The Philadelphia 76ers cannot catch a break.
The NBA season is approaching and once again, the 76ers will be without a rookie. Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ top NBA draft, will miss three months after fracturing a bone in his right foot. The injury took place during the 76ers’ final team scrimmage of training camp, according to ESPN. Ben Simmons’ injury comes at a critical time for the 76ers.
Good vibes had been carrying the 76ers as they embarked on training camp. This was the season when the Sixers were going to start turning around their franchise. Just like that, all of the hopes for something positive were dashed with the news that Ben Simmons would miss a considerable amount of time.
Ironically, the Sixers will start the season with their top draft pick sidelined due to injury again.
Ben Simmons is the third highly regarded rookie in four years to spend the NBA opening day festivities wearing a tailored suit instead of a Sixers’ warmup. Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid are the other two rookies to have their NBA debuts interrupted due to injuries. Noel missed an entire season, while Embiid, having missed two years, has yet to make his introduction.
Judging from the time frame of Simmons’ suggested healing time, the promising rookie will not make his NBA debut until January at the earliest. His injury is not as severe as those suffered by Noel and Embiid. Simmons’ return will come just in time for him to play his way into the 76ers’ rotation, as the trade deadline approaches.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ phone lines will be buzzing between now and the trade deadline. What became lost in all of the good vibes coming from the Sixers’ training camp were all of the NBA trade rumors they were involved in.
Most of the people who follows the NBA believed that the 76ers were going to trade either Nerlens Noel or second-year center Jahlil Okafor during the offseason. ESPN reported in late May that the 76ers were holding exploratory discussions with several NBA teams regarding Noel and Okafor. The NBA trade rumors that the Sixers were involved in kept the summer interesting.
Failing to consummate a deal may have hurt the 76ers. Some will disagree, pointing out to Ben Simmons’ injury as justification for the Sixers to hold on to both of their big men. Injuries cannot be predicted. And keeping both Noel and Okafor while waiting for a huge offer to is calling the bluff of 29 other NBA general managers who get paid to wait the process out.
Ben Simmons’ foot injury will alter the approach of the Philadelphia 76ers when it comes to trading Noel and Okafor.
The smart bet is that the Sixers will continue to hold on to their frontcourt tandem, at least until the trade deadline. That may not be a wise decision by the 76ers to just sit and wait. Not with Nerlens Noel approaching restricted free agency and the continued decline in Jahlil Okafor’s trade value.
During the off-season, the 76ers could have at least received a quality starter and a draft pick for both players. Teams who are looking at Noel will eventually find less costly trade options. That will leave the 76ers holding the bag.
Their gamble on Jahlil Okafor can backfire as well.
With Joel Embiid likely to get a ton of playing time, Okafor will be relegated to the backup center role. His value around the NBA was already on shaky ground, depending on the team.
Teams which prefer a traditional center will be more inclined to offer a young player with promise and a draft pick. Most teams are shying away from traditional centers with only about one-third of the league placing credence in quality low-post threats. With fewer teams to engage in a bidding war, the 76ers may be forced to take a veteran on an expiring contract and a pick. That is nothing in comparison to what the 76ers may want in return.
Because the Ben Simmons injury happened when it did, the 76ers may not make any trades and just stick with what they have. Right now, because of their initial reluctance to trade either Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, the Philadelphia 76ers are in a bind. The 76ers should not have been so gun-shy.
[Featured Image by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]