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Ben Simmons, To Team Trying To Trade Him: Trade Me

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (for now)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers want to trade away Ben Simmons. That’s been a weird, fitfully and resentfully half-kept quasi-secret since at least as far back as the moment the callow Atlanta Hawks eliminated his heavily favored Sixers from this past summer’s Eastern Conference playoffs, the fourth time in Simmons’s four professional seasons that some combination of his inability to contribute baskets and his bizarre total unwillingness to try have played a part in ending Philadelphia’s championship pursuit shy of the conference final. Now he’s reportedly told the Sixers he wants out, and won’t report to training camp if he’s not traded before it opens in the last week of September. This is hilarious!

The reporting comes from the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey, extensively paraphrasing an anonymous source (let’s call him “Paul Rich” to protect his identity) apparently on Simmons’s side of the negotiation, who blames the team’s failure to trade Simmons on the organization’s unrealistic expectations of what it can get in return for him.

From Pompey’s article:

The organization does not want to trade Simmons for less than what it believes is fair market value. The four told Simmons they wanted him to report to the start of training camp on Sept. 28 and be a part of the team.

The source said, however, the Sixers’ inability to get fair market value isn’t Simmons’ fault.

[….]

Simmons is fully aware the Sixers can fine him for holding out and failing to show up to training camp. But a source said money will not play a role in the decision-making for Simmons, who has four years and $147 million remaining on his deal.

Plus, fining Simmons could strain the Sixers’ relationship with his super agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Paul has a who’s who of clients — players the Sixers might be interested in pursuing down the road in free agency.

Inquirer

That reasoning is broadly right, for what it’s worth. Simmons wants to change workplaces, as James Harden did, and as Anthony Davis did, as in-demand workers do across many industries, and it’s only his (and his agent’s) responsibility to make that change amenable to Philadelphia’s front office up to a point. It’s certainly not his responsibility to maximize his soon-to-be-former employer’s leverage. If the Sixers’ executives can’t trade him for what they regard as fair market value, they ought to trade him for what the market regards as fair market value—certainly someone will take a 25-year-old three-time all-star at some price!—and if they won’t, then they’re not entitled to his work, beyond hitting him with collectively bargained fines. That’s all very straightforward. That (what certainly seems like) his camp is making this case essentially by arguing that Ben Simmons actually isn’t as valuable as Sixers general manager Daryl Morey thinks he is nevertheless makes this among the saddest and most humiliating leverage plays in memory: It’s not my client’s problem that he’s not very desirable to other teams; the issue is that the 76ers simply have way too high an opinion of what he’s worth. Personally I would like to imagine the expression on Ben Simmons’s face when his team explained this righteous tactical checkmate, except that by all indications Ben Simmons does not actually have any facial expressions.

It might work! It might work. The logic is broadly sound: Now that Morey must weigh the prospect of trading Simmons against the prospect of paying him to stay home (and possibly being blackballed in the future by one of the league’s major brokers of talent), rather than weighing it against the prospect of a somewhat chagrined Simmons cranking out 15-7-7 every night between now and when some rival executive gets desperate enough to offer the farm for him, Morey may conceivably see that he has no choice but to lower his asking price.

Then again, by all rumors and reports the wider league’s estimation of Simmons’s fair-market value has only gone down since last December, when the Rockets wouldn’t accept him in return for a disgruntled James Harden. If Simmons melting down in the playoffs again and getting called a big-time loser (in so many words) by both Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers couldn’t convince Morey to perhaps ask for less than Damian freaking Lillard in return for Guy Who’d Rather Be Eliminated From The Playoffs Than Do A Slam Dunk, maybe nothing will. It’s galaxy brains on all sides! Chaos reigns.

I can’t wait for the Washington Wizards to trade Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and every draft pick they’ll have for the next 30 years for Simmons, who will attempt zero field goals and free throws next season and then announce his retirement.