The NBA trade deadline is just over a month away, and one major name to monitor is Ben Simmons. Simmons has yet to play in a game for the Philadelphia 76ers this season, as the team continues to scour the market for a suitable trade for the disgruntled All-Star.
One team to keep an eye on when it comes to a potential trade is the Atlanta Hawks, who have recently emerged as a suitor for Simmons, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein. But, while the Hawks may have interest in Simmons, their lack of a tradeable star-caliber player (outside of Trae Young, who the Hawks obviously aren’t interested in moving) makes a straight-up deal between them and the Sixers unlikely. Thus, if Simmons were to ultimately end up in Atlanta, it would likely be as part of a multi-team deal.
It was suggested to me this week by one league source to keep an eye on Atlanta as an emerging suitor for Philadelphia’s Simmons. The Hawks awoke Friday at a disappointing 17-20 (good for only 12th place in the East) and ranked 26th in defensive rating. They also just vaulted to the top of the Teams To Watch list at this trade deadline after general manager Travis Schlenk said in a radio interview earlier this week with 92.9 FM in Atlanta that he is openly questioning the wisdom of bringing back the same team after the Hawks’ Cinderella run to last season’s Eastern Conference finals. “It’s my responsibility to put a product on the floor that can win,” Schlenk said, “and right now I’m not sure I have done that.”
The Hawks don’t appear to have an available star on the Lillard/Beal level to make the sort of offer Philadelphia seeks for Simmons, but they have numerous enticing trade pieces to try to bring in other teams and expand the options in a theoretical multi-team trade construction. The prospect of a Trae Young/Simmons combination, given the defense Simmons could bring to Atlanta and the devastating playmaking duo he could form with Young, would certainly intrigue me.
So, the Hawks can be added to a list of teams intrigued by Simmons that already includes the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves, among others. Whether any of these teams will be able to come up with an offer enticing enough for Philadelphia to part with the former top overall pick remains to be seen.
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Despite the fact that he has made it clear that he wants to continue his career elsewhere, the Sixers still hope to convince Simmons to play for the team this season, as they would rather keep him and play him than trade him. They also don’t want to settle for a return just to get a deal done, as such a move could compromise their long-term prospects. Again, from Stein:
Convincing Simmons to rejoin the team and play as much of the remaining schedule as possible, according to one source familiar with Philadelphia’s thinking, is the club’s “goal No. 1” when it comes to the wayward playmaker…
Yet it has likewise been evident for weeks, if not months, that the Sixers don’t subscribe to the notion that they are wasting a year of Joel Embiid’s prime if they hold off on a Simmons deal until the offseason. Philly’s fear is that it could do something much more damaging and squander the opportunity to acquire a true complementary star to Embiid if it rushes into a deal this season for the various headliners it could get immediately, like Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox or Cleveland’s Collin Sexton or the best package long-established interested teams such as Minnesota, Indiana or San Antonio could present.
Given all that has transpired between the two sides, it’s tough to imagine Simmons suiting up for the Sixers again, but crazier things have happened. Perhaps a deal will materialize over the next few weeks. If not, the drama in Philadelphia could stretch into the offseason.