What’s next for Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the 76ers?

Ben Simmons 2021 playoffs

The collapse in Philly against the Hawks will have some serious repercussions.

So many things went wrong, but so much of the problem revolves around Ben Simmons and his inability (or unwillingness) to generate offense. For a player making $30 million per year, this is a serious problem.

Everyone sees the problem:

Everyone on the court knew it. Game 7s are when legends are made. This one made Simmons into the opposite of that. He was the anti-Jordan, the anti-Durant, a player so uncomfortable in the moment that he couldn’t even bring himself to try. For four quarters, Simmons exuded a fear that infected everyone in its radius. He attempted just four shots from the field, didn’t even look to attack. It sucked the life out of the crowd. It sucked the life out of his teammates. It sucked the benefit of the doubt right out of his coach.

Simmons can’t shoot free throws. He had the lowest free-throw percentage in the history of the NBA playoffs. You literally can’t play him late in a close game. He won’t shoot in the fourth quarter. So you have a guard that won’t contribute to your offense in crunch time. He plays great defense and he can distribute the ball, but defenses have zero respect for his shot, so he doesn’t add spacing to your offense. He makes it worse.

Should the 76ers trade him? Can Doc Rivers salvage him as a player? Rivers made it pretty clear after the game that he didn’t know if Simmons could be the guy. The situation is a mess, and the braintrust in Philly needs to get creative.

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Kevin Durant comes up short against the Bucks

Kevin Durant interview 2021 after loss to Bucks

Kevin Durant and the Nets were down 2 to the Bucks in game 7 with the clock winding down, and Kevin Duran had the ball in his hands. Durant launches a spectacular jumper . . . for the win? No, his foot was on the line. It could have been a career-defining shot, but his feet were on the line. The shot tied the game as opposed to winning it.

Fast forward to overtime, and Durant had another chance. But he was exhausted by then, and that three-pointer caught nothing but air. An air ball to end the game.

It was a great series, and you have to give Giannis Antetokounmpo credit, but it seems pretty clear that a Healthy Nets team would have won this series. Kyrie Irving was dominating the Bucks before getting hurt, and James Harden did his best to pay on an injured hamstring, but he just wasn’t himself in this series.

The Bucks clearly had some good fortune on their side, though this gritty performance to somehow pull out this series has left them in a good position. The Bucks are now favored to win it all, as there certainly isn’t an elite team standing in their way. But it’s certainly not a lock. The Bucks are good, but not great.

Paul George leads Clippers to Western Conference Finals

Paul George Clippers 2021 playoff victory over Jazz

Paul George has taken a lot of grief for his postseason performances, and many were ready to write off the Clippers once Kawhi Leonard injured his knee. But George had a huge game 5 on the road against the Jazz and then contributed in the game 6 victory as well.

Now the Clippers will be facing the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, and the Suns have their own issues with Chris Paul being out in game 1 due to Covid restrictions. The Clippers won’t have Leonard as well, so it will fall on Paul George’s shoulders again to step up.

Dirk Nowitzki will be special advisor to Mavs

Dirk Nowitzki Mavs

There’s been some drama in Dallas following the season, with all kinds of speculation about Luka Doncic and his feelings about signing with the organization long term. Then you had both Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle leaving the organization, signaling the Mark Cuban was getting serious about making any changes necessary to make Luka happy.

Now we have Dirk Nowitzki joining the organization to help with the transition, which probably helps with the Luka situation.

We all know Luka will probably stay, but Cuban isn’t taking any chances.

Celtics dump Kemba Walker contract, get back Al Horford

Kemba Walker Celtics

The Kemba Walker experiment is over in Boston. The Celtics thought that he could be part of a big three with Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown but it didn’t work out. Now they had to dump his huge contract, and new GM Brad Stevens didn’t waste any time.

The Celtics traded Walker and their 2021 first-round pick (No. 16 overall) to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package that includes Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-rounder according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Thunder love accumulating draft picks, and now they get another first-rounder to assume Walker’s contract. He could be traded as well.

Horford has been a mess since leaving Boston so he’s probably happy to return.