Philadelphia 76ers: Tyrese Maxey is the winner of Ben Simmons’ holdout

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Welp, it’s official: Ben Simmons was a no-show at the Philadelphia 76ers‘ first day of Training Camp.

Now granted, is this really news news? No. This very same article could have been written a day ago, a week ago, or when Simmons unofficially made his holdout stance official earlier this month, but, as these things so often go, nothing is over until it’s really over. You can be on your way to overtime when a quadruple doink prematurely ends your playoff run, you can draft first overall twice in three seasons and somehow end up having neither player on the team a half-decade later, and you can even find a trade partner for Al Horford’s contract, which may be the least probable of the three.

Could Simmons have opted for the James Harden method? Could he have returned to the City of Brotherly Love – okay, technically Camden – put on a good face and waited out his time before he was traded a few games into the season once every team knows where they stand? Most definitely. Many really, really hoped that would be the path he went down, but after how contentious the infighting between the two parties has become, it’s not particularly surprising that we are where we are.

So, with Ben Simmons still in Los Angeles, what should the Philadelphia 76ers do? Keep their head down and evaluate the players they have in-house.

No Ben Simmons presents a unique camp opportunity for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Training camp is about three things: Getting in shape, forming bonds, and trying out different lineups in the leadup to the regular season.

While the Philadelphia 76ers have largely avoided using previous training camps to try Ben Simmons out at different positions, namely any in the frontcourt, his absence could present unique opportunities for his current-ish teammates to take on more expansive roles and see where they fit into the picture moving forward.

For Tyrese Maxey specifically, this could be massive.

With the team’s All-Star point guard still in Los Angeles, Maxey will surely earn every opportunity to showcase his offensive development over the summer. He’ll get to run the first team show alongside Joel Embiid – who he only played 205 minutes with in 2020-21 – get to dish out to Seth Curry, and have an opportunity to prove to Doc Rivers that his late-season come-on wasn’t an aberration.

Over the course of his rookie season, Maxey only averaged two assists per game and connected on 31 of his 103 attempts from beyond the arc per game, good for a ghastly 3 point shooting percentage of 30.1. While neither of those numbers should be particularly surprising based on his college stats, as Maxey only averaged 3.2 assists and 1.1 made 3s on 3.6 attempts a night, few teams can get that level of production out of their starting point guard and remain competitive.

Even if you examine Maxey’s performance through the Per 36 lens, which “normalizes” statistics across the board over a uniform number of minutes, you’re left with an 18.8 points per game scorer who averages four assists per game and connects on 1.2 3s versus four attempts.

Fortunately, stats aren’t binary. A string of good or bad games here or there can swing them harshly one way or another, and if Maxey did indeed focus on those two aspects of his game over the summer, his averages could be night and day in a positive way versus the projections.

If Maxey does impress, maybe it will ease Daryl Morey‘s mind about trading Simmons for a package centered around shooting guards like Collin Sexton, CJ McCollum  – plus Robert Covington – or even a wing-option like, well, not like Andrew Wiggins but someone like, say, Pascal Siakam or even Anthony Edwards (basketball gods willing).

Alternatively, if Maxey struggles, the need for a true number one facilitator becomes all the more dire, with Darius Garland and De’Aaron Fox presenting the best opportunity to get that done on the current market.

Sidebar: Between you and me, Garland is the player I want Morey to trade for more than anyone else. He’s a good scorer, a fantastic passer, and made 39.5 percent of his 4.9 3s per game in 2020-21. A sort of under-the-radar name, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better young option.

Who knows, maybe Maxey will be so impressive that the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of the NBA will inspire some GM to take on a package centered around Philly’s two Clutch clients in a deal for a certified superstar like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal. I mean, probably not, but hey, why not shoot for the moon and hope to at least land in the stars?

Next. Darius Garland could swing a trade for Ben Simmons. dark

In the NBA, training camp holdouts are rare. Having a player demand a trade with a near-half-decade left on their max contract is rarer still. But do you want to know what is all the more rare? Having a chance to elevate a player into an expansive role and see how they handle that level of near-unprecedented adversity. While that may seem like a minor victory wrapped in a horrible sandwich, when you play for a team like the Philadelphia 76ers in the City of Brotherly Love, having a point guard who can take the heat in a media firestorm is unquestionably an asset, as even the most casual fan can attest. If Tyrese Maxey handles himself with poise over the forthcoming weeks, it could be a contributing factor to his NBA future.