Ben Simmons' NBA future is as uncertain as it has ever been.
Simmons and his Philadelphia 76ers crashed out of the 2021 NBA playoffs in unceremonious fashion, falling 4-3 in the series to the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
The 24-year-old has been crucified by numerous American media outlets for his less-than-satisfactory performance throughout the series.
In seven games against the Hawks, Simmons averaged 9.9 points, 8.6 assists, 6.3 rebounds and shot an all-time NBA playoffs low 34% from the free-throw line.
His hesitancy and inability to shoot the ball is an ever-glaring issue -- Simmons averaged a mere six field goal attempts per game vs. Atlanta -- as there has been seemingly no improvement or discernible commitment to improve his three-point shooting.
Simmons was a measly 3/10 from three-point range throughout the entirety of the regular season, and was 0/1 in the playoffs. Four seasons into his professional career, and sample size and production aren't anywhere near good enough for a player with such star potential.
Down two points with under four minutes remaining in Game 7, Simmons passed up an uncontested, certain dunk -- a moment described by All-NBA teammate Joel Embiid as a "turning point" in the loss. The moment encapsulated not only Simmons' concerning lack of confidence on offence, but a low-point of his career to-date.
It drew a torrent of warranted criticism and frustration from 76ers fans and neutrals alike.
All of this begs the question that many have been asking since Philadelphia's elimination -- is it time for a change of scenery for Ben Simmons?
As things currently stand, it would appear that a Simmons trade would be mutually-beneficial.
Philadelphia is undoubtedly tired of Simmons' offensive indecision and ineptitude, despite his DPOY-calibre skills on the other side of the ball. Meanwhile, the mounting pressure and criticism from Philadelphians and national analysts alike must be weighing on Simmons, who, at this point, must be searching for an escape.
A fresh start -- fortunately or unfortunately in the minds of Sixers fans -- may be exactly what is required in order for Simmons to be able to re-stabilise his NBA career and reputation.
Portland, New York and Chicago have been touted as potential trade destinations for Simmons.
A CJ McCollum-for-Simmons trade has been thrown around, but how would Simmons fit next to Damian Lillard (who needs more help offensively than less)?
McCollum's play was subpar in the playoffs, but does he really offer less than Simmons at this point? Could newly-appointed Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups help get the best out of Simmons? Either way, the 76ers arguably have a 'McCollum' of their own in Seth Curry.
New York certainly has the cap space to pursue a contract such as Simmons', and would theoretically fit well alongside offensive-minded Knicks Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.
A Zach LaVine-for-Simmons trade has also been proffered, but it would seem unlikely the Bulls would bite on such a deal, seeing as though the purpose of trading for him would be so he could team-up with All-Stars LaVine and Nikola Vucevic in Chicago.
Despite all that is being said about Simmons at the moment, it is impossible to say that the 76ers have been a better-performing team without him, as, when he hasn't played, Philly is 17-17 all-time and 7-7 in 2021 -- the epitome of mediocrity.
It is undeniable that Simmons possesses a variety of superb NBA tools: agility, athleticism, versatility, rebounding ability, passing flair, the ability to defend positions 1-4, and a calm temperament in high-pressure situations.
Ranking 12th in the league in both total steals and assists per game, Simmons' immense impact on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor is undeniable, despite his well-documented shooting struggles.
If Simmons does in-fact end up departing the City of Brotherly Love, wherever he ends up will surely be better off if he can use this off-season to properly develop his jump-shot, which it seems he plans on doing, as ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst stated that Simmons "is doubtful to play for Australia in [the] Tokyo Olympics" and will instead "spend [the] off-season working on skill development".
This report was later confirmed by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who said "Simmons plans to concentrate his summer on individual development".
Simmons' absence from the Boomers squad is unequivocally a severe blow to Australia's maiden medal chances, and his decision once again brings into question his leadership capabilities and whether he will ever suit-up in the green and gold.
Sacrificing an Olympic legacy for "individual development" is a big call by Simmons, and one that has been heavily criticised by Australian basketball greats such as Andrew Gaze and Andrew Bogut.
It is certainly a questionable decision, considering it would have been a great opportunity to improve and test his game against international competition as well as represent his nation on the biggest stage.
However, Simmons has chosen to focus on himself.
If this same discussion about Simmons' shortcomings as an offensive player is still being had in a year's time, his days as one of the NBA's big stars may be up.