They were probably good enough to go all the way in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they were one Kawhi Leonard bounce from advancing to the Conference Finals, and likely the NBA Finals after that.
However, Kawhi Leonard ended up hitting that game-winner, ending the 76ers’ season. For a variety of reasons, the situation in Philly proved to be too much for Jimmy Butler. In need of a change of scenery, Butler ended up in Miami.
Although Jimmy Butler never experienced any serious concerns or chemistry issues with Simmons, Jimmy Butler is the type of person who loves to speak his mind. According to Zach Harper of The Athletic (subscription required), Butler felt that Simmons wasn’t on the same page mentally as someone like himself.
Did this influence his decision to leave Philly and join the Miami Heat? Who knows? One thing that is clear, however, is that Butler was absolutely right in his assessment of Simmons.
Let’s be clear; Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons have very different leadership styles. Butler is more of a vocal leader, while Simmons usually leads by example. This isn’t necessarily a problem; LeBron James and Michael Jordan have different styles of leadership, but both have led their teams to championships.
The issue with Simmons, which Butler hinted at, is that his mental toughness isn’t at the level it needs to be in order for him to lead a championship team. In the 2021 playoffs, we saw how his fear of the free-throw line took precedence over his decision-making late in games.
The 76ers organization, for the most part, has been very supportive of Simmons and his progression as a player. They surrounded Simmons with multiple shooters so they wouldn’t have to rely on his shooting to improve.
Doc Rivers defended his decision to keep Ben Simmons on the floor late in games by praising his gifted All-Star abilities. The 76ers offered to help Simmons work on his shooting this offseason. They were met with indifference.
Ben Simmons demanded a trade, and the situation keeps getting messier every day. Simmons refuses to play another game for the 76ers and refuses to meet with anyone from the organization to discuss the future.
Simmons will likely get traded soon. Although it is clear Simmons has the potential to make any team better, his mentality and willingness to improve will determine how far he can lead them.
For now, the drama will continue. Jimmy Butler is probably glad he left the 76ers for the Miami Heat before this situation escalated. And Heat fans are just as equally glad he left.