It’s been almost three months since Ben Simmons was rumored to be on a plane to Texas, yet it remains a talking point in NBA circles. The Houston Rockets, via multiple reports, turned down an offer to swap Simmons for James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Instead, the Rockets accepted a three-team trade that netted them three (unprotected) future first-round picks from the Brooklyn Nets. Why? Simply put, the Houston front office didn’t think Simmons was “good enough to build around.” ESPN’s Tim MacMahon revealed the reason for the non-trade during a recent appearance on The Hoop Collective podcast. He and fellow NBA Insider Tim Bontemps were debating the merits of the Rockets trades in 2021.
MacMahon: This comes down to they didn’t think Ben Simmons was good enough to build around. And we don’t know what the plus is on the [trade] package, but we’ll see. If they don’t get an All-NBA talent out of that bundle of Brooklyn picks then it was a bad trade because Ben Simmons is an All-NBA talent.
Bontemps: They opted for the picks over Ben Simmons. That, you could argue either way, depending on what you’re trying to do.
Reporting w/ @RamonaShelburne: Brooklyn’s acquiring James Harden in a three-way deal with Cleveland. Caris LeVert, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four 1st round picks – including Cavs’ 2022 first via Bucks — and 4 Nets pick swaps to Rockets. Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince to Cavs. https://t.co/qM0ZDH4dH3
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2021
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Doc Rivers Not Concerned with Simmons
There has been much speculation about Simmons since the All-Star break. His numbers are way down across the board, particularly his scoring. The Sixers point guard is averaging just 12.9 points on 45.5% shooting from the field in his last 11 games. But no one is panicking, least of all Doc Rivers.
“I think Ben does so many things for this team to help us win,” Rivers told reporters on Sunday night. “Scoring is just, I’m telling you, the least thing that I’m concerned about.”
Not too many positives from tonight’s game but this was a very impressive bounce pass from Ben Simmons: pic.twitter.com/nRhzC2Peyw
— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) March 31, 2021
The head coach took it a step further when defending Simmons. He looks at everything else the “All-NBA talent” does well and how much he impacts the game on the defensive end. Rivers called Simmons a “facilitator” and squashed any concern about his scoring.
“I think Ben’s a facilitator,” Rivers said. “I think you guys are way more concerned about him scoring than I am.”
Still Suffering From Knee Soreness?
Simmons missed one game on March 20 after the Sixers sat him due to a sore left knee. He was back in the starting five the next night but posted a minus-3 in 37 minutes. He’s looked less aggressive ever since the All-Star break, not attacking the rim as much while falling short on those trademark floaters in the lane.
Ben Simmons: “There’s a lot going on but you know, it is what it is. I gotta get my get my shit together. We got to get back on track as a team.”
— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) March 31, 2021
Both Rivers and Simmons denied the knee is bothering him, but something looks wrong. The Sixers have managed to go 10-4 since the All-Star break despite Simmons’ struggles and a 12-game absence from Joel Embiid. They are second in the Eastern Conference standings, but it’s going to take a full team effort down the stretch to pry that top spot away from the Brooklyn Nets.
“We’re kind of worried about ourselves,” Rivers said, “and that’s all we can do. We like our team. We like who we are. We like how we play.”