Philadelphia’s front office couldn’t pull the trigger on a Ben Simmons for James Harden trade this week and Harden ended up in Brooklyn.

Presumably, there was apprehension within the organization about trading a 24-year-old All-NBA level player plus other assets for an overweight, disinterested, offense-only superstar who is seemingly almost universally disliked by his former teammates.

Photo: Bill Streicher/USA Today

Whether or not the Sixers dodged a bullet by not trading for Harden is a discussion for another time, this post will focus on the positives and negatives of not trading away Ben Simmons.

First and foremost a Simmons-Harden trade would have made Philadelphia’s defense drastically worse. The Sixers would have probably survived the regular season but in the playoffs, you need elite defenders to have any chance against the NBA’s stars. Ben Simmons has evolved into one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender. While shutting down the likes of Kevin Durant, Jason Tatum, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is almost impossible, Simmons may be best equipped to at least slow them down over a seven-game series.

The simple fact is any team with Simmons and Joel Embiid will be among the best in the league defensively.

For as much improvement as Simmons has made and as good as he is defensively, he has completely stagnated offensively. There is nothing Simmons does on the offensive end that he couldn’t already do as a rookie. Forget perimeter shooting, clearly that is never going to happen, Simmons hasn’t developed any way to force opposing teams to guard him.

Every year in the playoffs opponents are able to leave Simmons completely and pack the paint, causing problems for Embiid and the rest of the Sixers’ offense. Simmons doesn’t need a 3 point shot but he needs something to keep defenders honest, that could be a post-game, improving his cutting off-ball, a hook shot, floater, anything at all.

This season Ben Simmons is averaging 9.3 field goals a game and 4.8 free throws a game, unless these numbers improve no defense will respect him come playoff time.

Unless Ben Simmons finds a way to punish opponents on the offensive end his name will continue to come up in trade rumors for the likes of Bradley Beal because the Sixers will not want to go through another playoff campaign playing 4 on 5.

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