Last Thursday, the NBA world reacted to a huge trade between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. The deal sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond as well as two first-round picks.
The two biggest players involved in the trade as a whole are obviously Simmons and Harden. Both were publicly unhappy with their respective teams, with Simmons refusing to even practice until the Sixers dealt him away from Philly, a large result of the way things unfolded in the Sixers’ defeat to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs last year.
On Harden’s side, he was unhappy with the way his teammate, Kyrie Irving, created controversy off the court back in the fall and early winter coupled with the Nets’ inability to win during his short time in Brooklyn.
Harden and Millsap join a formidable Philadelphia squad who’re just 2.5 games back of the Miami Heat for the #1 seed in the eastern conference. Meanwhile, Simmons, Curry, and Drummond are heading to Brooklyn as the Nets are in tatters. They’ve lost 11 of their last 12 games and have slipped back to the 8 seed, not quite two games in front of the Charlotte Hornets.
With Kevin Durant out and the Nets unable to string wins together of late, the pressure on Simmons, who was the big pickup in this trade, becomes that much more intense. As of right now, Simmons is a giant question mark. A change of scenery may be a good thing for him, but how will he adjust to the pressure of playing in New York if he couldn’t even handle it in Philly?
There are even questions about his being in shape to take the court right now. Simmons’ refusal to participate or practice with the Sixers this season should be seen as an immediate indictment of his character. He’s undeniably a great player, but how will he fit onto a Nets squad that’s been plagued by drama and defeat recently? Is he really the player who will help fix that?
When Simmons is playing up to his potential, his transition game, defense and ball handling skills are second to none. That version of Simmons feels like an eternity ago, however, and he has a lot of big words to back up on the court. He showed how badly he wanted a trade, and now the pressure is on to prove to the basketball world that it was the right call.
Ben Simmons in Brooklyn
If Simmons wants to have longevity in this league, he’s gonna have to walk the walk with Brooklyn. That means helping put the Nets in situations where they’re gonna win basketball games as well as knowing where he fits in with Brooklyn. He’s not a guy who’ll average 20 or 30 points, but he can play great defense and feed the scorers on his team.
That said, it’s just hard to imagine after all the trials and tribulations with Philadelphia that he returns to the court in prime form. There are already questions around his being in basketball shape and Brooklyn Nets’ head coach Steve Nash already commented about Simmons’ inability to shoot the ball. He couldn’t be joining the Nets at a more critical moment.
We’re around the mid-way mark and the Nets’ season hangs in the balance. Brooklyn should be hitting the panic button right now. Actually, they should’ve been hitting it about 6 losses ago but here we are.
Until Simmons steps on the court and returns to his prime with Brooklyn, the Sixers have won this trade. It’s hard to argue otherwise.
He’s gonna have to do a lot to prove that the Nets made the right call. With all-star weekend right around the corner, these next couple weeks become that much more important for Simmons and Brooklyn.