It’s impossible to know what the Sixers will look like until the Ben Simmons saga is mercifully resolved. With so much drama around the franchise over the offseason, it’s easy to forget this team earned the No. 1 seed in the East last year while star center Joel Embiid nearly won MVP. This has typically been a very good team behind its two stars, but it’s starting to feel like Simmons has now played in last game in Philly. As long as Embiid — now 27 years old — is healthy and in his prime, the Sixers should have a shot in the East every year.
The best case scenario for the Sixers would be finding a trade partner for Ben Simmons that has an All-Star player to send back. Whether it’s Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine or a player not on the radar yet, a perimeter scorer of any kind would do wonders for the Sixers’ title chances. Joel Embiid remaining healthy, Tobias Harris breaking through and becoming an All-Star, and the Sixers’ young players — like Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey — taking a leap would also be ideal.
The team doesn’t find an adequate trade for Simmons and the three-time All-Star makes good on his threat to sit all season. Nobody wins in that scenario. The Sixers will be worse off for not having Simmons’ elite defense and passing ability. At 25, Simmons will have sat out a year of his prime, which hardly seems worth it. If health becomes an issue with any of the team’s top remaining players, it could make for a long season.
The team is clearly in a stalemate with Simmons. He won’t report and the team isn’t moving off its demands. What seems most likely is Embiid and Harris keeping the team afloat in the first half while Daryl Morey waits for an opportunity sort of like Kyle Lowry last season. Toronto didn’t ultimately trade its franchise icon, but it was discussed. Getting a healthy Embiid elite perimeter help puts the Sixers back in the second round of the playoffs. If they have to go up against the Nets or Bucks, that’s an uphill battle.
The development of Maxey and Thybulle. The Sixers struck gold when the Kentucky guard fell into their laps at pick 21 last season. The 20-year-old has been tasked with replacing Simmons in the starting lineup (at least for now). I have this funny feeling that Maxey will thrive. He has all the makings of a special player and I think he will continue to show that this season. Without Simmons, Thybulle becomes the Sixers’ primary defender. Fresh off his stint with Team Australia at the Olympics, Thybulle has First-Team All-Defense — maybe even Defensive Player of the Year — potential.