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Brian Windhorst: Pacers a 'Sleeper Team' in Ben Simmons Trade Sweepstakes

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2021

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons plays during Game 7 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Ben Simmons is still on the Philadelphia 76ers, but the relationship appears to be beyond repair, and the team may have to trade the star point guard after he refused to show up for the start of training camp.

The 76ers are looking for trade partners, with USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reporting the team is "targeting" squads in the Western Conference. However, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said Friday the Indiana Pacers may emerge as a contender, calling them "the sleeper team in this whole situation" on ESPN's The Jump (2:30 mark).

Simmons, 25, has been at odds with the Sixers since their loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in June. Simmons averaged just 9.9 points per game in that series, and he didn't attempt a shot in the fourth quarter of Game 7.

While the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves have been linked to Simmons, Windhorst noted the Pacers have some advantages, including control of their future first-round picks. Windhorst also said he believes the Pacers "can put forth an offer that few teams can rival."

Despite his career-long shooting struggles and tensions with Philadelphia, Simmons is still valuable. He is a three-time All Star, is a great facilitator (7.7 assists per game) and has been named to the NBA All-Defensive first team in each of the past two seasons. He could form a solid partnership with Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis, who averaged a career-high 20.3 points per game last year and made his second All-Star appearance.

The Sixers don't have to rush to trade Simmons, who has four years left on his deal. Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer also reported the team is withholding the second 25 percent of Simmons' salary this year, about $8.3 million, because of his failure to show up for training camp.

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This development eases the financial pressure on the team and may give it breathing room as it searches for an ideal trade. It also gives the Sixers a shot to reconcile with Simmons. Center Joel Embiid expressed a desire to continue playing with Simmons, telling reporters Monday, "I really hope he changes his mind."

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