Discussions on Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons‘ future with the franchise started in Chicago this week and included Simmons’ agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, and Sixers management, sources told ESPN.
Paul met with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand at the pre-draft combine to begin evaluating the next steps in Simmons’ Sixers career, sources said.
Paul engaged the Sixers on whether it makes sense to work together to find a trade before the start of next season, but no request was made and the sides are expected to continue talking ahead of the July 29 NBA draft and August free agency, sources said. The 76ers are committed to keeping Simmons as a central piece of their franchise, sources said.
Simmons, 24, has four years and $147 million left on his contract.
After Simmons’ season ended with a frustrating performance in a seven-game Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Sixers are focused on a summer of work on his shooting. Simmons and coach Doc Rivers met this week to discuss a plan for improvement, sources said.
Despite Simmons scoring a combined 19 points in the final three games against the Hawks, his trade value in the marketplace is still significant, sources said.
Teams have been using the Chicago pre-draft camp to gauge the Sixers’ interest in trade packages, sources said, although Philadelphia remains reluctant to break up the tandem of Joel Embiid and Simmons without maximizing a return and exhausting all possibilities to improve Simmons’ offense, sources said.
In his postseason news conference Tuesday, Morey declined to make a definitive statement on the long-term future of Simmons in Philadelphia.
“We have a very strong group we believe in,” Morey said. “None of us can predict the future of what’s going to happen in any, in any place. We love what Ben brings, we love what Joel brings, we love what Tobias [Harris] brings. In terms of what’s next, we’re going to do what’s best for the 76ers to give us the best chance to win the championship with every single player on the roster.”
Morey did say, “I think it’s pretty straightforward what certain players need to improve.”
Simmons’ free throw shooting dropped to 34.2% in the playoffs.
“We need to be a better offensive team,” Morey said. “… Frankly if we’re squeaking by the second round, that just tells me we’re unfortunately not good enough … to win the title, so we need to get better.”