76ers

The Sixers should not trade Ben Simmons

The Sixers should not trade Ben Simmons

It seems like some people have a hard time quantifying just how good Ben Simmons has been in his young NBA career.

For comparison sake, let’s look at the two stars of the Eastern Conference Finals. Through the first two seasons of Kawhi Leonard’s career, he put up modest numbers, averaging 9.8 points per game. Giannis Antetokounmpo, this year’s likely MVP, averaged the identical number of points through his first two seasons.

Leonard was surrounded by Hall of Famers so he was just in a supporting role. In Antetokounmpo’s case, the Bucks just weren’t very good so not much was asked of him.

Simmons has outperformed both players through two years and has at times carried a team that’s won 50 games in back-to-back seasons. Yet as we enter the offseason, there are people who actually want to trade him.

He’s 22. He’s an All-Star. He has NBA All-Defensive team potential. He possesses skills that few have ever had at his size. So the next logical step is … trade him?

Yeah, totally.

Some of this speculation began because of an article our good friend Tom Haberstroh wrote. A Western Conference executive told our NBC Sports NBA Insider that the Sixers “very well might explore” the idea of trading Simmons for LeBron James. Sure, if there’s a chance to land the greatest player maybe ever, you “explore” it. But the idea just doesn’t add up, as Haberstroh ultimately alluded to.

"The safe money is that the Sixers brings the Philadelphia Phive back for redemption," Haberstroh writes. "The opinion here is that Simmons is too good and too young to bail on now."

Plus, Simmons will be eligible to sign his rookie max extension. If the Sixers are able to do so, it’ll keep Simmons in Philadelphia for the next six seasons. So what’s better, continuing to build around Joel Embiid AND Ben Simmons for the next half decade — at least — or go all-in on LeBron, who may not be thrilled to be traded here, for the next two years?

You can look at his numbers from a historical perspective compared to guys like James or Magic Johnson, but that doesn’t even properly enumerate what Simmons has done. This was his second year ever playing point guard. Not in the NBA, but of his entire basketball life. What he can do at 6-foot-10 doesn’t even make sense. 

He’s also used that length and freakish athleticism to become an improved and imposing defender. It’s not crazy to think that Simmons has Defensive Player of the Year potential. How many people were saying that about Leonard, who’s won the award, or Antetokounmpo after Year 2?

Simmons has one fatal flaw in his shot. It’s no secret that it’s the one thing likely keeping him from ascending from All-Star to All-NBA. Simmons was his usual reticent self when asked about how he’d work on his shot this offseason during exit interviews last week. 

Brett Brown provided the most insight.

If I’m sitting in front of you and he’s 26, I think the conversation would probably be a little bit more disingenuous,” Brown said last week. “It’s going to be this discussion for probably a few years where none of you are going to be happy if he’s not cranking out 10 15-footers a game. … And Ben knows this, too. But I stand by that this isn’t going to be the thing that defines him immediately. It will, at some point, for sure. And I feel like this year with Jimmy [Butler] having the ball and us putting him in different floor spots, he’s shown the versatility that we should all be thrilled with at age 22 and 6-foot-10, that I can use him in different areas.

That playoff loss to Toronto stung. Offensively, Simmons gave the Sixers very little outside of a virtuoso performance in Game 6 to keep his team alive. As much as the shot is an issue, that Game 6 win also showed that Simmons still has more to give outside of that. Because of his physical gifts, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Simmons is still a kid trying to figure out NBA playoff basketball.

So do you look for the best offer for Simmons this offseason or bank on the 22-year-old All-Star figuring things out and developing a shot in the next six years?

Playing the long game paid off for the teams that drafted Leonard and Antetokounmpo.

And both of their current teams are where the Sixers want to be.

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Five things the 2020 NBA Championship odds are telling us

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USA TODAY Images

Five things the 2020 NBA Championship odds are telling us

While the Toronto Raptors lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy signified the start of the offseason, the Anthony Davis to the Lakers trade proves that in the NBA, there’s no such thing as an offseason.

According to Tom Haberstroh, the national NBA Insider for NBC Sports, the Lakers should be the heavy favorites to win the title (see story). But what are the new NBA title odds telling us?

Here are five takeaways from what I think the oddsmakers at FanDuel are telling us about the league, and the eventual 2020 NBA champion.

1. The Sixers (11-to-1) will keep Jimmy Butler

The Sixers have the fifth-best odds to win the NBA title, third in the East, and are significantly ahead of the Boston Celtics (18-to-1), the team with the fourth-best odds in the East. I think this says a lot about what team oddsmakers think the Sixers will have next season, which the value indicates will include free agent Jimmy Butler.

Looking at the available free agents on the market, Butler is the only one that could keep the Sixers in this spot in the oddsmakers' minds. Should he go to the Lakers, or another team, the Sixers would have the current value closer to the Celtics to win the title. While Tobias Harris is a nice player, he doesn’t hae the same value as Butler. The oddsmakers are making an assumption that No. 23 will be back.

2. The Warriors (11-to-1) are underdogs, but you shouldn’t count them out

Don’t be so quick to write off the Golden State Warriors, who will be without Kevin Durant for the entire season, and perhaps Klay Thompson, too. Oddsmakers have them even with the Sixers with the fifth-best odds in the NBA to win the title.

First of all, Steph Curry — a very good basketball player — returns alongside Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala and you’ve already got a formidable trio. Should Thompson return, now you’ve got four players that nearly won the 2019 title themselves. 

Perhaps KD was already going to leave anyway, so his injury could be more symbolic, but it would be unwise to write the Warriors off just yet. 

3. Kawhi is probably going to the Clippers

This reminds me of last offseason when each of the LeBron James suitors had elevated odds, just in case he were to land there. First of all, the Raptors enter the offseason with the third-best odds to repeat at 5.5-to-1, which makes me think that the bookmakers want to keep the Raptors high enough so that no one bets on them before Leonard decides. I have absolutely no interest in the Raptors at the third-best odds without Leonard, but they seem fairly placed in that spot with him. If you like the Raptors to repeat, just wait to see what Kawhi does because their odds won’t move much, if at all, if he stays.

The Clippers, on the other hand, come in seventh-best at 12-to-1 and are elevated given the chance they will land the NBA Finals MVP. The Clippers finished eighth last season out West and the odds currently reflect their strong chance to get Leonard. 

4. The Knicks and Pelicans will have to wait their turn

The Knicks come in at 25-to-1, the 12th-best odds in the NBA to win the title, but what would that number have looked like with a healthy Kevin Durant? Maybe half that number?

The Knicks are a potential landing spot for nearly every free agent, but without KD, the oddsmakers aren’t giving them much of a shot. They missed out on the top pick in the draft, and while they’re likely to get a good player at No. 3 — our Amy Fadool has them taking R.J.Barrett in her mock — they’ve got time before they’re going to be seen as challengers.

Same for the Pelicans (100-to-1), who are being praised for what they got in return for Anthony Davis. With the Pelicans' infusion of youth, it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Zion, Lonzo Ball, and company over the next five years. But this year, according to the oddsmakers, certainly isn’t it.

5. Despite being favored, the Lakers could be the best value

LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma — do the Lakers (4-to-1) need anyone else? Of course they do, but that’s a tremendous start. With their entire complement of talent intact at the start of these playoffs, the Warriors were minus-200 to win the title. Now imagine a team with the three players mentioned, and perhaps, another superstar. With the Warriors weakened, Kawhi perhaps headed to a lesser team and KD out for the season, getting the Lakers at 4-to-1 now could look like incredible value come next postseason.

6. Bonus Longshot: Dallas Mavericks at 42-to-1.

How good will the Mavs be with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis? Not sure, but 42-to-1 could be worth a punt.

Happy NBA “offseason,” everyone. See you on Thursday for the draft, and perhaps, more craziness. 

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NBA offseason begins in earnest as Lakers reportedly agree to trade with Pelicans for Anthony Davis

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USA Today Images/Derick E. Hingle

NBA offseason begins in earnest as Lakers reportedly agree to trade with Pelicans for Anthony Davis

It didn’t take long for the NBA offseason to begin in earnest.

Just two days after the Raptors clinched the NBA title, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Los Angeles Lakers have acquired star center Anthony Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. In return, the Pelicans are getting Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 selection in this year’s draft. 

The move has massive big-picture implications for the league. The Lakers now have a six-time All-Star with career averages of 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks to pair with LeBron James.

New Orleans got a substantial haul in return. Ball and Ingram, two former No. 2 overall picks, are both 21 years old. A Villanova product, Hart couldn’t build on a promising rookie campaign last year but has the makings of someone who can be a valuable NBA role player for many years. The Pelicans will also feel they have a real chance to land a star(s) with the three first-round picks, whether through the draft or through subsequent trades. They already had the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and are expected to select the electric Zion Williamson. 

According to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Lakers gave up all that for one guaranteed year of Davis — Haynes says Davis will enter free agency after this year. The fact that Toronto’s gamble to trade for one year of Kawhi Leonard before he hit free agency paid off could spark a league-wide trend of banking on short-term "rentals" for stars (see story). 

For the Sixers, the first, obvious takeaway from the trade is that their biggest rival failed to land Davis — the Celtics were reportedly interested in him, but The New York Times’ Marc Stein reports Boston refused to make Jayson Tatum available, which stunted negotiations. 

It’s unclear at the moment how the trade might affect Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, the Sixers' two big-name free agents. Haynes reported Friday that Butler, as expected, will decline his player option. He also reported the Lakers “have genuine interest” in Butler. The Sixers hold Butler’s Bird Rights and are the only team who can offer him a five-year, $190 million deal.  

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