmaz
PF: Tobias Harris
C: Joel Embiid
6: Matisse Thybulle
7: Tyrese Maxey
These would most likely be the main 7 contributors on the roster. That’s arguably enough talent to go the distance, but will the team have the patience and belief to give this core another chance? Maybe the front office believes there is a trade that improves the talent and/or fit of the roster enough to put them over the top despite the loss of familiarity.
The Case for a Trade:
You can also argue the fact that this core has had multiple chances together and has been unable to deliver, meaning a trade needs to take place. As previously stated, Ben Simmons is an obvious piece to be moved if a trade is made. Gauging his current trade value is an interesting task. On one hand, he is an elite defender and playmaker, has excellent size, is under contract for multiple years, and is still only 24 years old. On the other hand, he is hesitant to shoot from anywhere, inept at shooting anywhere outside the paint, has declined in many categories since his rookie year, and is being paid a massive amount.
In a return for Simmons, Philadelphia would almost certainly get another point guard back, but likely a veteran who can provide more shooting and spacing. It’s hard to know, especially right now, who is available via trade, but there are some reasonably realistic scenarios.
76ers Receive: Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday
Pacers Receive: Ben Simmons
With the hiring of Rick Carlisle, things will look a bit different in Indiana than they did this past season. This trade pairs 2 young stars together in Simmons and Domantas Sabonis. Simmons and Myles Turner would also be an incredible defensive duo. The Pacers have a lot of solid, young, players, and this trade would pair a polarizing young star with them.
The main draw for Philly here is Brogdon. Malcom Brogdon would be a massive upgrade in floor spacing and scoring. Brogdon quietly put up a very excellent season, especially on the offensive end. Some youth is shed as Brogdon is 28 years old, but the appeal of the shooting and spacing of Brogdon makes that more than worth it for Philadelphia.
76ers Receive: Kemba Walker, Darius Bazley
Thunder Receive: Ben Simmons
The Thunder tore it all down and are in a full on rebuild. They have a crazy amount of first round picks over the next couple years. Simmons is only 24 and still has the potential to grow which makes him a perfect fit. He would become the leader and defensive anchor for the team as Sam Presti continues his flurry of moves to try to build the Thunder back to contention. Kemba Walker doesn’t fit the direction of the team, so sending him for someone who does fit that direction makes much more sense.
The 76ers receive a veteran PG in Kemba Walker who has had his ups and downs lately, but is at the very least a veteran, a solid playmaker, and a huge upgrade in floor spacing. The 4 time all-star would bring a vastly different skillset to the team, something that Philly would be hunting for if they were shopping Simmons.
76ers Receive: Dejounte Murray, Jacob Poeltl, Devin Vassell
Spurs Receive: Ben Simmons
The Spurs seem to be without a clear direction right now, but this trade would change that. This resets the clock and likely makes them a playoff team right off the bat. Simmons has more room to grow, and if there’s anyone who can get him there, Gregg Popovich has to be near the top of the list. More moves would probably be on the horizon after this, as a Simmons and Demar DeRozan pairing lack outside shooting, but this trade does give San Antonio a direction, and Gregg Popovich his newest star.
The 76ers would bring on two good players here, and one salary filler. Murray is not a prolific long-range sniper, but a capable shooter and an upgrade over Simmons in terms of spacing. Murray is also young with lots of room to grow, and is also an excellent defender. Poeltl would eliminate the need to bring back Dwight Howard and at this stage of their respective careers, is an upgrade in just about every area. He would hold down the backup center position behind Joel Embiid.
There would be no shortage of suitors for Ben Simmons if he is put on the market. A change in skillset and spacing at the point guard position could be exactly what the Sixers need to finally get over the top and complete the process.
Whichever way they go, Philadelphia is poised to be one of the best teams in the NBA. With this in mind, the team will be right back in championship contention. This will be a very telling summer for the direction of the franchise. The clock has begun to tick in Philadelphia, what will their next step be?