Two names dominating the majority of news outlets for very different reasons are Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook. Simmons has yet to play a single game for the Philadelphia 76ers this season and has made it known that he is hell-bent on getting away from his team. A great player in many areas of the floor, Simmons let last year’s playoff demons get to him after shooting the lowest FG percentage of all-time. And quite frankly, Philadelphia’s fans have turned on him.
Shooting 34.2% from the free-throw line as the team’s primary decision-maker and ball-handler was shocking to see. But Simmons is one of the best all-around stars in the league nonetheless, averaging 14.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 6.9 APG last season. After finishing 1st in the East last year, Philadelphia are 4-2 to start the season without their 3-time All-Star.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is receiving a ton of blame for the Los Angeles Lakers’ rather slow start, because the point guard is a turnover machine and has lacked efficiency when on the court. While these are traits apparent for a player that plays with an unrelenting motor, it is not exactly the best for a team with championship aspirations. Westbrook is likely a leopard who will never change his spots, and will always struggle to be in control of the game.
More importantly, his fit with LeBron James is greatly under question. Russ has struggled to play off the ball, similar to his experience in Houston with James Harden, and that could be an issue for the Lakers moving forward. Despite these criticisms, Westbrook is one of the best players at his position and a first-ballot Hall of Famer due to the vigor in which he plays. That is why he might be better off taking Ben Simmons’ spot in Philadelphia.
Realistically, could a swap deal involving Simmons and Westbrook work for both teams? We think it can and here’s why.
LeBron Is Fond Of Simmons, A Potential LeBron James 2.0
There is no secret that LeBron James is a fan of Ben Simmons’ game. The Australian does a ton of things well on the floor, like LeBron himself, and has exceptional physical tools. Back in the 2019 All-Star Draft, LeBron acted as a GM to swap Russell Westbrook for Ben Simmons. In quite stunning fashion, James wanted a player he felt could help him win games and play alongside him better. Needless to say, it worked as Team LeBron won the All-Star Game in the end.
But looking at the Lakers roster, Westbrook and LeBron cannot work. Both players need the ball and are not as effective off the ball, and no one in their right mind wants James off the ball at any moment. That means Westbrook needs to be off the ball more, a role which has ended in disaster so far. Russ is on a tear without LeBron on the court, although his turnovers are high and shooting percentages are low. With LeBron, Westbrook’s assist numbers will take a big hit.
With James and Davis on the court, Simmons can act as a lockdown defender that can guard multiple positions and also act as a more controlled playmaker than Russ. Simmons is larger, more defensively inclined, and has a chance to reach the potential of his “mentor” LeBron James. Simmons has a lot of LeBron’s game in him, he just needs a mentor to take him there, and playing for the Lakers will do it. In the long-term, Simmons can be the franchise player to take the Lakers forward alongside Anthony Davis.
Ben Simmons has his faults, as does every player in the league. But he might be able to take his game higher alongside LeBron than Westbrook can because the Australian is younger with a very high ceiling. Westbrook is who he has always been, and even the presence of LeBron James will not be able to change that.
Joel Embiid Gets A Teammate Without Fear Of The Moment
Joel Embiid is a superstar, and arguably a top-2 center in the game. After averaging 28.5 PPG and finishing 2nd in the MVP race last year, Embiid showed the NBA world that he has improved his all-around game. When healthy, Embiid is as dominant as a player can get and is among the top-10 talents in the league right now. But unfortunately, the help has not been there for him ever since Jimmy Butler left the team.
Embiid has appeared in 51 games the past two seasons and is normally dealing with injuries at some point during the season. That means a player needs to be there to handle the scoring, assisting, and rebounding load while keeping the 76ers afloat for those periods. We have already seen Russell Westbrook have one of the greatest MVP seasons after averaging a triple-double in 2017, a season where the point guard was given the keys to the team. In terms of individual brilliance, Westbrook has no fear and will carry the 76ers alongside Tobias Harris when Embiid is out.
More importantly, Embiid has a teammate unafraid of the moment. The big man admitted letting Butler leave was a mistake because the swingman defended with a passion and was hungry for the big moments. Ever since Butler left, Philadelphia have been unintimidating for the best teams in the league. Ben Simmons passing up layups and also lacking the conviction to score are examples of how Embiid lacks a ruthless teammate. Westbrook, despite his inefficiencies, gives Embiid confidence that he has someone who will go in the trenches when needed.
Not to mention, Westbrook will be able to play immediately rather than having a sulking star whose trade value is getting lower. The 76ers need to act fast before the season gets to the mid-way line because their championship hopes lessen every week that Simmons does not play or get traded.
Fans might be quick to point out that Westbrook and Embiid have had their beef in recent times, but that could be sorted quickly. Andre Drummond and Embiid have had their own problems but have sorted their differences as they play with each other. There is no reason why Westbrook cannot put aside the hard feelings and try to win a championship with one of the most talented big men in the game.