As the Ben Simmons drama has died down in public, with everyone pretty much expecting and accepting his absence, nothing has changed behind the scenes. The Philadelphia 76ers want to trade him, and eventually almost certainly will trade him, but they have no intention, at least for now, of doing so on anyone’s terms but their own.
They want an All-Star in return. So far, no one is offering.
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Now, while they’re at it, the Sixers apparently would like to attach Tobias Harris to potential Simmons deals so they can get off that albatross of a contract as well, as reported by Marc Spears of The Undefeated and confirmed by ESPN insider Brian Windhorst.
On Tuesday’s episode of Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast, the possibility of Simmons being moved to the Atlanta Hawks, who have reportedly emerged as a serious Simmons suitor, was presented to Spears.
“I think it’s a long shot, and it’s not because of Ben,” Spears said when gauging the odds of a Philly-Atlanta deal actually happening. “It’s because I’m hearing that [the 76ers] want to include Tobias Harris.”
“Me too,” Windhorst replied before elaborating. “… That is the word out there because [the Sixers] can’t necessarily get an All-Star they want in return right now. As the Sixers have continued their talks, they’ve talked to teams about trading Tobias and Ben.”
Harris, according to Spears, is a deal-breaker.
“The gist I’m getting is that Atlanta was interested until they brought up Tobias’ name,” Spears said.
For Philly, trading Harris on his own would be almost impossible. He’s in the middle of a $36 million salary this season, and he’s set to make $77 million over the next two seasons. He’s nowhere near good enough for that kind of money.
The Sixers are obviously hoping that the lure of getting Simmons is attractive enough for some team, Atlanta or anyone else, to be willing to pay the Harris tax that comes with him. That’s highly unlikely as well. Simmons is hard enough to sell on his own given his noted offensive deficiencies. Together, Simmons and Harris are making some $74 million this season, meaning a team would have to send back, at a minimum, $56 million in matching salary, per Windhorst, to facilitate such a deal.
Go look at the players who make that kind of money and ask yourself if you would trade any of them, in any kind of package, for Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. I suppose stranger things have happened. The Lakers willingly got worse to trade for Russell Westbrook and his bloated salary, so you never know. But don’t bet on Simmons and Harris going out together to the same team.
Now, a multi-team deal might be feasible. Simmons winds up one place, Harris another, and there are all kind of drafts picks and other moving parts attached.
The Hawks, if you listen to the reporting, remain the team to watch with Simmons. They are desperate to make a move. If the playoffs started today, they would be out, not even good enough to get a crack at the play-in. They have all kinds of young, attractive players to offer. Shams Charania of The Athletic recently reported that John Collins has grown “increasingly frustrated” with his role with the Hawks. The makings of a Simmons-to-Atlanta deal are there. But dumping Harris into the mix just isn’t palatable for Hawks GM Travis Schlenk.
And I would be surprised if any other general manager would see it differently.