Ben Simmons makes Aussie history with massive new deal

Ben Simmons has agreed to a $US170 million ($A242 million) contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers in the richest deal by an Australian athlete.

Doubt still hangs over whether the Melbourne-born NBA All-Star will play for Australia later this year at the World Cup in China and in Melbourne and Perth exhibition games.

Simmons' acceptance of the 76ers' five-year, $US170 million maximum contract extension had been expected.

The Athletic, citing Simmons' agent Rich Paul, was the first to report on Monday he had accepted the offer.

It was Paul who shocked Australian sports fans on the weekend when he told ESPN that Simmons was "doubtful" to play for Australia at the World Cup in August-September.

His absence would be a major blow to the Boomers' hopes of claiming a medal in China in September and to huge crowds of Australian fans planning to watch him play exhibition games with the Boomers.

Ben Simmons has signed the richest contract in Australian sporting history. Pic: Getty

The Boomers will play a powerful US squad twice in front of more than a combined 100,000 fans at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne in August.

Simmons was also set to play for the Boomers twice in Perth against a strong Canadian squad before jetting out to China.

The Boomers are yet to win a medal at a World Cup or Olympics, but with Simmons spearheading a team laden with Australian NBA players including Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes and Jonah Bolden, the drought appeared set to be broken.

Once projected as a potential paradigm-shifting playmaker along the lines of LeBron James and Magic Johnson, Simmons’ inability to pose a shooting threat has raised concerns about his ceiling as a game-changing force in the playoffs, when defences feast on weaknesses.

Simmons is 0-for-17 from 3-point range in his career, all but one of which have come on last-second heaves. He is also shooting 27.8 percent on more than 300 field-goal attempts beyond 10 feet in his career.

The 76ers have decided to put Ben Simmons on a max contract. Pic: Getty

Still, no player has come so close to averaging a triple-double at such a young age.

Few players possess his innate passing ability, and Simmons attacks the rim with a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism — all of which also makes him a versatile defensive weapon.

If Giannis Antetokounmpo did not exist, Simmons might represent the prototype for a new generation of freakishly talented big men.

If he ever does develop his shooting stroke (or switch hands), Simmons will exceed the value of his max extension. As he stands now, he is still worth the investment.

The Sixers have now committed nine-figure contracts to keep the core of Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford through at least the 2022-23 season, when Embiid and Horford can next become free agents.

That quartet will make a combined $128.5 million in 2022-23, well above the league’s salary cap projections.

With AAP/Yahoo Sports US