Ben Simmons has just inked a US$170 million NBA contract extension and is arguably Australia’s brightest international sports star, yet he remains a misfit both here and in the US.
The Philadelphia 76ers have dubbed Ben Simmons “one of the NBA’s most dynamic and talented young players” after confirming the 22-year-old had signed the richest deal ever by an Australian athlete.
The five-year contract extension is worth $US170 million ($A242 million).
76ers general manager Elton Brand said signing Simmons through to the 2024-25 NBA season is a key move in the team’s pursuit of an NBA championship.
The 76ers are going all-in for the title next season with Simmons’ new deal, coupled with contracts for All-Star big men Al Horford and Joel Embiid and forward Tobias Harris, totalling a combined $US580 million ($A827 million).
“It was a priority for our organisation that we finalise a contract extension with Ben this summer,” Brand said.
“He was Rookie of the Year in his first season, an All-Star in his second and we expect him to grow and succeed for seasons to come.
“Ben positively impacts the game in so many ways and we look forward to continuing our championship pursuits with him as one of our leaders.”
The contract does not give Simmons an option to leave the team in the fifth year, but if the 76ers trade him he will pocket a 15 per cent “trade kicker”, according to ESPN.
Simmons will also receive a bonus if he makes an All-NBA team next season.
The 76ers are under pressure to win a championship in the coming 2019-2020 season after failing to advance out of the second round of the playoffs the past two years.
The path to a title may be open for the 76ers, with the Eastern Conference appearing weaker.
Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors past the 76ers on their way to this year’s championship, left for the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference.
The 76ers’ traditional rivals in the East, the Boston Celtics, appear weaker after a major roster overhaul with All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Horford and Australian big man Aron Baynes departing.
Horford joined the 76ers in one of the biggest off-season moves, although another All-Star, Jimmy Butler, left Philly for the Miami Heat.
The 76ers’ huge investment in Simmons may be behind his agent, Rich Paul, signalling over the weekend Simmons was suddenly “doubtful” to play for Australia later this year at the World Cup in China and exhibition games in Melbourne and Perth.
Simmons’ priority will be preparing for the 76ers’ coming NBA season instead of the Boomers, according to an ESPN report quoting Paul.
Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot the ball outside the key is the glaring weakness in his game and has been exploited by rival NBA teams.
Harris, who agreed to return to the 76ers on a five-year, $US180 million ($A257 million) deal, said he recently worked out with Simmons in Los Angeles and confirmed the Australian was working on shooting from distance and “his jump shot is looking good”.
Harris said Simmons shot two consecutive three-pointers over him.
Simmons is yet to make a three-pointer in an NBA game and 90 per cent of his shot attempts come less than three metres from the basket, an incredible statistic for an NBA guard-forward.