October 11, 2021

Should the Philadelphia 76ers Allow Ben Simmons to Rejoin the Team?

It's been a nearly foregone conclusion that Ben Simmons played his last game as a Sixer following his dreadful performance in Philadelphia's shocking playoff departure to the Atlanta Hawks. 

With rumors swirling about which team could trade for the former No. 1 overall pick, Simmons ignored his 76ers teammates as he tried to move on... except a deal never transpired, which leads to the latest WojBomb from ESPN. 

The Sixers have tried all offseason to convince Simmons to come back, and now that a deal has yet to be struck, the three-time All-Star could conceivably come back to the franchise that drafted.

But should the Sixers let Simmons return after a tumultuous offseason? 

An Irreparable Relationship

Simmons has been pretty firm with the 76ers that he has no interest in returning to the team. He's reportedly refused to speak with teammates and members of the front office, going as far as to tell Joel Embiid and others to not visit him in Los Angeles this offseason.

But today's report complicates matters even more. 

If Simmons does decide to give it another go in Philadelphia, his relationship with his teammates and the front office looks to be irreparable. That puts the 76ers in a similar situation that the Rockets faced with James Harden last year, except Simmons' trade value is at an all-time low.

If Simmons does return to the team to avoid the hefty fines, he could have a massive impact on team morale. The LSU product does not want to be there so he could pull a Harden or, say, Andrew Bynum and completely torpedo training camp and practice. 

If Simmons' agent Rich Paul is able to get his client to at least return to the team while the 76ers are still working the phones looking for a trade, that may open the market for Simmons back up. Every team that has been in on a Simmons trade has pulled back due to the ridiculously high price the 76ers put on him. While they will not get a maximum return because every team knows the 76ers are desperate, there should be no hesitation, the 76ers need to trade Simmons.

Not Worth The Headache

The 76ers were the No. 1 seed last season. They are clearly still a contender in the Eastern Conference — along with the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. Losing Simmons widens the gap, but Joel Embiid has proven that he is an elite talent in this league, with or without Simmons by his side.

As Simmons has made clear, he's no longer interested in playing with Embiid, who is much more beloved in Philadelphia, because their games apparently clash. He's not wrong, but this, along with his past comments, will make playing with Embiid impossible and cause major problems in the locker room. 

One factor to also take in is the fan reception to a potential Simmons return. It is no secret that Philadelphia fans have a certain reputation of being, ahem, "passionate" towards their hometown teams. This was the fanbase that booed Simmons during the Eastern Conference semifinals last season because of his free throw troubles. Hell, this city booed and assaulted Santa Claus one time.

What's Next?

Simmons is too talented to not play. Either the 76ers or some other team will cave and Simmons will be playing elsewhere. While he is still owed $147 million over the next four years, that is pretty cheap for a player with Simmons' potential. 

He is an elite defender, he distributes the ball well, and, when he feels like it, Simmons can be an elite finisher at the rim. I understand the 76ers trying to make this work, but it is not worth it. He does not fit with the team anymore, especially with his refusal to talk or acknowledge his teammates.

There should be no turning back. Simmons' time in Philadelphia is over no matter what happens in the coming days. The relationship is broken between him, the organization, the fans, the city, and his teammates. At some point, the 76ers have to cut their losses and take the best deal available.

Philly can build around Embiid, especially with whatever haul the Sixers get for Simmons. Philadelphia has surrounded Embiid with plenty of shooters and ball-handlers that he can focus on his strengths, which is overall dominance. If the 76ers can get another All-Star-caliber player — such as C.J. McCollum or Malcolm Brogdon — they will be in pretty good shape.

Simmons returning to the locker room, even for a short time, should not be an option.

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration