Eight years after then-general manager Sam Hinkie told us to Trust the Process that yielded Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, it may be time to break up that duo.
For years, Simmons' refusal to shoot outside of four or five feet has clogged up a paint that Embiid should probably have all to himself. And in this series, that problem was abundantly obvious.
Mere months ago, Simmons was a realistic centerpiece for a potential James Harden trade. Now, his trade value is one of the biggest mysteries of the summer.
What kind of deals could Philly make to get Embiid closer to a title? Are there other trades out there that might actually make the Simmons-Embiid pairing work? Answers to that and more can be found in the following five hypothetical trade packages, courtesy of B/R's Andy Bailey and Eric Pincus.
Simmons for CJ McCollum
The idea of swapping Simmons and CJ McCollum has been out there for well over a year. Back then, it seemed like the Portland Trail Blazers might have to attach a pick and a young player to get it done. After all, Simmons is five years younger (25 in July), eight inches taller (6'11") and a much more explosive athlete.
Now, after disappointing playoff losses for both teams, it's starting to feel like a straight-up trade might be fair.
As is the case with Embiid and Simmons, it just feels like the McCollum-Damian Lillard pairing has run its course. Portland could use bigger, more versatile defenders around Dame. And in lineups with one of the game's best offensive point guards, Simmons would obviously have to move to what may be his more natural position: point forward or point center.
Think of that duo as something of a facsimile of the Stephen Curry-Draymond Green pair.
McCollum may not have quite as much raw talent as Simmons. And plugging him into the starting five would almost certainly hurt the Philly defense. But the idea of a floor-spacer who can run the pick-and-roll with Embiid has to be enticing. Imagine those two, flanked by Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tobias Harris.
Commit to Embiid and you're getting cooked from the outside. Stay home on the shooters and Embiid would feast inside.
Simmons for Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley
The Sacramento Kings could be an ideal trade partner for the 76ers if they're willing to part with Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley.
Simmons is a tall point guard in Philadelphia, and the Kings have an exciting backcourt with De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. But if Simmons has been miscast in Philadelphia (which is very, very arguable), he may be better suited in a Draymond Green-type point forward role with the Kings.
Sacramento is over-invested in Hield, who will earn about $23 million next season. He also has incentives based on his team's playoff performance, which would make him even more expensive. But while the Sixers have faced a shooting crisis with Simmons, Hield is one of the NBA's top-volume three-point shooters.
Bagley has yet to break through with the Kings, which is difficult given that the rest of his top 2018 draft classmates have exploded (Luka Doncic, Trae Young and now Deandre Ayton). Bagley could benefit from a new home.
The Kings would still owe almost $39 million to Harrison Barnes, but the potential positional duplication should be manageable (like Tobias Harris and Simmons together in Philadelphia). Barnes' ability to shoot the ball from the outside would make him a viable frontcourt pairing with Simmons.
Simmons for Kemba Walker
The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be somehow involved with every big NBA trade. They recently acquired Kemba Walker from the Boston Celtics (primarily for Al Horford), but will the veteran point guard ever suit up for the Thunder?
At $36 million for next season with a player option the following year at $37.7 million, that's an expensive price tag for a player at the same position as young Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. OKC can look to buy low on Simmons, revitalize his career, and ship him off for a hefty return—or they may skip the middle step and look to flip Simmons before the start of the season.
The Sixers would get a more traditional scoring point guard, one who isn't reluctant to shoot the longball. Walker has struggled with some knee issues, but he's a talented player caught in the fallout of a Celtics team in transition. Philadelphia would take a hit defensively going from Simmons to Walker, but the more significant issue appears to be Simmons' fit on the offensive end with Joel Embiid.
Naturally, the Thunder would get some sort of draft consideration because Oklahoma City Thunder seems to have all the NBA's draft considerations. Kenrich Williams would be an excellent add-in for Philadelphia from OKC.
Simmons for D'Angelo Russell
This one may depend quite a bit on the highly publicized friendship between D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. If the latter wants the former to stay with the Minnesota Timberwolves, it'd be hard to push this sort of deal through.
But Russell is a good fit (in theory) in Philadelphia, and KAT's ability to space the floor would open up the inside for Simmons in Minnesota.
For the Sixers, the defensive downgrade from Simmons to Russell would be severe and would put a lot of pressure on Embiid as the anchor. But on the other end, it would be significantly more difficult for opposing defenses to key in on Embiid.
Russell has a decent feel as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and he's been a high-volume three-point shooter throughout his career. He's obviously not Curry-level efficient from out there, but teams know he'll shoot. That alone makes him more of a perimeter threat than Simmons.
Because of the fact that Simmons is younger and still the better trade chip, the Sixers might be able to coax a pick out of Minnesota too.
For the Timberwolves, Simmons would instantly lend credibility to the defense. Down the road, Simmons and Anthony Edwards could wreak havoc on opposing wings and forwards. And if the Wolves surround Simmons with enough shooting (KAT, Malik Beasley and an improving Edwards are a good start), he could continue to do damage as a drive-and-kick creator.
This one is more of a leap. The Dallas Mavericks have one of the NBA's premier point forwards in Luka Doncic. Doesn't Simmons play the same spot on the floor?
The ball will be in Doncic's hands most of the time during the regular season and even throughout the playoffs. But when teams send everything they have to get the ball out of his hands, Dallas needs a decisive playmaker. If Doncic is Steph Curry, then Simmons would be Draymond Green—the Mavericks' best defender, who runs the team when Doncic faces traps and blitzes.
The Mavericks may have enough cap room to deal straight up with Philadelphia. They also have several movable players like Dwight Powell, Trey Burke, Josh Richardson (if he opts in), Maxi Kleber, etc. But since Dallas doesn't have significant draft capital, Kristaps Porzingis may need to be the main outgoing piece for Simmons.
Would the Houston Rockets be interested in giving Porzingis a look next to Christian Wood? That's a high-powered offensive big-man combo. John Wall would provide the 76ers with a more traditional scoring point guard who resurged last season in Houston after a trade from the Washington Wizards.
Lots of ifs, buts and maybes, though it bears mentioning that Sixers executive Daryl Morey has a long relationship with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone. That could help make a potentially complex/crazy idea somewhat achievable.