With training camp underway, the stalemate between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers appears nowhere closer to being resolved.
According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer , Simmons has told Philadelphia that he "no longer wants to be a Sixer" with the three-time All-Star not reporting for training camp as he holds out for a move and despite pleas from the organisation for the Aussie to return to Philadelphia, Simmons reportedly believes the partnership with Joel Embiid has 'run its course', per the Athletic.
While the relationship between Simmons and the 76ers appears to be beyond repair, one of the key issues surrounding his stance is his desire to have a team built around him, rather than the seemingly 'round peg, square hole' approach to playing alongside Joel Embiid.
MORE: 76ers address Simmons' absence on Media Day | Building the perfect team around Ben Simmons
The duo have led the 76ers to success in the regular season with their sheer talent enough to win them games, but on the playoff stage, the poor fit between the pair was amplified.
The Simmons-Embiid dynamic has been bubbling in the background basically since they began playing together and after failing to advance beyond the second round in four playoff appearances together, the writing has been on the wall and now Simmons has made it clear that he wants to be moved somewhere to have a team built around him, as reported by The Ringer's Kevin O'Conno.
According to Embiid, that team has been Philly.
"I feel like our teams have been built, whether it's the shooting need or stretch-5 and all that stuff, I feel like [Simmons] always had it here. And we still have it," Embiid said. "Our teams have always been built around his needs."
The 76ers have accommodated Simmons' offensive shortcomings, surrounding him with 3-point shooters, with even Embiid - the league's best post player - often launching 3-pointers to space the floor and although it has worked to some degree, we still haven't seen the best version of Simmons while sharing the floor with the 7-foot-2 center.
Only adding to that has been Simmons' performances without Embiid in the lineup.
Simmons had the best game of his career in February against the Utah Jazz, dropping 42 points - a lot of them on Rudy Gobert - 12 rebounds and nine assists, with the paint wide open for him to attack.
😤 @BenSimmons25 filled it up with a career-high 4️⃣2️⃣ PTS against the Jazz!- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) February 16, 2021
📊 42 PTS | 12 AST | 9 REB pic.twitter.com/pHfWBNPcnL
Against the Washington Wizards in Game 4 of their first-round series, Simmons started at center in Embiid's absence as dominated at both ends with 19 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and two blocks, torching them in transition.
🇦🇺 @BenSimmons25 poured in a Game 5 triple-double as the @sixers advance to the second round! #NBAPlayoffs- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) June 3, 2021
📊 19 PTS | 11 AST | 10 REB | 2 BLK pic.twitter.com/i9G4kcXuwt
It's been a recurring theme during their four-year tenure going back to their first full regular season playing together in 2017-18. Philly won their final 16 games of the regular season and despite Embiid missing the final eight games, Simmons carried the team in his absence.
Simmons led the 76ers to eight straight wins, averaging 15.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.0 steals in that span.
There are two sides to the argument. Philly has tried to delicately manage the imbalance between their mismatched star duo, bringing in a string of shooters to stretch the floor to open the paint for both Simmons and Embiid, while trying different offensive solutions for Simmons - in the dunker spot, as a roll-man, and speeding up the offence to maximise their transition opportunities.
Simmons has spent four seasons trying to fit his game and its limitations alongside Embiid, rather than have a team entirely built around him and as a No.1 overall pick, three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive First Team selection, at this point feels he should be the focal point of a team. As Gilbert Arenas recently said, a roster construction mirroring that surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee would bring out the best in Simmons on a consistent basis.
"You're talking about a guy who is 6'11, can get to the basket anytime he wants. He's the point guard that is coming downhill, long, can jump. Really, he's unguardable if his mentality was 'I'm gonna go out and score 40,'" he said on the No Chill Gil Podcast .
"The fact that you're not actually using him. The fact that you're not "Greek-the-Freaking" this dude tells me another story too... My thing is he took five shots, that's coaching too. You're not getting him involved... he's at the point where it's more mental than anything," he added.
Antetokounmpo is one of the best players attacking the paint and has a willingness to shoot from deep, but Arenas' argument has some weight to it. A dream scenario for Simmons is finding his way to a team entirely built around his strengths, with a non-traditional big man not clogging the paint and an army of shooters eagerly awaiting kick-outs from one of the league's best playmakers.
But does that scenario exist? And will the 76ers be willing to let him go for pieces below their perceived value of Simmons, who's trade value is as low as it's been, following his disappointing playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks?
MORE: What would Ben Simmons bring to a team? Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses
The 76ers are in win-now mode, so shipping Simmons for young players and picks doesn't make any sense, with the franchise targeting a Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal level trade.
However, there are a few situations that could please both parties without getting an All-NBA talent in return for Simmons. Would the San Antonio Spurs be interested in taking a swing at Simmons for a deal centred around Dejounte Murray? Would the Portland Trail Blazers break up their backcourt and move CJ McCollum? Could the Sacramento Kings, who came close to trading Buddy Hield in the summer put together a package for Simmons?
Sure, the 76ers wouldn't be getting an All-Star in return, but each of those situations would keep them on or close to their current trajectory, while giving Simmons an opportunity to have a team built around him.
The San Antonio Spurs have plenty of talented young players but are still yearning for a foundational superstar. Head coach Gregg Popovich has long been an admirer of the Aussie point guard, dismissing his lack of shooting as an issue.
"It would enhance his game, obviously. That can't be argued with," Popovich said earlier this year. "But all of his physical skills, basketball skills, the way he understands the game, as unselfish as he is - he's so elite already, who gives a damn if he can't shoot."
The Sacramento Kings have hitched their future to De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and recently drafted defensive guard Davion Mitchell. Adding Simmons' size and skillset to the roster in place of Hield seemingly raises their ceiling, while a Fox-Simmons fastbreak could well break the sound barrier.
In the case of the Trail Blazers, he'd team up with Damian Lillard, who's game would co-exist well with a 6-foot-10 swiss army knife defender and elite playmaker in Simmons, functioning as a North West Steph Curry x Draymond Green.
Simmons still has plenty of interest around the league, but finding a solution that works for both he and the organistion could see the stalemate drag on and as the regular season approaches, the clock is ticking for both sides.
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