There’s no question the Sixers’ triumvirate of stars are an imperfect fit.
We knew that when Elton Brand pulled the trigger on the Jimmy Butler trade. Simmons’ unwillingness to take open jump shots shrinks the floor and allows defenders to sag off of him to double Joel Embiid and pay more attention to Butler.
With that said, the idea of trading Ben Simmons right now is absolutely insane.
There was (understandable) frustration over Simmons not having an impactful game against the Celtics on Christmas day. Then again, this always seems to happen when the Sixers play Boston or another elite team and Simmons struggles.
Simmons is 22 years old and could be on the cusp of his first All-Star game in his second NBA season. He’s flawed, but he’s way too talented and way too young to even entertain a trade at this point.
Let’s be real, everyone knew Butler was not an ideal fit with Embiid and Simmons. So why make the trade? Because Brand viewed it as a chance to land a star, something that doesn’t come along often, as the Sixers are painfully aware. So now that you have a budding superstar in Simmons, you’re just going to turn around and trade him? Yeah, no.
Other than Simmons’ age, the infancy of Butler’s tenure makes the idea even crazier. Butler has played 19 games with Simmons. The trio of Simmons, Butler and Joel Embiid has played in just 18 games — the team is 13-5 in those contests, by the way — and 322 minutes of actual game action. The Sixers’ starting lineup as it is currently constructed has the second-best net rating among any five-man lineup in the NBA with at least 150 minutes played together.
It’s fair to be skeptical, but to just say “this won’t work” with such a small sample size is shortsighted. Many around the NBA weren’t sure how a James Harden-Chris Paul marriage would work. After an MVP award for Harden and the Rockets taking the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, it’s fair to say that’s worked out.
Simmons taking more jump shots would likely help this trio reach its potential. Simmons making jumpers would be a total game changer. To his credit, Simmons has taken four shots outside of 10 feet over his last two games and has made two of them. Perhaps the 22-footer in Boston gave Simmons the confidence to nail a 14-foot fadeaway Thursday night in Utah. The shot was confident, with ample time on the shot clock and put the Sixers up 20. Maybe we should allow the young man to develop his game before we decide it won’t ever develop enough to play alongside Butler and Embiid.
If the Sixers are bounced early in the postseason and Simmons has a similar performance to the Celtics’ series last season, that could change the conversation. Then again, there’s no guarantee Butler will be back. It’s also fair to point out that Butler has taken a shine to his headband brother and it’s hard to know how that would affect Butler’s thinking.
Let’s just all take a deep breath and let this whole thing play out before we start talking trades.
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.