5 Trade Ideas to Help 76ers Deal Ben Simmons Before Training Camp
It seemed obvious. Maybe even official. Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers were done with each other after he famously passed up a wide-open dunk in the playoffs (in a closeout game and in the clutch). Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers threw him under the bus, and the relationship appeared beyond repair.
Well, Tuesday it became official (if not official official).
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey had the report:
"In a meeting with the 76ers last week in Los Angeles, Simmons told team co-managing partner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand and coach Doc Rivers that he no longer wants to remain a Sixer, according to multiple sources.
"Sources said the three-time All-Star also does not intend to report to training camp."
Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean the team has to trade Simmons. He's under contract through 2024-25, but one of the many lessons of the player empowerment era is that these situations are rarely salvageable. Players command a ton of leverage in today's NBA, and paying over $30 million to someone who refuses to play would impact the team on and off the floor.
At this point (or sometime between now and the trade deadline), the Sixers should probably just face reality and move him. The deal may not be exactly what Morey is after, but two or three guys who are actually contributing will be better than a holdout. Waiting could do more harm than good.
As Jerry Seinfeld once told a conflicted George Costanza, who couldn't decide how to initiate a breakup, "You should just do it like a Band-Aid. One motion. Right off!"
Below, you'll find some deals worth ripping that Band-Aid off.
The Trail Blazers Idea That Will Never Die
The Trade: Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum, a 2023 first-round pick swap and a 2024 first-round pick
As longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein has noted on multiple occasions, the Portland Trail Blazers target that Morey is after is Damian Lillard. And who could blame him? The idea of a Lillard-Embiid pairing is terrifying. Adding the superstar guard would instantly elevate the team to the top tier of contenders.
Barring a trade demand from Lillard, though, landing him feels like a pipe dream. Simmons' trade value should be strong, but it's not "land one of the best offensive players of all time in the end of his prime" strong.
It may be time for Philadelphia to accept that the lesser of Portland's star guards is the more realistic option. And even if CJ McCollum doesn't raise the ceiling quite as high as Lillard, he still fits alongside Embiid better than Simmons does.
Over the last two seasons (and postseasons), McCollum has averaged 26.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.9 threes per 75 possessions when playing without Lillard. His efficiency suffered in those situations, but he wasn't sharing the floor with an MVP-caliber center during those minutes.
The amount of attention Embiid would draw away from McCollum would lead to more open looks. And surrounding actions involving those two with spacers like Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris would put defenses in a pickle on every possession.
For Portland, the Blazers get an instant tone-setter on defense to play the 4 and guard pretty much any assignment. They'd potentially have a supersized (and athletically supercharged) version of Draymond Green who can create for himself and others or pick defenses apart on short rolls.
Something along these lines has floated around for over a year (as far back as April 2020 from this writer's profile), and for good reason. It just makes sense for both teams.
The Spurs Land a New Cornerstone
The Trade: Ben Simmons for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 first-round pick
As Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all filed away from the San Antonio Spurs, the franchise appeared to be in good (and quite large) hands with Kawhi Leonard.
Of course, his stint as the face of the franchise was short-lived, and the Spurs have seemed almost rudderless since he forced his way off the team.
There are a few solid young(ish) players on the roster. Dejounte Murray is one of the game's best perimeter defenders when healthy. Derrick White is a decent playmaker whose career percentage from three is about average. Jakob Poeltl is an underrated paint protector. But there really isn't a surefire star in the bunch.
Simmons would change that upon arrival. So much has been made of his weaknesses over the last couple of years that people are probably underselling just how good he is.
Luka Doncic and Oscar Robertson are the only other players in league history with career averages of at least 15.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. And neither of them can claim a single All-Defensive selection (though that honor came along about halfway through Robertson's career). Simmons looks like a perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender.
If San Antonio were to acquire Simmons and then pivot into a team-building strategy meant to accentuate his strengths, it could finally have a direction. Surround Simmons with four shooters, maybe even play him as a point center, and watch him pick defenses apart.
For Philly, neither incoming player is close to Simmons' talent level, but they can maybe make up for a lot of his production together. Murray can take on the difficult defensive assignments and spread the ball around. White can create, too. And both (even Murray, who shot 36.9 percent from three in 2019-20) have shown more potential as shooters.
Simmons to the Bay
The Trade: Ben Simmons for Andrew Wiggins, Moses Moody, a 2023 first-round pick swap, a 2025 first-round pick swap and a 2026 first-round pick
In Pompey's Tuesday report, a Western Conference executive dropped a little nugget about where Simmons may want to end up.
"Think about three months ago when the Sixers are willing to give up Ben Simmons. You are like, 'Let's see what we have to do to get him,'" the executive said. "Now, the difference is Ben Simmons says he refuses to play for the Sixers. He wants to go to three California teams. There's so much bad blood between him and the team."
With apologies to the Sacramento Kings, we can probably assume that those three teams are the two Los Angeles squads and the Golden State Warriors, who've been linked to the All-Star for much of this offseason.
"There is a split," The Athletic's Marcus Thompson said on The Ringer NBA Show podcast of the front office's desire to acquire Simmons. "There are some people in the Warriors who believe you get a guy like Ben Simmons, you make it work. Then there are some people like 'he can't shoot, you can't put him next to Draymond [Green]. He doesn't fit what we do.'"
That second camp has a point, but Golden State's half-decade dynasty launched with Andrew Bogut at the 5. He, of course, didn't shoot threes. And while they're radically different players, there are a couple of intriguing similarities. Bogut was the defensive anchor who could create a bit for the off-ball cutters like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Imagine Simmons in a similar role. He's obviously smaller, but Draymond could defend the burlier centers. And Simmons would unlock even more offensive creativity than Bogut did. The latter was a good passer for a center. Simmons is a great passer at any position.
Green would probably have to rediscover something close to his jump shot from 2015-16, but there's reason to believe it could work. As a pure talent play, it's hard to ignore.
The Sixers, meanwhile, could get a lot of young talent and future assets in this scenario. They might even insist on Jonathan Kuminga (and the Warriors probably shouldn't draw the line there). Turning around and packaging much of that return for someone else could also make sense.
Even if that's not possible, though, Wiggins certainly spaces the floor better than Simmons. Last season, he shot 38.0 percent on 5.2 three-point attempts per game. And with Moody, the 76ers would have another young playmaker (along with Tyrese Maxey) with a chance to develop into a difference maker.
The Kings Go All-In
The Trade: Ben Simmons for Buddy Hield, Davion Mitchell, a 2023 first-round pick swap, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick swap and a 2026 first-round pick
Simmons may not have the Kings on his radar right now, but the Lakers and Clippers simply do not have the trade packages to get him (unless they're going to trade one of the stars). If he wants to be in California, Sacramento may have to be an option, especially if Morey is set on a big haul for Simmons.
"Multiple league sources maintain that Philly's asking price for Ben Simmons on the eve of free agency remains sky-high," The Athletic's David Aldridge wrote in early August. "At minimum, the Sixers are seeking control of at least four future first-round picks via direct trade or pick swaps, along with an All-Star-level player in most (but not all) scenarios."
Four first-rounders are going to be hard to come by, especially in the wake of such a high-profile postseason collapse (Simmons attempted just three fourth-quarter shots in Philly's last series against the Atlanta Hawks). But Sacramento is one team that might be able to justify it.
Earlier this summer, PhillyVoice's Kyle Neubeck reported that Philadelphia saw De'Aaron Fox as a "starting point for talks," but the Sixers' stance may have softened now that Simmons has officially asked out. And again, if Sacramento were willing to part with four picks (or swaps), Philly might have to look past not getting Fox.
In this particular package, the team would still receive a massive upgrade in the shooting department. Stephen Curry and Duncan Robinson are the only players in NBA history who match or exceed both of Hield's marks for three-point attempts per game (7.4) and three-point percentage (40.6).
A shooter who can combine that kind of volume and efficiency would be lethal in lineups with Embiid. If teams were to load up on the big man's post-ups, Philly could rain down threes via Hield, Curry and Green.
Davion Mitchell, like Moody, would give the Sixers another promising young talent. And in this case, the young player has already shown solid defensive upside. The Sixers will need help on that end if Simmons leaves.
The biggest selling point here, though, is that Sacramento is meeting that reported asking price in terms of picks. And Hield is at least a borderline All-Star-level player.
For the Kings, moving on from Hield probably wouldn't be a big deal. He's wanted out for months.
The bigger loss may be Mitchell, whose effort on the defensive end jumped off the screen in summer league. But the chances for most rookies, let alone the 6'0" Mitchell, to turn into a Defensive Player of the Year finalist and a multi-time All-Star are low.
In lineups with Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes, Simmons would fit naturally as a playmaking 4 who'll create shots for Haliburton and Barnes, as well as opportunities for Fox to attack closeouts.
The fit may not be ideal next to Holmes, another non-shooter, but as alluded to in other trade scenarios, Simmons could play some point 5 in small-ball lineups. Marvin Bagley III has potential to space the floor from the frontcourt, too.
Raptors Up the Ante
The Trade: Ben Simmons for Pascal Siakam, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 first-round pick swap
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Toronto Raptors have already engaged with the Sixers on the Simmons front.
"Philadelphia has conducted expansive discussions with several teams, including Minnesota and Toronto, but neither a Timberwolves package nor the Raptors' proposals have appealed to the 76ers as of yet," Charania wrote. "Philadelphia has set a high price threshold for teams to meet in talks for Simmons thus far."
If we can assume that threshold is the one previously reported by Aldridge (an All-Star-caliber talent and four first-round picks or swaps), Toronto can probably justify getting close.
Pascal Siakam was an All-Star in 2019-20, and though the fit isn't great alongside Harris and Embiid, it makes some sense as a pure talent play (especially if the Sixers are going to empower Embiid to run more possessions).
If Siakam has been offered around the league, as Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer said he has, we can perhaps assume he's been offered to Philadelphia. And if that's the case, maybe the Raptors are hesitant to meet the draft-pick side of that asking price.
Is the talent and age gap between 27-year-old Siakam and 25-year-old Simmons big enough to justify four picks? Probably not. But if no other NBA team is willing to go that far, maybe Toronto can get it done with three.
If it did, Simmons would easily fit between OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher (or Khem Birch) as a point forward who can create some off-ball opportunities for Fred VanVleet.