A New Ben Simmons Landing Spot and Fresh NBA Trades You’ve Never Thought of
With the 2021 iteration of NBA free agency cooling down, it's time to fire back up those always entertaining trade machines.
Since clubs can no longer correct their primary problems by simply signing players, they'll have to examine the trade market for roster relief. The right blend of creativity and courage could help them find what they're after.
Realistic trade candidates are a bit tricky to find at this juncture of the offseason, so some of the following names will be ones you've seen in the rumor mill before. But each of the four trades offers at least one twist to the trade talks, whether that's a new destination or an uncharted path to their next (hypothetical) employer.
Let the wheeling and dealing commence.
Bulls Add Two-Way Wing, Grizzlies Grow Asset Collection
Chicago Bulls receive: Dillon Brooks
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Coby White, Troy Brown Jr., 2026 second-round pick and 2027 second-round pick
After pairing Zach LaVine with Nikola Vucevic at last season's trade deadline and adding DeMar DeRozan to the mix this offseason, the Bulls are seemingly all-in on the idea of overwhelming their opponents with offense. However, they could expand their margin for error and therefore elevate their ceiling by paying more attention to the defensive end.
Dillon Brooks brings tenacious energy on defense, and his size (6'7", 225 lbs) grants him more flexibility than Chicago's hired stoppers Lonzo Ball (6'6", 190 lbs) and Alex Caruso (6'4", 186 lbs). Mix-matching those players, plus sophomore swingman Patrick Williams, could help the Bulls contain some of the fires opponents will inevitably spark against this squad.
As an added bonus, Brooks could give Chicago's offense some extra bite. He isn't the most efficient scorer around, but when he's rolling, he can be a human torch (see: the 25.8 points per game he averaged in five playoff games this past season).
Memphis, meanwhile, seems fully focused on the future and would use this exchange to deepen its talent pool. In exchange for the 25-year-old Brooks, who is reportedly available "for the right price," per Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor, the Grizzlies would get 21-year-old scoring guard Coby White, 22-year-old versatile wing Troy Brown Jr. and a pair of future second-round picks to keep or use in separate swaps.
If White can keep Memphis' offense moving when Ja Morant sits, and Brown can carve out a glue-guy role on the perimeter, the Grizzlies would get a good return for a player they're apparently willing to lose.
Warriors Make Their Splash, Pelicans Add Prospects
Golden State Warriors receive: Brandon Ingram, Tomas Satoransky and Jaxson Hayes
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga
In a different universe, the Warriors could have had a splash-filled summer. In this reality, though, the trade market never bent their direction.
A source told NBC Sports Bay Area's Kendra Andrews that Golden State would only empty its treasure chest of assets for one player—who isn't available. The player wasn't named, but Andrews added "it's hard not to assume" the target is Bradley Beal.
This deal obviously doesn't deliver Beal, so does that make it a deal-breaker? Maybe not. The Warriors aren't giving up everything here, as they'd still keep No. 14 pick Moses Moody, plus all of their future picks. Since Moody is the most polished of Golden State's top three prospects, he might offer more immediate value than James Wiseman or Jonathan Kuminga, which should arguably be the franchise's focus with Stephen Curry's 33rd birthday behind him.
Continuing this win-now logic, it might be worth sacrificing two blue-chip prospects and Andrew Wiggins for this package. Brandon Ingram can walk into a second or third scoring role—depending on how Klay Thompson looks on this side of a torn ACL and Achilles—Tomas Satoransky offers plug-and-play rotation depth and Jaxson Hayes has the above-the-rim interior element the Dubs would be missing without Wiseman.
And since Ingram is still on the right side of 25, the Warriors aren't completely neglecting the future. They'd just be prioritizing the present, again as they arguably should with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green all in their 30s.
If the Pelicans sense a bit of patience from Zion Williamson, this exchange could put him in a better chance to succeed in New Orleans. Wiseman's budding perimeter game and paint protection should make him a snug frontcourt fit with Williamson, Kuminga's explosive athleticism and shot-creating potential point to a massive ceiling and Andrew Wiggins still has drool-worthy physical tools plus more polish than ever.
Blazers, Pacers, Mavericks Shake Things Up
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Kristaps Porzingis
Indiana Pacers receive: CJ McCollum
Dallas Mavericks receive: Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb and 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected, via IND)
Does this three-teamer give off a hint of desperation? It should, as each of the three teams involved might have reasons to feel desperate.
The Blazers could be desperate to pacify an antsy Damian Lillard. The Mavericks might be desperate to put better fitting pieces around Luka Doncic. The Pacers could be desperate for the kind of featured scoring that might take this team next level.
Portland would immediately shift from a frustratingly quiet summer to a major move for a 7'3" big who has averaged 21.1 points and 37.0 percent three-point shooting over his last three healthy seasons. If he can stay healthy and regain some mobility, he could prove a more impactful co-star for Lillard than CJ McCollum can be. This might put Jusuf Nurkic in an awkward spot, but maybe Portland could flip him for an upgrade on the wing.
Indiana might sense its current ceiling doesn't sit high enough, but feel it has too much potential to throw this nucleus away. So, it would finally modernize its frontcourt by shedding Myles Turner and sliding T.J. Warren to the 4 spot, gain a go-to shot-creator in CJ McCollum (who averaged nearly two points per game more than any Pacer last season) and clear some congestion on the wing by shedding Jeremy Lamb.
If the Mavs don't see a path to contention with Porzingis, then it's time to move on. Turner would provide a similar shot-blocking and floor-spacing combination at a much cheaper price ($35 million the next two seasons combined, compared to the $101.5 million it could owe Porzingis for the next three). Lamb could give Dallas more shooting and shot-creating on the perimeter, and the first-round pick has obvious appeal as a trade chip.
Sixers Land Lillard, Grizzlies Get Simmons, Blazers Start Over
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Damian Lillard
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Ben Simmons, 2023 second-round pick (via PHI), 2023 second-round pick (via ATL, CHA or BRK, from PHI)
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Jaren Jackson Jr., Matisse Thybulle, Dillon Brooks, Jaden Springer, De'Anthony Melton, 2022 first-round pick (via PHI), 2024 first-round pick swap (via PHI), 2026 first-round pick swap (via PHI) and 2027 first-round pick (via PHI)
Let's start with a concession: No, a Ben Simmons trade isn't the most novel idea, nor is it remotely creative to have the swap result in Damian Lillard heading to Philadelphia. In fact, the Sixers reportedly have "[their] eyes set" on Lillard, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. And Simmons has already communicated to Philly brass that he wants to be traded and has no intention of reporting to training camp, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Saying all of that, it's tricky to build a bridge between the Blazers and Sixers, assuming a simple Lillard-for-Simmons swap wouldn't move the needle for Portland. That's where this gets funky, as the Grizzlies get in on the fun by landing Simmons and helping the Sixers provide the Blazers with a boatload of rebuilding tools.
Philadelphia would unload almost all of its assets in this exchange, but the payoff could be enormous. Putting Lillard atop the roster with Joel Embiid might give the Sixers their long-awaited path out of the Eastern Conference. Their two-man actions would be basketball magic, and both can call their own shots while the other catches a breather or spots up off the ball.
Memphis, meanwhile, could see Simmons as the kind of elite talent that otherwise won't be available to it. The Grizzlies will have a hard time bottoming out for blue-chip prospects with Ja Morant leading the charge, so they instead would give him a 25-year-old, All-Star running mate. If Simmons signed off on a move to the frontcourt and Memphis surrounded its young stars with shooters, the Grizzlies could be an exhausting, nightmare matchup for the foreseeable future.
Blazers fans might gripe over the lack of an incoming centerpiece, but there are two counters to that point. First, Jaren Jackson Jr. might be a focal point if he stays healthy. If he hits his peak, he'll offer inside-out versatility at both ends of the floor, and maybe enough shot-creation to handle top scorer duties. Second, this gives the Blazers a lot of different paths to a brighter future, which is key because not every prospect and draft pick will pan out.
Brooks and Matisse Thybulle would be a beastly pairing defensively, De'Anthony Melton is criminally underrated and Jaden Springer is a two-way energizer who could become a team leader with the right amount of development. Brooks is the oldest of Portland's incoming pieces at just 25 years old. Throw in two firsts and two first-round swaps (or more draft considerations if needed), and the Blazers might have their foundation for the post-Lillard chapter.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.