It has now been 382 days since Ben Simmons played competitive basketball.
382 days since the happen, the defeat and this Press conference.
Now in a new city where things should be getting better, Simmons is staring at a crossroads that – without being unnecessarily dramatic – could decide the rest of his career.
Kevin Durant wants out of Brooklyn. Kyrie Irving could also be on the move, and what should be a perfect basketball situation for Simmons quickly presents itself as a nightmare with a silver lining.
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HOW DID WE GET HERE?
“I don’t mind,” LeBron James said in 2015 of comparisons between himself and Simmons, who was a freshman at LSU at the time.
Simmons took that hype to the NBA, where he was picked No. 1 before winning Rookie of the Year in 2018 after serving his “real” rookie year.
The Superstar arc was founded.
Three consecutive All-Star nods followed, including his last playing year at Philadelphia, but the Aussie was averaging career lows in points, rebounds and assists as the conversation began to shift.
It was before that 2020-21 campaign that Simmons was introduced to a potential deal with James Harden.
He was no longer untouchable.
Simmons would never be LeBron James. But what was once a legitimate “Who would you rather have?” debate between Simmons and Joel Embiid now had a fairly easy answer.
This enduring truth peaked against the Atlanta Hawks before Simmons decided he had to leave Philadelphia for psychological reasons.
So he sat. And sat. And sat a little longer.
And then suddenly thanks to some Miscellaneous Star drama in the NBA – I know, shock – all that sitting has paid off.
They say good things come to those who wait.
Simmons waited until he landed in Brooklyn alongside two of the most gifted scorers in NBA history; the perfect double whammy to complement the top-notch style of play and defense the Australian can offer an NBA contender.
Creepy, right? Even Simmons thought so.
But instead of being a three-headed monster leading Brooklyn to their first-ever title, Simmons never got on the court — aside from rebounding for his teammates — as Durant and Irving were swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
It was okay though because Simmons would be healthy for the start of the 2022-23 season and this trio still made sense, at least on paper.
but Nothing really makes sense in the NBA.
So Brooklyn and Irving fought over an extension before the star settled on a year. That disaster was averted just long enough for social media sites to start posting what the Nets’ starting lineup would look like next season before Durant dropped his bombshell.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Who knows? Durant still wants out, but Brooklyn is reportedly waiting for an offer that will blow her mind. How that actually looks like after Rudy Gobert’s mammoth move is difficult to make out.
Irving is nearby. But who knows for how long. And very soon, Simmons could find himself in a situation like never before.
To make matters worse, Simmons – already a relatively unpopular figure in the NBA world – is also why Brooklyn’s potential yield for Durant is limited.
Due to his renewal as a designated rookie, Simmons’ place on the roster means no other player on the same contract type can come to Brooklyn while the Aussie is there.
That means Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Trae Young, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are off the table unless the Nets can also move Simmons.
The problem is that Simmons’ trading value has never been lower.
Simmons had to be boxed in with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks for Philadelphia to land a James Harden past his prime.
Since then, Simmons’ stock has only fallen further, and even if Durant and Irving left, it probably wouldn’t make sense for Brooklyn to part ways with Simmons.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
According to an Instagram post uploaded just before Durant’s trade request, Simmons was feeling “amazing” as he prepared for a fresh start in Brooklyn.
A short time later, Simmons’ Instagram account was deactivated, and the idea of a fresh start raised a whole host of questions.
Simmons could theoretically be put in a deal to vacate that designated rookie spot, or he could remain in Brooklyn without Durant and Irving, with a new cast and an entirely different role.
And here we come to a kind of crossroads.
It was reported back in September last year that Simmons camp wanted the point guard traded on offense for a team built around him. Instead, he ended up in Brooklyn, where he would never be “the guy.”
And that seemed like a good fit considering what he’d been through.
But play this game with me.
Let’s say Durant goes to Phoenix, for the sake of argument (you could do this with a number of teams). In a deal that would likely result in Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton coming to Brooklyn, along with a number of draft picks.
And since Durant’s gone, we’re assuming Irving will either disappear or force his way out.
If everyone is healthy, the line-up will look like this: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton.
It may not be a title contender. And it certainly wouldn’t be a team built just for Simmons. At least not publicly. But man, it makes a lot of sense considering the defense and three-point shooting he’d have around.
You could even argue that Simmons would be the best player on this team, where he could either establish himself as someone Brooklyn wants to keep around or increase his value enough that a trade actually makes sense.
In a way, this is the only path for Simmons to reach the heights that were once expected of him. The only way to become “the guy” again.
Of course, it would have to be a Simmons who isn’t afraid of the moment to get fouled, shoot and miss. And we don’t know that Simmons still exists. Or ever did.
But we could find out right now.