Ben Simmons is counting the days, each of them too long, until he can flee Philadelphia. The entire NBA is counting along with him, and several teams are doing more than that.
They’re visualizing Simmons on their roster, and the Warriors are among the teams.
As they should be, particularly if they’re willing to accelerate the timeline and maximize the potential of the remaining Stephen Curry years.
The topic of Simmons joining the Warriors has heated up this month. It’s debated on hundreds of podcasts, thousands of playgrounds and gyms and probably every sports bar within a 100-mile radius of either Philadelphia or the Bay Bridge.
At or near the center of the debate is whether the Warriors can prosper on offense with the unavoidable spacing issues created when two reluctant shooters, Draymond Green and Simmons, are sharing the floor.
The short answer: Yes.
The long answer: Yes, yes, yes.
It’s a logical concern if you replay the worst moments of last season for the two All-Stars. Often trying to force passes through defenses playing him to do exactly that, Draymond committed six turnovers in each of the two play-in games, which the Warriors lost by a combined eight points. Simmons, frightened by the possibility of shooting free throws, shunned a game-tying dunk in the final minutes of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. When the 76ers lost, the line of volunteers eager to drive him to the airport stretched to Delaware.
But the spacing worry is short-sighted, largely because it greatly underestimates the basketball intellect of Messrs. Green and Simmons. Neither is a great shooter. Both are tremendous basketball players.
They know who they are – timid shooters, terrific passers and marvelous defenders, with devastating transition ability – and they have the smarts to figure it out.
And, honestly, would the spacing issue with Green and Simmons be much different than when Kevon Looney and Green are sharing the floor? You may recall, Golden State’s most effective lineups last season included ... Green and Looney.
Simmons is a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive first-teamer who, like Draymond, can defend every position. Ben is bigger and infinitely more athletic than Loon.
The Warriors, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Stephen A. Smith, are “divided” in their assessment of Simmons fitting into their roster.
We know there are differences of opinion regarding Simmons, which is understood. Can you trust him in late-game situations? Can his free-throw phobia be overcome? Is he a good teammate? All more valid questions than whether Draymond and Ben can play together.
Still, there is a lot for the Warriors to work through. The D’Angelo Russell-Andrew Wiggins debate 18 months ago was unanimous fairly quickly, I’ve been told, but a deal in which Wiggins and Simmons are the centerpieces would require deeper analysis.
The 76ers, leading up to the July 29 NBA draft, offered Simmons to the Warriors. And their asking price was as absurd as reported: James Wiseman, Wiggins, both 2021 lottery picks and two future firsts going east for Simmons. That was Philly team president Daryl Morey’s idea of a joke, and the Warriors recognized it as that.
Seeking six assets for Simmons was a flight of fantasy, and Morey knew it had no chance.
But the line was cast, and the bait remains on the hook.
The Warriors have since drafted teenage wings Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. They love Kuminga. They really like Moody. They love Wiseman. They really like Wiggins. There are additional considerations, of course, and maybe a third team. A Simmons proposal is worthy of scrutiny.
It was 11 days ago that Warriors CEO Joe Lacob said he did not believe a major trade was in the cards, mostly because the only target worth exploring was “not available.” He did not specify, but the presumption is he was referring to Bradley Beal.
Simmons, whose salary is an approximate match to that of Wiggins, definitely is available. He committed an unforgivable sin in America’s most unforgiving sports town. His next franchise will have to do some deep psychological rehab, but Simmons is a special player.
Morey is trying to be as patient, but the league knows any thought of Simmons returning to Philly is preposterous. Training camps open in 48 days. Every team with an interest is, like Simmons, counting down. They’re making the wise bet that Morey will become more, um, reasonable.
Count the Warriors among those teams. Insofar as they like what they have, there’s no urgency on their part. But they know enough to realize Simmons, the player, fits the desired profile of a franchise forever reaching for the sky.