Ben Simmons has demanded a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who reported on Tuesday that Simmons has told Sixers brass that he no longer wants to be with the team and doesn’t intend to report for training camp.
The writing has been on the wall that Simmons and the Sixers weren’t long for each other since Philly was eliminated in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks. Simmons was the main scapegoat for that loss. Doc Rivers was noncommittal when asked whether he believed the Sixers could win a championship with Simmons at point guard. Simmons clearly didn’t appreciate that.
Nor did he appreciate hearing his name in James Harden trade rumors before Harden was ultimately dealt to the Brooklyn Nets, or the many less-than-subtle shots Joel Embiid has taken at him. Simmons, it appears, believes he’s above trade rumors and criticism. He thinks he’s a superstar. He’s wrong.
The funny thing is, the Sixers have done just about everything in their power to cater to Simmons. They let him reside at the head of the offense, where he wants and expects to be, when he was ill-equipped to do so. They’ve begged him to shoot, then done nothing to hold him accountable to that request. They’ve allowed him to basically not make a single stride as an offensive threat over his first four active years in the league.
The Sixers have stood by Simmons too long, in fact. It didn’t take a genius to see the holes in his game or his brazen disinterest in addressing them. Brett Brown coddled him for years. Rivers essentially laughed, repeatedly, at the idiocy of reporters who had the audacity to continue asking about Simmons’ complete lack of shooting or relative lack of scoring, as if those are minor issues.
We still don’t have total confirmation as to whether a Simmons-for-Harden trade was actually on the table had the Sixers been willing to part with Tyrese Maxey, but if it was, and the Sixers didn’t do it, they deserve to be where they are right now, which is between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Simmons wants out, and truth be told, the Sixers, and most of their fans, want to be done with him as well. But to this point, Daryl Morey has tried playing hard ball by demanding outlandish return packages for a player whose value has never been lower and is depreciating by the day. Now that Simmons has threatened not to show for camp, will Morey shave down his demands?
He has to. The pipe dream of landing Damian Lillard isn’t happening. There’s no time to wait for Lillard’s trade request, if that is even to come. Same for Bradley Beal. If the Sixers are going to put what is sure to be a massive distraction behind them with any sort of expediency, they’re going to have to get realistic with their demands.
If they do that, there are a number of teams that should, and likely would, jump on a Simmons trade. I’ve been as hard on Simmons as anyone, but this is as a lead playmaker, which he probably shouldn’t be under any circumstances, and certainly not next to Embiid. If Simmons would embrace a role more tailored to both his abilities and inabilities (this might be a big if), here are six teams on which he could work that could offer the Sixers an attractive package in return (future draft picks could and likely would be added to many of these deals).
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1. Portland Trail Blazers
This is the deal that has always made the most sense for both sides: Simmons for CJ McCollum. The Sixers tried to hold firm until Lillard became available, but that was never likely. For starters, Lillard hasn’t asked for a trade yet, and even if he did, Simmons is not a good enough player to be the centerpiece of a Lillard deal. Presumably, if the Blazers were to get rid of Lillard, it would be to start rebuilding, a process best ignited by draft picks rather than an ill-equipped max player who’s going to clog your books.
In the always more realistic Simmons-for-McCollum deal, Simmons is the defender and playmaking four-man the Blazers have long needed to pair with Lillard, and McCollum is the elite half-court shot creator the Sixers desperately need to properly support Embiid.
Portland could also send Robert Covington back to Philadelphia to somewhat offset the defensive loss of Simmons, and the Sixers could send Tyrese Maxey to Portland to replace some of McCollum’s offensive punch. The money works. This is the rarest of win-win trades in which both teams are equally urgent to break through their respective glass ceilings, and they both have what one another needs.
To me, every potential Simmons suitor out there has to beat McCollum in terms of a piece that helps the 76ers get closer to a title right now than they already are with Simmons. All things considered, it’s going to be hard to top that. My money is on this deal eventually happening.
2. Golden State Warriors
Simmons says he wants to go to one of the three big California teams. There’s no route to the Lakers or Clippers. The Kings could make a play for a package centered on Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield, but Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, is throwing his power around pretty wildly here, and Simmons would clearly prefer a move to the lone remaining California team: Golden State.
The Warriors should be seriously considering a move for Simmons. After a two-year layoff, Klay Thompson’s return is the fulcrum on which the Warriors’ hopes of contending rest, this season and beyond, and while we can be pretty certain he’ll pick up where he left off as a shooter in addition to regaining at least the majority of his offensive arsenal, the defense is a major question after a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles.
Simmons and Draymond Green together would make the Warriors an upper-class defensive team by themselves. For all the worry about pairing Green and Simmons, two non-shooters, on offense, the Warriors have long played Green alongside non-shooters — from Kevon Looney to JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and Andrew Bogut. When it gets down to it, the Warriors will play small in the biggest moments, and Simmons as a small-ball five with the two greatest shooters in history and an elite distributor in Green on the court with him is a nasty lineup.
The problem is what the Warriors have to offer the Sixers. If Philly was in rebuild mode, Golden State’s package would be just about impossible to beat with 2020 No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman and two lottery picks from this past draft in Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody potentially on the table. But the Sixers want to win now, and the best player the Warriors could likely send back right away would probably be Andrew Wiggins.
One thing to consider: If the Sixers were to do a deal with Golden State, it might be to arm themselves with a package of young assets that could then be moved in a subsequent deal, perhaps for Beal if he were to become available. But that’s a long and uncertain road to take for a team with immediate title aspirations.
This is probably the deal Simmons wants, but the Sixers will likely be more interested in other offers, specifically Portland (I would think). Simmons getting to Golden State could be a question of just how much influence Rich Paul can wield.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta is a prime consolidation candidate with a bevy of good, young and similarly skilled wings: Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter. Flipping two of those guys for a player like Simmons, who would further solidify what became a tough defense in the playoffs, makes sense. In a straight-up two-team trade, Danilo Gallinari, whose shooting and ability to eat clutch possessions as an individual shot creator would help Philly, could be included to make the money work.
Playing Simmons alongside a non-shooting big like Clint Capela isn’t ideal offensively, but Capela isn’t used in the same way as Embiid. He isn’t a focal point in the post clogging the lane. And Atlanta would be more versatile in terms of its ability to go small: Simmons at the five with John Collins, a capable shooter at the four, Hunter/Huerter/Reddish at the three, and Bogdan Bogdanovic alongside Trae Young in the backcourt. That’s a serious five with legit title-contending potential.
All that said, the Hawks also figure to be a Bradley Beal suitor if and when he becomes available. Would they want to prematurely cash in their assets on Simmons? Just for the sake of argument, if they did, the Sixers could benefit from two of Hunter, Huerter and/or Reddish.
Hunter is a terrific defender with 3-point shooting potential who made a huge leap this season in creating shots off the dribble. Huerter is one of the quietest studs in the league. He can shoot the lights out and create for himself and teammates as a secondary playmaker (he makes some high-level passes off the dribble and has a natural court sense).
Philly wouldn’t be getting back the lead guard it truly needs, but perhaps that’s where a third team could get involved. I’m looking at the Charlotte Hornets, who could send Terry Rozier to Philly (with Reddish and Huerter from Atlanta) and get back Tyrese Maxey from the Sixers and Clint Capela from the Hawks. Either way, if Atlanta were to come calling with its trio of young wings, this is a package worth considering for the Sixers depending on what else might be available.
4. Denver Nuggets
Would you give up Jamal Murray for Simmons if you were the Nuggets? I wouldn’t. And I doubt the Sixers would want to make that deal with Murray likely out for most of the 2021-22 regular season, if not all of it. But Michael Porter Jr. is interesting. He’s not a guy who can initiate offense off the dribble, but he can be a go-to scorer next to Embiid. I would propose Porter, Monte Morris (who is a starting-caliber point guard) and Aaron Gordon to the Sixers for Simmons and either Maxey or Shake Milton.
The Nuggets looked great for the short time they had Murray and Nikola Jokic on the court with Gordon. They’re a contender without this deal as soon as Murray gets back, and plenty of, if not not most, people would argue that Porter is worth more than Simmons on his own.
But I don’t think Denver’s defense is title level with Porter, Murray and Jokic as the core. Replace Gordon with Simmons, and while you lose some depth and certainly scoring with Porter, a Big 3 of Jokic, Murray and Simmons is more balanced and could not be more perfect as a shooting big and a playmaking point guard are exactly the supporting parts Simmons needs. That would be as dangerous a trio as any outside Brooklyn, even if it took a year to come to fruition with Murray’s injury. Something to consider.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
This one keeps getting talked about. Simmons is good friends with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, and on paper, a lineup that includes Simmons, Towns, Russell and Anthony Edwards is pretty darn good. But the Wolves would obviously have to give up at least one of Russell or Edwards to even halfway interest Philly. I don’t see any chance of the Wolves giving up Edwards, and Russell is probably too much of a defensive downgrade for the Sixers to consider him as the centerpiece of a Simmons deal.
This could be another three-team situation. One possibility would be adding the Memphis Grizzlies, who could send Dillon Brooks (just an awesome on-ball defender and a tough, capable scorer) to the Sixers, who would also get Russell from the Wolves to satisfy their offensive point guard needs. The Grizzlies would get Malik Beasley, Maxey (effectively a 2-for-1 for Brooks) while Minnesota lands Simmons (and Shake Milton) to pair with Towns and Edwards.
The Grizzlies, however, are probably more interested in consolidating Brooks and, say, De’Anthony Melton and/or Brandon Clarke for a bigger fish. In that case …
6. Memphis Grizzlies
You could argue Memphis as a straight-up trade partner for Simmons, sending all three of Brooks, Melton and Clarke to the Sixers in exchange for Simmons. Philly would be playing the depth card, which it could use, and would be getting three solid players — particularly Brooks and Melton.
From the Grizzlies’ side, you’re getting the best player in the trade by far. There would be some issues with Ja Morant and Simmons together, but Jaren Jackson Jr. spaces the floor as a big to mitigate some of that, and a fully healthy JJJ with Simmons is the makings of a defensive force.
If Maxey were to be included, his role and playing tie would be reduced in Morant’s shadow. It’s not perfect for Memphis, but what other avenue does it have to get a player of Simmons’ caliber? Might they take a shot on sheer talent and potential if the Sixers were willing to dance?
7. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland would give Simmons his best opportunity to continue being a focal point offensively, if he prioritizes that over winning. The Cavs could send Collin Sexton to Philly along with Isaac Okoro and multiple future first-round picks to the Sixers, who could then see what they could get in a subsequent deal for Okoro and the picks.
We could also get crazy with this (actually pretty intriguing) four-teamer dreamed up by our Sam Quinn:
As the notes at the bottom of the screen shot indicate, Talen Horton-Tucker and Ricky Rubio wouldn’t be able to be dealt until the turn of the calendar (the time frame would actually be mid-January for both, contrary to the note that says THT couldn’t be moved until March 3, which is based off last season’s schedule that started in December).
To summarize: The Cavs obviously get their prize in Simmons, while the Sixers get their point guard in Sexton and a total stud in Christian Wood, who can play alongside Embiid and also finally solve the Sixers’ backup center minutes. The Rockets get two nice, potentially really nice, young pieces in Okoro and Horton-Tucker, plus a future Cleveland pick that likely lands in the lottery, while the Lakers get the shooting they would just about die for right now with Seth Curry.
Don’t bet on a deal involving this many moving parts, but don’t rule it out, either. The Sixers are going to scour for whatever value they can find for Simmons, who can still make a lot of waves when you start putting bits and pieces together from multiple teams even if his straight-up trade value has diminished.