The Ben Simmons saga has captivated the basketball word, unfolding as a complex narrative of talent, expectations and uncertainty. Following the disappointing playoff exit with the 76ers in 2021, Simmons relationship with his teammates and the city of Philly deteriorated, and trade rumors circulated. His absence from training camp led to fines and disruption within the 76ers organization. It wasn’t until the 2022 trade deadline that he was finally shipped out of the city of brotherly love.
The Nets traded James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philadelphia in exchange for Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick, and a protected 2027 first-round pick.
Simmons joined a bedridden Brooklyn Nets squad at the trade deadline with the remaining two of the former super team trio, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Durant, who was eventually limited to 55 games in the 2021-22 season, was on the sidelines for 6 weeks with a sprained MCL. As for Irving, he was barred from playing games in the Barclays Center, restricting the guard to dress for only 29 away contests. For the then 25-year-old Simmons, he did not take part in the 2021-22 season because of his dismissal from the 76ers and a back injury. As Simmons watched from the bench, his new team finished the year seventh in the eastern conference with a 44-38 record. They entered the playoffs in a matchup against the Celtics. Game 1 was headlined by Jayson Tatum’s buzzer-beating layup that granted Boston the series lead and in Game 2 Kevin Durant’s struggles were the reason to blame. The club headed to Brooklyn and was eventually swept by the then 2022 Eastern Conference Champions.
Entering the 2022-23 campaign, Ben Simmons had fully recovered from injury after successfully undergoing back surgery and was ready for his awaited debut with the Nets. The team’s championship aspirations persisted and the expectation was that he could be the third star to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Instead, Simmons started the season poorly and fouled out twice in the first three games, becoming the first player since Matt Geiger in the 1995-96 season to do so. The three-time all-star lacked both explosiveness and confidence – which he has most of his career, opting out of attempting three-point shots. However, flashes were shown that he could regain to his once All-NBA form with his passing ability and when he recorded 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies. But this doesn’t take away from his often-subpar effort on the floor. His season was then restricted by a nerve impingement after 42 games. He finished with career lows in points, assists, rebounds, free throw percentage, etc. His numbers were the worst of any player earning at least $30 million last season. The recurring theme of injuries in Ben’s career will minimize any potential opportunities in another jersey.
The Nets reportedly did explore options at the trade deadline for Simmons, but the results were fairly inadequate. His choice in parting ways with Klutch Sports also drew interest in the possibility of his departure. Despite the extensive drop of Simmons’ trade value over the past 2 years, teammate Patty Mills brought some upside to the current situation.
Mills spoke on the idea of Simmons joining Australia amid his publicly spoken intent to represent them in the Paris Olympics.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s looking after his body and getting to his shape and health that I think everyone wants and needs him to be,” Mills told New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield. “So I think first and foremost for him, it’s just about getting to that part where he can be Ben again.”
“Obviously a full offseason of healthy rehab, healthy workouts both in the gym and on the court, I think is what he’s looking at. From what I’ve heard, he’s looking good, feeling good, and we’ll see how we roll out from then. But I think until then, we’ve just gotta wait and see.”
And Simmons has been looking good in recent videos and photos posted on social media. However, he won’t become a free-agent until the 2025 offseason and with the direction the Nets are moving towards – Ben doesn’t exactly fit. His current deal takes up money as Brooklyn enters free agency with $150.85 million in player salaries. The payroll has room to increase if they decide to match offers on restricted free-agent Cam Johnson. The most likely outcome here is for the Nets to lay low until the 2024-25 season, have Simmons come off of the books, and sign a free agent to pair alongside Mikal Bridges and Johnson.
But if the Nets do decide to part ways with Simmons earlier on it would come in through buying out his contract or dealing him in the offseason.
In a recent proposed idea from Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report, he says, the former number one overall pick should be a target for the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason, in part of collecting his near $40M per-season contract. With the recent flurry of rumors surrounding Karl Anthony-Town and his future in Minnesota, The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski won’t rule out a trade that ships out the seven foot big man. This swap is risky for Minnesota, but Simmons does bring impactful defense and potential upside for a 26-year-old.
The future of Ben Simmons in this league does face uncertainty, but it will depend on his approach of confidence, dedication, and work ethic.