The career of former number 1 pick Ben Simmons has been an absolute rollercoaster leading up to the 2021-2022 NBA Playoffs. From being the potential hero of Philadelphia to the villain in just a matter of years, not many careers have been quite like his. The career of Simmons has brought up some interesting points about the relationships between NBA teams and their players as well as an increased presence of mental health in the NBA.
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The Sixers Golden Ticket
Ben Simmons was a one-and-done in college basketball, meaning he played in only his freshman year and then made the move to go to the NBA. This was not to anyone’s surprise as he was considered by many to be the favorite for the number 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. By the day of the draft, his odds according to bet365 were +600, a heavy favorite. While Simmons was selected first overall in the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, the excitement was short-lived as Simmons suffered a foot fracture that cost him his rookie year.
“Rookie” Of The Year
Simmons’ actual first year of basketball was considered by many to be a great success. Before the season started, he was the favorite by far to win the Rookie of the Year award at -2000 odds. He averaged 15.8 points per game, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. What was even more promising for the future was that Simmons was able to play in 81 out of 82 games. While some were hesitant to call Simmons a rookie as this was technically his second year (including some Twitter arguments with then-rookie Donavan Mitchell), Simmons received 90 out of 101 first-place votes to win the Rookie of the Year award.
A Promising Beginning
After winning rookie of the year, Simmons next three years seemed to go off without a hitch. He averaged a stat line of 16/8/7.6 with 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks. He was also an absolute defensive force in the league defending from both the three-point line as well as near the paint. While Simmons was starting to emerge as a true star alongside MVP candidate Joel Embiid, the Sixers looked to be one of the premier teams coming out of the East. Prior to the 2020-2021 season, Simmons had +7000 odds to win MVP, the 22nd best player in the league. However, from 2018-2021, the Sixers continually fell short of expectations.
The first real season of the newly formed dynamic duo of Simmons and Embiid culminated with a 2nd round loss to the Celtics, losing the series 4 games to 1. The following season, in the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Sixers lost in a heartbreaker to the Toronto Raptors 4 games to 3. The defining moment of Simmons’ legacy came in the 2020 playoffs. After finishing the season as the number 1 seed in the East, the Sixers were one of the odds on favorites to win the title for that year (+650 odds to win the title). After beating the Washington Wizards in the first round 4 games to 1, the Sixers next opponent was the Atlanta Hawks, the 5th seed for those playoffs. While it was a very close series overall, the Hawks ultimately prevailed over the Sixers winning the series 4 games to 3. Who was to blame for the Sixers collapse? Many Sixers fans believed it was Simmons, who did not attempt a single shot in the 4th quarter in the final 4 games of the series. With a 34.2% free throw percentage (the lowest in playoff history with a minimum of 70 attempts) to go along with a disappearing act for the entire Sixers playoff run.
The Offseason Of Simmons
Simmons’ performance in the playoffs not only brought negative comments from fans, but also from Embiid and Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers. Embiid called out Simmons for passing out of a wide-open dunk in game 7, which proved to be a turning point in the game. Rivers said that he wasn’t sure if Simmons could be a point guard on a championship team. Once the postseason ended, the only news stories in the offseason floated around Simmons wanting out of Philadelphia, potential trade partners, and whether or not Simmons would even join the Sixers next year, with or without a trade.
While Simmons joined the team late for training camp, most believed that it was due to the fact that the Sixers were fining him for each day he didn’t show up. Simmons’ one and only appearance had Rivers throwing him out of the practice. Simmons’ agent believed that all the fines and negative press were hurting Simmons’ mental health, and Simmons later filed a grievance against the Sixers due to all the money he had lost through fines from the team, upwards of $20 million.
Simmons Heads To The Big Apple
The offseason came and went without Simmons being traded. With the regular season starting, Simmons was no closer to playing with the team then he was during the offseason. From increased trade talks to Simmons saying he can’t play because of his mental health, the Sixers had no choice but to trade their former 1st overall pick. The landing spot favorites changed from the Sacramento Kings (+275) before the season started to the Portland Trail Blazers (+175) during the season. Right before the trade deadline, the Sixers were able to find a trade suitor for Simmons in the Nets who had their own disgruntled superstar on their team, James Harden. The Sixers championship odds from the trade went from +1800 to +1300 while the Nets went from +600 to +1000.
Simmons would then join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, two of the best players in the NBA, to form a new big 3. While many hoped Simmons would be ready by the season’s end, the final game came and went without him suiting up. With the Nets already not living up to expectations as they were the favorites to win the title (+230) before the season started, they had a tough matchup against the Boston Celtics. The series came, Simmons did not play one minute of action, and the Brooklyn Nets were swept, leading many in the media and NBA players to call out Simmons yet again for his actions and lack of commitment.
The Future Of Simmons
Going into the 2022 season, Simmons has 3 year/$113.6 million on his contract, meaning that he has a guaranteed contract through the 2024-20225 season. With many in the Nets organization already wary about what’s next for Simmons, many believe that he will have no trade suitors after how he’s acted in Brooklyn. One has to wonder how the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will go for the league versus the players. Simmons filed a grievance against the Sixers for $20 million dollars despite not playing a single minute for them. Despite the outcome of Simmons versus Sixers, the owners are sure to add something to the CBA which ensures that players only get paid for when they play, which could ultimately change the dynamics of the league.