Ben Simmons turned into an enormous headache for the Philadelphia 76ers. Daryl Morey played his hand perfectly and found relief in the form of dealing the exasperating lefty away for James Harden in mid-February. And since that moment, nary a person affiliated with the franchise has spent a single second regretting the decision or pining for what they used to have. It's still early and things could change, but the way things have played out for the Sixers in their first two playoff games suggests they never will experience a shred of remorse. It suggests that trade was even better than the savvy move it was appreciated as in the moment.
Consider what Simmons has done with the Brooklyn Nets. Which is nothing. Well, not nothing if you count conveniently timed videos of him hitting jumpers in 1-on-zero drills as something. Or if you put value in NBA reporters informing the masses that he dunked in practice. Or if you are fashion-forward and think his Gumby look from the other night has important cultural capital. Even with those concessions, we can agree that he's scored zero points, grabbed zero rebounds, and issued zero assists.
Now consider what Tyrese Maxey, the second-year guard from Kentucky, has done for the Sixers in Games 1 and 2 against the Toronto Raptors. Sixty-one points on 21-for-32 shooting. Eight three-pointers. A near triple-double last night. A combined plus-42 in 34.6 minutes per contest. A certain Je ne sais quoi in the vibe department that Simmons could never hope to replicate.
It's not even close. One could make the argument that Maxey could be doing this if his friend Ben had stayed content and felt any brotherly love. Yet it doesn't seem likely. This sophomore emergence feels like yet another example of the addition by subtraction that has Joel Embiid & Co. feeling good and playing even better.
Honestly, this isn't even a targeted swipe at Simmons' expense. It's just honesty. Close your eyes and try to imagine the next time he'll turn in consecutive playoff games as productive as the ones Maxey just did. It's difficult. What if — and in the words of Dr. Cox from Scrubs here — it's a big what if, it never happens for Simmons again? Are we 100 percent sure he ever looks like an NBA player for Brooklyn or whichever franchise decides to deal with all his baggage next?
Maxey is 21-years old. What could he look like with four more seasons of seasoning? Just how different will these two journeys look like? Perhaps the moment is holding me prisoner. Perhaps the small sample size is too shiny. And perhaps you'd still hitch your wagon to Simmons. I'm just not so sure.
What I do know is that Philadelphia far prefers this reality to the reality show Simmons foisted upon them.