The Philadelphia 76ers are 10-9 and holding their own despite Joel Embiid missing time due to injury, and the continued absence of Ben Simmons, who is working on his mental health and wants to be traded. Emerging as a bright spot for the 76ers is second-year guard Tyrese Maxey.
Maxey has seen a jump in all of his counting stats and shooting efficiency. Last season he was an overall negative in EPM at -2.8. This season he’s at +1.2. This turnaround has potentially clarified things with regard to Ben Simmons.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been insistent that the team will not trade Ben Simmons unless they receive a package centered around a difference-maker. That’s another All-Star or, even better, All-NBA-caliber player.
Morey has also made it no secret that Damian Lillard or James Harden are the players he would like to acquire.
But teams around the league, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, are not motivated to make a move for Simmons, given the uncertainty of his situation.
Simmons has told the team he is not mentally ready to play basketball this season, and he’s been working with National Basketball Players Association professionals on his mental health. His choice of mental health providers is an issue for the 76ers.
Since teams are reluctant to pull the trigger, given Morey’s asking price, Maxey could be a sweetner to any deal. He’s a second-year player on a rookie deal, and he’s shown the type of development over one year that causes excitement from general managers.
If you’re the Portland Trail Blazers, Simmons fills a defensive and playmaking need your team sorely lacks. Maxey can slide in next to CJ McCollum and he can be Lillard light. That would make the sting of moving Lillard a little easier to handle. The Blazers would be without one of the great offensive players of this era, but would be a better team, and Morey would have his star to pair next to Embiid.
— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) September 14, 2021
The Washington Wizards are 11-7 and can really lean into a defensive identity with a Simmons-for-Bradley Beal trade. Philly might not have to include Maxey, as the youth movement and development around the Wizards would work well for Simmons. Not to mention pairing Simmons with Spencer Dinwiddie works from a personality perspective.
Simmons to the Sacramento Kings for De’ Aaron Fox also works. The Kings have an overflow in the backcourt, and with Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell on cheaper deals, this makes sense. If you’re the 76ers, no, Fox isn’t Lillard or Harden, but if you keep Maxey now you’ve got options in your pick-and-roll game. Not to mention Seth Curry’s lights-out shooting in a super small lineup.
The other thing Maxey’s improvement does is potentially make keeping Simmons a bit easier. The relationship is fractured and likely beyond repair, but allow 76ers fans a moment to dream.
Maxey attacks north-south very easily and is excellent finishing at the rim. He’s making an absurd 67.1 percent of shots in the restricted area. His perimeter jumper has improved, making him very dangerous. If he can play like that, Simmons can be a Draymond Green type. Obliterating teams in transition and screening and rolling in the halfcourt. Add that to a healthy Embiid and the aforementioned Seth Curry, and you’re cooking with gas.
The latter is probably a pipe dream given what we know about the Simmons and 76ers relationship at this point, but the emergence of Maxey changes things one way or another.
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