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The Rich Paul vs. Daryl Morey power struggle over Ben Simmons is here

For the sake of everyone involved, this needs to end quickly.

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Seven Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Ben Simmons saga has been in a stalemate ever since the 25-year-old forward froze up during the Philadelphia 76ers’ second round series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. After making his third straight NBA All-Star team and helping the Sixers grab the top seed in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, Simmons had a putrid series against the underdog Atlanta Hawks defined by his 32 percent free throw shooting and refusal to shoot the ball in the fourth quarter — even if he was wide open for a dunk.

Head coach Doc Rivers and star center Joel Embiid threw Simmons under the bus in the post-game press conference after Philly was eliminated. Ever since, Simmons’ place on the trade market has been one of the biggest stories in the league.

The 76ers shopped Simmons throughout the summer, but their asking price was so high that it appeared talks never advanced very far. With a new season around the corner, it’s Simmons turn to apply the pressure. Simmons has informed the Sixers he wants to be traded, and he’s ready to hold out of training camp to make it happen, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In a meeting with 76ers brass last week in Los Angeles, Simmons told team co-managing partner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand, and coach Doc Rivers that he no longer wants to remain a Sixer, according to multiple sources.

Sources said the three-time All-Star also does not intend to report to training camp.

The situation between Simmons and 76ers has been leading up to this moment since the end of the playoffs. Simmons still has four years and $146 million remaining on his contract, but Simmons is going to do everything it can to get him out of Philadelphia before he plays another game. What we have now is an old fashioned NBA power struggle between Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, and Sixers’ GM Daryl Morey.

The 76ers’ plan was never hard to figure out

On the night of the draft, a rumor circulated about Simmons trade discussions between the Sixers and Golden State Warriors. Morey was reportedly asking for both of the Warriors’ lottery picks (No. 7 and No. 14 overall), last year’s No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, and two other first round picks. This followed a report that Morey had asked the Toronto Raptors for Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and the No. 4 overall pick.

Morey was asking for the moon in part because he wasn’t actually feeling any urgency to trade Simmons. Simmons’ value was theoretically at its lowest after such a tough run in the playoffs, but it stood to reason he could improve his standing in the league during the upcoming season. It was easy to speculate Morey wanted to use Simmons in a deal for Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal should either force their way out from their current teams in the near future.

Morey’s plan makes sense from an asset management perspective, it comes at the cost of human element in the relationships between Simmons with his teammates and head coach. Simmons doesn’t want to wait around another year when everyone knows the team is trying to trade him. Keep in mind that Morey already tried to trade Simmons in Dec. in a package for James Harden.

Simmons and Rich Paul are now pushing Morey’s hand

Not showing up to training camp is a player’s best way to escalate a trade demand. In recent years, we’ve seen Jimmy Butler and James Harden get what they wanted after doing something similar.

The Sixers can fine Simmons, but Simmons also has a lot of money. If he really has his heels dug in here — and it feels like he does — he can likely pressure the team into trading him.

Paul is an X-factor in all of this. The guy who first met LeBron James while selling throwback jerseys in an airport is now one of the biggest power brokers in sports with a growing list of high profile clients. Paul can make this personal with the Sixers and threaten keep perspective future and current clients away from Philadelphia. One of them, promising Sixers second year guard Tyrese Maxey, is reportedly already being used as leverage to get Simmons off the Sixers.

Maxey would theoretically be seeing a significant role increase next year if Simmons is traded away, which makes Paul’s ambitions, if true, even more cunning.

The 76ers can’t win a Ben Simmons trade right now

Morey has always known the Sixers can’t win a Simmons trade this offseason. His value is too low, and the other stars that might hit the market soon haven’t hit the market yet. Lillard wants one more year in Portland before deciding his future. Beal seems happy with a revamped Wizards team after contemplating his future around the draft.

If the Sixers are strong-armed into trading Simmons before the season, it’s hard to think they will find equal value. For all of his flaws, Simmons is still an annual All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year contender with a great mix of size, speed, and passing. Philly is probably getting a talent downgrade given what seems reasonable on the trade market.

Does Philly want C.J. McCollum and Robert Covington from the Trail Blazers? Do they want Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton from the Kings? How about packages built around either Pascal Siakam or OG Anunoby from the Raptors? Does Wiggins, Wiseman, and Moses Moody from the Warriors move the needle enough?

All of these offers are pretty disappointing when you consider the Sixers believe Simmons could be the best piece available in a possible future Lillard deal. Dame just isn’t getting traded right now, and right now is when Simmons wants a new address.

Morey is one of the league’s sharpest executives, but he’s facing a problem with no perfect answer. For the sake of everyone involved, this needs to end quickly.