NBA

Ben Simmons' stock never lower as he pushes for 76ers exit

By Sports Desk September 21, 2021

Ben Simmons has no future with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to reports on Tuesday, putting the team in a very tricky position.

The 76ers were said to be in talks to trade Simmons for James Harden last season, but the Brooklyn Nets swooped in to do a deal with the Houston Rockets instead.

Simmons instead remained in Philly but again failed to impress as their playoff run ended with defeat to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The point forward is an outstanding defender, making the All-Defensive First Team in each of the past two years, but his work on the other end of the floor has been a source of constant criticism.

In four seasons with the Sixers, Simmons has averaged 15.9 points per game in the regular season, yet he has attempted only 34 shots from three-point range and made just 59.7 per cent from the foul line.

The first overall pick in 2016, Simmons still has admirers around the league but appears to be gambling someone will make a big offer.

ESPN said Simmons will not report for training camp next week and does not plan to play for the 76ers again, having communicated this message to the team last month.

But the 76ers have not yet found an attractive trade, and the issue for both parties is Simmons' stock has never been lower.

Not only does the player's stance give his team less leverage, but he is coming off a woeful postseason showing that could understandably see suitors have second thoughts.

Across Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Hawks, Simmons averaged 6.3 points from 4.7 field goal attempts.

His 34.2 per cent free-throw shooting throughout the playoffs was by far the worst rate of any player with 10 attempts or more, while he took just one shot in clutch situations.

The 76ers are likely to have to lower their expectations considerably in the trade market, as they attempt to help Joel Embiid heading into 2021-22.

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    Former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham has praised the understanding of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min as the duo close in on a Premier League record.

    Kane and Son have directly combined for 35 goals in the English top flight since the South Korea international's move from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.

    The Spurs pair, who successfully linked up again in last weekend's win at Newcastle United, are now just one behind the leading tally of 36 set by Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba ahead of a London derby with West Ham United on Sunday.

    And Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 appearances across two spells for Spurs, is hopeful Kane and Son can continue to link up in such devastating fashion.

    In an exclusive interview, the 55-year-old told Stats Perform: "They have a great understanding.

    "They're two phenomenal players playing at the top of their game. They have an understanding that clicks. 

    "They know what's good and what's bad for each other and they play to their strengths and long may continue for Tottenham."

    Sheringham knows all about the benefits of playing with a team-mate on the same wavelength.

    Indeed, the former England striker directly combined with Darren Anderton for 27 goals during their time together at Spurs; the fifth-highest tally in Premier League history.

    "Every now and again, you come across people that understand how you play and accommodate you perfectly," he continued.

    "Not everyone gets on that wavelength, but I definitely had it with Darren Anderton.

    "Maybe it'd be a little signal or an eye contact, but he would understand exactly where I wanted the ball. 

    "That's one thing understanding it, and there's another thing putting it exactly where it's needed to be. He was unbelievable at that.

    "People ask me who my favourite players are that I played with. He's out there in the top three because he was phenomenal at putting the ball exactly where I wanted. He was a feeder. 

    "I was the goalscorer at Tottenham, and I made a few for him as well."

  • Salah's 'on fire' but is Solskjaer terrified? Man Utd boss backs Ronaldo above Liverpool star Salah's 'on fire' but is Solskjaer terrified? Man Utd boss backs Ronaldo above Liverpool star

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has commanded Manchester United to douse the blazing brilliance of Liverpool's "on-fire" forward Mohamed Salah.

    The United manager knows Salah is capable of turning up at Old Trafford on Sunday and making a game-winning contribution, after scoring 12 goals in 11 games this season.

    Six of those goals have come in Salah's last four games, including Champions League doubles against Porto and Atletico Madrid, and the Egypt international has only failed to net in one game this term: the 2-0 win over Burnley in August.

    Although Solskjaer said he would side with Cristiano Ronaldo in any debate about who is the best player in the world, his admiration for Salah shone through.

    "I'll always back Cristiano in any competition. He's unique and his goalscoring record has been fantastic and he keeps on scoring," Solskjaer said.

    "But that being said, Salah at the moment is on fire. You've seen some of the goals he's scored lately. We know we need to be at our best to defend against him.

    "Players like this don't come around very often and we've got to enjoy them when we watch them – from afar, not on Sunday, that's too close for me."

    Wonder strikes against Manchester City and Watford in Liverpool's last two Premier League games have illustrated how well Salah is performing, and he sits alongside Jamie Vardy on seven goals at the top of the Premier League scoring chart.

    Along with those goals in Europe, that lift him into double figures, Salah has found a consistency this season that makes him Liverpool's number one threat.

    "So we've got to do a good job, but not just against him," Solskjaer said. "I'm a big admirer of the frontline they've had for many, many years now, with [Sadio] Mane and [Roberto] Firmino. Maybe [Diogo] Jota will play, who knows?

    "They're players you have to focus on and you've got to be nailed on for 95 minutes to keep a clean sheet.

    "When you play against a team at the level of Liverpool at the moment, they're on a great run of form, with some individuals' skills that you cannot almost defend against. But as a team we need to be compact, we need to be aggressive, we need to go out there and give every drop of nous and knowledge, strong mindset and physical energy.

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    Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season, netting twice in a 3-2 FA Cup defeat before hitting the fourth as Liverpool won 4-2 in the Premier League.

    No Liverpool player has ever scored in three consecutive away games against United, while the Merseyside giants have not earned consecutive league wins at Old Trafford since January 2002.

    Should Jurgen Klopp's men follow up last season's Premier League success at United with another victory, they would hold a seven-point cushion over their great rivals.

    United have a disappointing recent record in league games against Liverpool, winning just one of their previous 10 encounters. This game has often failed to live up to expectations in recent seasons, with six of the last 10 ending in draws, and Liverpool coming out on top in the other three.

    Solskjaer said he hoped the 3-2 win over Atalanta on Wednesday signalled "the end of a bad period for us" and that it might be "the start of something big". That is bold talk, given United have lost three of their last four domestic games, including a 4-2 setback at Leicester City last Saturday.

    Liverpool are unbeaten in 18 in the Premier League, with the turmoil that plagued them at the start of the year banished and replaced by an optimism they can challenge for a second title in three years.

    United are without a clean sheet in any of their last nine home league matches, their longest such run since a run of 10 between September 1970 and February 1971.

    Although United finished ahead of Liverpool last season, Solskjaer was realistic enough to recognise it was injury chaos in the Anfield ranks that blunted the 2020-21 challenge from Klopp's men, with the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sitting out most of the season.

    "They're one of the teams we're trying to chase. What they've done in the last four years is something we're striving towards and [trying] to go past them," Solskjaer said.

    "We ended above them last season, they had a very bad spell of injuries, so now they're back to their best."

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    Liverpool meet Manchester United in a clash of two of the Premier League's fiercest rivalries on Sunday, and it will also see two of the competition's star forwards face off.

    Cristiano Ronaldo's move back to United was a sensational story late in the transfer window, and though the 36-year-old picked up where he left off in England back in 2009, it is Liverpool's Mohamed Salah who has taken the limelight so far this season.

    Salah leads the way with seven goals from eight league appearances in 2021-22, including two quite sensational strikes in his last two top-flight matches, against Manchester City and Watford respectively.

    His efforts, which also include four assists, a tally so far bettered only by Ronaldo's United team-mate Paul Pogba (seven), have helped Liverpool to five victories and three draws.

    On Friday, Jurgen Klopp was asked in his pre-match news conference to compare Salah and Ronaldo, as two of the league's – and indeed world football's – best players.

    "I never thought about that," he said. "Why should we compare Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Salah?

    "Both are world-class players and that's it. I would say, even though Cristiano Ronaldo's left foot is not that bad, I'd say Mo's left foot is probably better!

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    While Klopp may not think to compare the duo, Stats Perform has used Opta data to assess how the star forwards stack up.

     

    Premier League records

    While Ronaldo always seemed set for stardom since bursting onto the scene under Alex Ferguson in 2003-04, Salah did have a rather more stagnated journey to becoming one of the top-flight's best players, with the Egypt forward initially struggling at Chelsea after a move from Basel in January 2014.

    He scored twice in 10 league appearances in his first half-season at Stamford Bridge but, under Jose Mourinho, played only three times in the competition in 2014-15 before loan moves to Fiorentina and Roma, the latter switch eventually being made permanent.

    But in his first season at Liverpool in 2017-18, Salah broke Ronaldo's record of 31 Premier League goals in a single campaign, scoring 32 times across 36 matches, averaging a strike every 91 minutes.

    Salah's shot conversion rate of 22.22 per cent that season (from 144 attempts in total) is the best either he or Ronaldo have managed in their Premier League careers.

    In terms of assists, Salah has twice reached 10 for a campaign, in 2017-18 and Liverpool's title-winning season of 2019-20. Ronaldo's best figure of eight was recorded in 2006-07.

    Klopp pointed to Ronaldo's aerial prowess as an area where the Portugal star certainly edges out his Egyptian counterpart, and that is reflected in the data – the former Real Madrid man having scored 11 of his 87 Premier League goals with his head, compared to just six from Salah.

    Salah has scored a remarkable 104 league goals from 166 appearances, while Ronaldo has scored his tally from 201 games in the competition.

     

    The season so far...

    Salah also edges the statistics when taking this season specifically into account. In all competitions, he has already netted 12 goals in 11 games, all of which have been starts, while Ronaldo has scored six times in eight matches.

    Ronaldo has averaged a goal every 107 minutes, while Salah has done so every 80 minutes. The latter has also been involved in 16 goals compared to Ronaldo's tally of six, with the Liverpool attacker crafting 25 chances for team-mates.

    Much has been made of Ronaldo's transformation into a penalty box poacher, though his 54 touches in the opposition area is some 39 fewer than Salah (93), perhaps speaking more to the differing styles of play between United and Liverpool.

    Both players have outperformed their expected goals (xG), suggesting their finishing has been better than would be expected. Salah, however, is some three ahead (12 goals from an xG of 9.0), with Ronaldo's six goals coming from an xG of 5.4.

    Salah scored three goals in his two away games against United last season (two in the FA Cup, one in the Premier League), and he could become the first Liverpool player to net in three consecutive matches at Old Trafford.

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