On the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast, hosts Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss the futures of Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson. The duo also broke down the vaccination statuses of Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins and whether Ja Morant will be an All-Star this season.
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:37 What’s next for Ben Simmons and the 76ers?
Scotto: I spoke with one agent who reps a player on the 76ers over the weekend. He said, “If they can’t figure it out, the season’s over before it even starts.”
It seems, as of right now, the best Philly can theoretically get for a win-now player in the short-term would be a deal with Portland for CJ McCollum, but Philly has had their eyes on Damian Lillard for a while, and they don’t want to settle.
Yossi wrote about Minnesota and the potential package they can offer. They’ve been mentioned as a frontrunner (most aggressive) in a sense in trying to pursue Simmons. Minnesota has plenty of intriguing first-round picks coming up they can offer, but that doesn’t help Philly who’s trying to win now while Joel Embiid is healthy. Embiid is in his prime at 27, and after years of trusting the process, it’s not the time to be taking a step back.
Simmons can guard all five positions and he’s an All-Star caliber player despite all his critics who point to his struggles shooting the ball that he can’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Right now, Simmons is trying to force Philly’s hand to give him what he wants. He wants to avoid a James Harden situation like he did on the Rockets last year where he had to play a few games before he was traded.
I think it’s a bad look for the NBA if this (Simmons’ refusal to play) goes into the season and the 76ers with Simmons under contract for the next four seasons. In an age where player empowerment has gotten more traction, this would add more wood to the fire.
Gozlan: It feels like Philly is in a pretty bad spot. Yet, I still don’t see them doing a deal that they’d consider settling. I don’t quite consider a deal like the Minnesota one settling where they get multiple first-round picks. I think you can look at that type of deal and consider it a deal that, hopefully, helps them achieve their goal of acquiring an All-Star later.
Even though Jimmy Butler and James Harden made their trade requests, they still showed up and played for their teams a little bit. I know Simmons has put a lot of pressure on the 76ers through the media with leaks he didn’t want to meet with his teammates, and today it came out that he no longer wants to play with Embiid, but maybe he should show up to work and say some of those things himself to expedite a trade. Harden got traded one day after saying the Rockets weren’t good enough in the postgame media.
Simmons stands to lose roughly $1 million for every five games he’s going to miss, so we’ll see how long he can go doing this.
Scotto: If you’re Simmons, you can take a couple of different paths here. One, you can sit out and take the fines. Two, you can do what Vince Carter did towards the end of his Toronto Raptors career, and you can not give that much effort and be lackadaisical and make it obvious you’re not into it. Or, you can do what Harden did and crush it for a couple of games and then say stuff in the media and show you’re a really good player still and more than people are giving you credit for. People have been dumping on this guy like a toilet. It’s unbelievable for a guy who’s been a three-time All-Star and been in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.
I previously wrote an article on HoopsHype about how players ask for a trade behind the scenes. I’ll always remember, as one agent said best, “It does get vicious. It’s a divorce.” Ultimately, that’s what it is. That’s what Simmons is trying to get here. He wants out, and it’s going to get contentious.
7:01 Vaccination statuses: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Isaac
Scotto: Beal during his media availability, said, “I honestly can’t get the vaccine because I just cleared my 60 days of having COVID.”
For Wiggins, that’s a lot of money he’d be missing out on by not playing in Warriors home games. He’s certainly been mentioned (previously) in trade talks, and it’ll be interesting to see how this will affect his trade value.
For Irving, if he didn’t get the vaccine, you’re potentially talking about missing 43 games. They also play two games at Madison Square Garden, which is also in New York.
Gozlan: Baxter Holmes of ESPN just released an article about tension being built up from teams and players against those few unvaccinated. Health and safety reasons aside, the possibility of missing games, as well as the internal conflict that could follow, could very well destroy a team’s chances this season.
14:41 Ja Morant’s All-Star chances and other West guards in contention
Scotto: Zach Kleiman (Grizzlies GM) said Ja Morant will be an All-Star this season. Ja told me in a recent interview on HoopsHype that his goals are to make the All-Star team and be an All-NBA player this season. We touched on his other long-term goals. In his eyes, he’s a Top 5 point guard in the NBA.
There are a couple of guards in the West who are going to be looking to earn their first All-Star honors besides Morant. You’ve got CJ McCollum, De’Aaron Fox, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. On top of that, potential All-Star guards in the West would include Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, who got his first All-Star appearance last year. Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Luka Doncic, depending on his listed position. Damian Lillard. Russell Westbrook will get more support from Lakers fans voting. Stephen Curry, and don’t forget about Klay Thompson.
Gozlan: I’m very high on Morant. I think he can certainly elevate himself to the level of a top-five point guard this year if he’s not already there. With that said, I think he will be an All-Star this year… I think Morant has a very strong case, largely thanks to him leading the Grizzlies into the playoffs in the victory over the Warriors in the Play-In. I think having that on his resume puts him ahead of a lot of the other non-All-Star guards you mentioned, and I think voters and those who select the reserves will have that in consideration. As long as he stays healthy, Memphis remains competitive, and if he shows another improvement statistically across the board, I think he will be an All-Star this year.
18:40 Zion Williamson’s future in New Orleans
Scotto: I was surprised to see Zion Williamson say, “I love it here. I love the city of New Orleans. I don’t want to be anywhere else.” All due respect, keep this one under your hat, folks, but people also vow to love each other forever when they get married, and half of the marriages end in divorce, so I’m not buying this one just yet. The real test will be when Zion is eligible for a contract extension and whether he signs it or not.
Gozlan: I wrote about the potential of Zion accepting the qualifying offer a couple of months ago.
21:31 Michael Porter Jr.’s contract extension
Scotto: I’m sure the Magic, the Knicks, and the Clippers are kicking themselves for taking Mo Bamba, Kevin Knox, and Jerome Robinson over this guy.
Gozlan: Denver had to max out MPJ after maxing out Jamal Murray… I think MPJ has been just as good, if not better, than Jamal in his first three years, so they had to max him out. Denver now has three players on max contracts and is set to be luxury tax payers from here on out. I’m extremely high on this Nuggets core, and I expect them to win a championship soon. Had Murray not gotten injured, they very well could’ve been in the NBA Finals this past season.