#IMHO: The Olympics are here! Plus, the NBA Finals, and what should the Sixers do with Ben Simmons?

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Kelcey Wright Johnson weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Monday, July 12, 2021 9:21 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: IMHO

Kelcey! Let’s start this week with what everyone in the basketball world is talking about. Nope, not the NBA Finals, but the Olympics! It’s interesting to see how, even as the Finals reach Games 3 and 4, we suddenly find National Teams from around the globe assembling, much like the Super Friends. There hasn’t been a ton of attention paid to it, at least here in the USA, I think probably because of the Finals happening. But I’ve seen some social media noise about Team Canada (shoutout Canada!), and I also noticed Team USA lost an exhibition game last week against Nigeria, coached by Mike Brown.

Since I know you have national team hoops in your blood, what can you tell us about the start of Olympic b-ball season? We know the days of Team USA rolling out a team of NBA players and destroying everyone else are over. (A few years back, I wrote this story about the start of that era.) But is Team USA still the favorite? Or does someone else have a legit shot at knocking them off?


From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2021 10:38 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Hey Lang!

The Olympics feel like they’re right around the corner and this week we got our first glimpse at the men’s USA team…and it was….not what people expected. Don’t get me wrong; it’s star-studded (before I start, just know that I am cheering on the American men full-on because the Canadian men didn’t qualify).

BUT they lost their first exhibition game against Nigeria and then lost their second to Australia and then it felt like everyone started panicking (don’t worry, they did pick up their first win though in their third game, against Argentina).

As for favorites? Team USA has won 5 of the last 7 gold medals available at the Olympic Games — and the years they didn’t win, they still medalled. But don’t let that deter you from the fact that there are some seriously strong rosters this year. Take a look at Australia for example: they’ve got Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Dellavedova, Thybulle, Baynes, Josh Green. In fact, I think Iran and Slovenia may be the only teams that have no NBA players.

The USA though? All 12 are NBA players and the majority are superstars. Plus, they’re in a group with France, Iran and Czech Republic. Czech Republic has one NBA guy and France has a few including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier, but if you’re the USA, you’re very happy with your pool.

I was thinking about this Lang…how do you think the Olympic team would do if we just dropped them into the NBA? Would they dominate? Or would it be too many mouths to feed?

Patty Mills playing for Australia

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2021 2:42 PM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: RE: IMHO

I mean, if you had an NBA team with Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard alone, you’d have a pretty good team, right? Much less Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal and Kevin Love and Draymond Green. This would be the best team in the NBA, and I think they’re going to prove that they are the best team in the world. Losing to Nigeria and Australia aren’t ideal outcomes, but I think it proves a few things. First that the NBA has done a great job spreading basketball around the world, creating amazing players all over the place. It also shows that the US can’t just roll out a team of all-stars and think they’re going to dominate right off the bat.

Putting these teams together for international competitions has always been a precarious task – even when we sent the Dream Team in 1992, people at USA Basketball were worried about their chances – but today more than ever, these teams need time to figure out what they’re doing and get on the same page. It’s tough to play an exhibition when everyone expects you to be perfect from the jump. This team has the potential to be awesome. I just don’t know if they have enough time to get there. In the meantime, being pretty good might be good enough.

And as the Finals play on, Kelcey, the NBA rumor mill keeps churning. The latest is that the Sixers may (or may not!) be entertaining offers for Ben Simmons. After the way he played in the postseason, this isn’t surprising news. But Simmons is good! Maybe even great? So if you were the Sixers, what would it take for you to trade him?

Damian Lillard during Team USA Practice

From: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2021 9:49 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Sheesh! Well, that’s a loaded question because it comes with so much more. The Sixers will obviously only give up one All-Star for another All-Star caliber player (plus more, probably), then there’s cap space to talk about, then there’s the fact that Ben Simmons is owed almost $150 million dollars over the next three years.

I saw one trade rumor with the Kings and phewwwww they’re asking for a lot; it would be a trade that would include Hield and Bagley, and three future first round picks. Yes, yes, yes, that’s still a rumor but wow that’s a lot. But I don’t mind the Kings for Simmons, they’re a really young team with some money to spend and it would be Ben’s team…no more Robin to the Batman.

Let’s talk some other rumors; Sexton trade? Kuzma trade? Siakam trade? Hayward trade? Lowry trade? Kawhi? Dame? Eek! Do you think any of these will happen or are we all just looking for something kind of drama to watch out for?

Ben Simmons against the Hawks

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Thursday, July 15, 2021 10:41 AM

To: Kelcey Wright Johnson

Subject: RE: IMHO

I mean, I think at this point, something has to happen, right? It’s been almost a full year of trade rumors around Simmons. It started in earnest at the beginning of last season, when James Harden hit the trade market. And even though the Sixers ended up not finalizing the deal with the Rockets, once his name was on the market it’s tough to pretend like it was never a discussion. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s tough to put it back in.

So at this point, you may just have to move on. Which might not be a terrible thing! You’ve still got Embiid, and you can surely get a bunch of great picks/players in exchange for Simmons, depending on what kind of deal you strike. I understand that Simmons’ value is probably low right now, but as I’ve always said when it comes to the NBA, it only takes one team.

And in this case, you only need one team out there willing to take a chance on Simmons. Hopefully, you can find the right team.

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