NBA Rumors: Trade Speculation Surrounding Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker and More
The NBA playoffs have provided basketball fans with plenty of drama, but the offseason activity has been every bit as spicy.
Multiple playoff teams suddenly find themselves in transition mode. Former Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has moved into Danny Ainge's position as president of basketball operations for the Celtics. His first move was to send Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks are searching for two major roles after head coach Rick Carlisle stepped down and general manager Donnie Nelson was fired after the team's elimination at the hands of the L.A. Clippers.
Those are just a few of the many storylines in the NBA landscape. Let's take a look at a few more potential trends to follow, including Ben Simmons' purported trade value as well as the Thunder's plans for Walker and how the New York Knicks might try to capitalize on their trade capital.
Simmons' Stock Is Falling
Philadelphia 76ers star guard Ben Simmons was one of the more polarizing figures in the playoffs.
The Sixers were in a fight for their playoff lives in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, and Simmons' play in the seven-game series loss has left him susceptible to criticism. Actually, it appears his performance is leaving executives around the league questioning his value.
Zach Lowe of ESPN reported on the Lowe Post podcast he had spoken to teams that used to be high on Simmons but are now souring on the three-time All-Star.
“I have news for Philly fans, the GMs of the other teams watch the playoffs very, very closely," Lowe said, via Adrian Bernecich of SB Nation. "And there are definitely teams that I have talked to in the last 48 hours who were once in on Simmons, who say, at lease to me, it could be posturing, 'eh, we’re a little less in than we used to be.'"
Simmons has lacked assertiveness on the offensive end of the floor. He came into Sunday's contest averaging just 8.3 field-goal attempts per contest in the playoffs. It marked the second consecutive postseason Simmons has seen a decline in field-goal attempts. He managed just four field-goal attempts on Sunday and passed up a look at the rim late in the game.
The 24-year-old also struggled from the charity stripe. He was shooting a woeful 33.8 percent from the line heading into Game 7 and shot 4-of-14 in Game 5. That combination of tentativeness and poor foul shooting makes Simmons something of a non-factor as a scorer, with teams content to give him space on the perimeter and simply foul him when he gets into the paint.
Simmons has tremendous playmaking abilities as a 6'11" guard with excellent athleticism and court vision. However, his offensive limitations appear to be impacting how teams around the league view his ceiling.
Thunder Will Try to Flip Walker
The Thunder don't appear to have any intention of keeping Kemba Walker after acquiring him from the Boston Celtics.
Oklahoma City took on Walker's contract mostly to also acquire the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Now, Thunder general manager Sam Presti could look to move Walker in an effort to accrue even more draft picks.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported the Thunder plan to "work with" Walker to deal him to a possible contender. Just which team that will be remains to be seen.
Bontemps noted Walker is owed about $73 million in the next two seasons. That's a sizable figure, especially when considering Walker has been hampered by knee issues this season.
The four-time All-Star looked like a strong investment in his first year with the Celtics during the 2019-20 campaign and was named a starter in the 2020 All-Star Game. However, Walker experienced a number of physical setbacks in the second half of the season, with injuries really limiting him in the "bubble" in Orlando.
Walker missed 29 games during the 2020-21 regular season, mostly because of the bad knee. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported the Celtics had real concern about the health of that knee, which served as a reason to move him.
Is there a playoff team with enough cap flexibility to make a move for Walker while also having confidence he can stay healthy? Oklahoma City might have to get creative in order to make a deal work.
Assessing Knicks Draft Choices
The New York Knicks' run to the playoffs was one of the surprising stories of the 2020-21 season. It will now be up to president of basketball operations Leon Rose and his team to build a sustainable winner.
Rose and Co. might hope to use their draft picks to jump into the top 10 or possibly make a run at a superstar player.
The Knicks own a pair of first-round selections (No. 19 and No. 21) in the 2021 draft and can also play around with the No. 32 pick. One executive told Ian Begley of SNY.tv the Knicks might be able to move into the top 10 if they choose to package those picks.
Perhaps New York will try to surge up the board to add another young and talented piece to a group that made enormous strides under Tom Thibodeau. However, Begley also noted the Knicks will surely need draft capital in the event they try to acquire a star.
The Knicks' competitive timeline has seemingly been altered after they finished with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. Those three draft picks could loom large in New York's offseason plans and whether the Knicks hope to be more aggressive.
All stats obtained via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.