What’s next for the 76ers after their epic loss?
Mannix and Beck dive into a disappointing finish in Utah (with an assist from The Athletic‘s Tony Jones), Ben Simmons’s future in Philadelphia, a housecleaning in Dallas, Brad Stevens makes his first big trade, why Stan Van Gundy failed with the Pelicans and more.
Chris Mannix: All right, Howard, let’s talk about the Philadelphia 76ers and what an unbelievable disappointment it has to be for Philadelphia to get beat. In the second round, they lose Game 5 on their home floor. They lose Game 7 on their home floor. Ben Simmons—look to call him a nonfactor in the fourth quarter of these games, Howard, would be a gross understatement. Like he was just not involved, like statistically not involved the last four games of the series. He did not attempt a shot in the fourth quarter. And what Simmons and the series are going to be remembered for, is that playing late in the fourth quarter when he had an open dunk, he passed it up and he gave it to Matisse Thybulle, who made one of two free throws. Even Joel Embiid afterward said that this was on Ben Simmons. In fact, let’s play Joel Embiid after the game, man.
Joel Embiid: Man, I’ll be honest. I thought the turning point was when, well … I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was when we had no pressure.
CM: So, Howard, it doesn’t sound like things are salvageable in Philadelphia, which probably means Daryl Morey is going to be burning up the phones over the next couple of months trying to find the right deal for Ben Simmons. How do you view the situation?
Howard Beck: Yeah, look, there’s a lot of ways to look at this. And I know Ben Simmons has taken a lot of shots; he’s absorbing a lot of shots in the last day or so and understandably so. Look, you’re a guy who’s been on All-NBA before, not this season, but he’s been All-NBA. So he’s a top-15-, top-20-type player in this league. There’s more responsibility that goes with that and more blame that comes when you don’t perform. And yes, in the past, a lot of us have highlighted, Hey, look, there are some limitations with this player. And the pushback is always, Yeah, but look, all the things he does really well, and that’s always a fair case. It’s a fair case for a year or two or three.
But eventually, if it’s about championships and that’s kind of the goal here, then you do have to start to look at where a player’s limitations are holding you back. It’s a huge hole in his game for a guy who’s a primary ballhandler. And if Ben Simmons were, in fact, instead, a point forward, a guy who was a part-time ballhandler, who was sharing that with a primary point guard and a guy who does shoot and who can break down a defense in other ways and score in the midrange and everything else—then it wouldn’t be as big of a glaring part of his game that’s missing. But he is their primary point guard most of the time.
And so in the year 2021 of the NBA, you cannot be an elite primary ballhandler without some ability and some willingness to shoot. And what we saw was like the most exaggerated version. You pointed out the stat of not taking a shot in the fourth quarter the last four games. That is like the worst-nightmare version of the things that people were highlighting his concerns in earlier years.
So I don’t want to say, this means Ben Simmons is broken, this means Ben Simmons has no trade value, this means this is the end. It’s probably the end of the road for Simmons and Embiid as a duo and probably should be. But Ben Simmons is still an incredibly talented player who has great value elsewhere in a different role.
So listen, you and I both know this. Daryl Morey is as aggressive as they come among NBA executives. He’s already tried to trade him once for Harden. It seems like almost an inevitability; they’ve got to find the right deal. But you’ve got to think it’s coming.
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