The Ben Simmons trade saga has taken a few strange turns after his late arrival to the Philadelphia 76ers last week. It culminated with him getting thrown out of practice Tuesday and receiving a one-game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team," per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Simmons already hurt his trade value with his postseason flameout against the Atlanta Hawks. His holdout and subsequent suspension are only doing more damage.
However, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Sixers have "remained steadfast: They won't move Simmons for role players—only a player who'll help keep them a championship contender." Wojnarowski added that "no one should expect a speedy resolution on Simmons' future in Philadelphia."
If team president Daryl Morey eventually changes course and decides to rip the Band-Aid off, he might have to entertain some less-than-stellar offers. Even if an All-Star and multiple picks aren't headed back to Philly (the previously reported asking price), one or two positive contributors would be preferable to $31.6 million of cap space pouting at home.
If the team doesn't relent on its exorbitant price, this stand-off could linger throughout the entire 2021-22 campaign. And as Joel Embiid nears his 30s, Philadelphia has to consider how long its window to contend will stay open.
With all of that in mind, a few teams around the NBA should still be interested in the uniquely gifted Simmons, and now might be the time to leverage the drama surrounding him. Morey may have his heels dug in, but it wouldn't hurt to call with a lowball offer.
Lowball Offer: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and a 2023 first-round pick for Ben Simmons and Paul Reed
Why 76ers Should Consider It: Simmons rightfully notched an All-Defense selection last season. And his combination of size, vision and athleticism make him a distinctive playmaker. Replacing him with both Dejounte Murray and Derrick White checks both of those boxes (though not as thoroughly).
Murray doesn't have the size of Simmons, but he's a tenacious on-ball defender with a nose for the ball. And though he can't guard all five positions (as Simmons can against certain lineups), a 6'10" wingspan allows him to survive against wings. He's shown some playmaking chops too, as evidenced by last season's 5.4 assists per game.
White, meanwhile, isn't as well known for his defense, but he's typically in the right spots and works on that end. Years in the Spurs system almost guarantees that for a player. What would make him intriguing for Philly is his shooting. Last season, he posted a below-average three-point percentage, but 34.6 percent on 6.8 attempts per game is a world of difference from Simmons' complete aversion to shooting.
Neither Murray nor White is near Simmons' level of talent individually, but this deal would make the Sixers deeper. Right now, the rotation has a 6'10", Simmons-shaped hole in it. They don't fit perfectly, but they'd offer a lot more than zero.
Why Spurs Should Make the Offer: As the Gregg Popovich era comes to a close, San Antonio doesn't have a single surefire star on the roster.
White, Murray, Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson are solid, young(ish) role players, but it'd be tough to guarantee a single All-Star appearance between them.
Adding Simmons, warts and all, would give the Spurs a true foundational talent for the new era. In the short term, the roster might not be perfect for him, but he'd give them a direction to go.
Surround Simmons with shooters over the next few years, and we might finally see him reach his ceiling.
Lowball Offer: CJ McCollum for Ben Simmons
Why 76ers Should Consider It: Variations of this deal have been floating in the ether for over a year, but reporting typically suggested Morey would be after more.
"Opinions differ on Philadelphia's decision not to pursue [Kyle] Lowry harder, but there is a consensus around the league that Morey resisted because he's angling for an even greater star," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote this summer. "He's thinking about stars like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal becoming available."
After the last couple months, "pipe dream" seems like an understatement when describing the Sixers' shot at either of those stars. That is, unless, they're the ones adding picks to the deal.
In the same report, O'Connor alluded to some interest in McCollum, and it's probably time for Morey and Co. to think more seriously about that.
He's five years older, eight inches shorter and significantly worse on defense, but McCollum might fit better alongside Embiid.
For his career, McCollum has attempted 5.6 threes per game and hit 39.8 percent of those attempts. His volume has ticked up significantly over the last couple seasons too.
That alone would do wonders for the spacing around Embiid, and McCollum's minutes without Lillard suggest he can carry some playmaking responsibility too. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, McCollum has averaged 26.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.9 threes per 75 possessions when playing without Lillard.
With McCollum on the roster, crafting lineups with Embiid and four shooters would be a breeze. And those lineups would be a nightmare to defend. They'd also put a ton of pressure on Embiid defensively, but that's a team that could win plenty of shootouts.
Why Blazers Should Make the Offer: It'd be fair to expect the Blazers to see how Lillard and McCollum perform with a slightly tweaked roster that now includes Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller coming off the bench, but this core may well have hit its ceiling.
Simmons has been a lightning rod since the Hawks series, but he's still one of the most intriguing talents in the NBA. He'd obviously be off the ball more on a team with Lillard, but that could push him to expand his game.
Beyond just being willing to shoot, imagine how devastating Simmons could be as a cutter when defenses are forced to pay attention to Lillard outside. The idea of him setting screens and passing out of short rolls is interesting too.
Again, we don't have any evidence from his time in Philly that he'd be willing or able to make those adjustments, but Lillard might be exactly the kind of leader and talent who could force them.
Lowball Offer: Caris LeVert, Jeremy Lamb and a 2023 first-round pick for Ben Simmons and Paul Reed
Why 76ers Should Consider It: Philadelphia already reportedly turned down an offer from the Indiana Pacers that included Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon. The further we get from that, the more Sixers fans might regret not having those two Pacers.
Now, Indiana presumably has a little more leverage, thanks in large part to the ongoing theatrics from Simmons. An offer with LeVert and Jeremy Lamb might still be worth entertaining.
The idea of LeVert has always been a little better than the reality. He hasn't played more than 50 games in a season since 2017-18. And he hasn't been anywhere near a league-average effective field-goal percentage since he was a rookie.
He's the kind of volume scoring guard who could offer a nice change of pace for a second unit, though. His relatively inefficient 20.2 points in 2020-21 mostly came against starters. He might find himself getting easier looks against reserves.
Even if Philly started him, though, the amount of defensive attention commanded by Embiid and Tobias Harris would make life a little easier for LeVert.
As for Lamb, he may not raise the ceiling a ton, but hehas averaged double-figures in each of his last four seasons. And in 2020-21, he shot 40.6 percent from three. With a 6'11" wingspan, he still something to offer as a three-and-D wing.
Why Pacers Should Make the Offer: Of all the ideas detailed here, this is the toughest one to justify for the team getting Simmons. In a vacuum, he has higher upside than either LeVert or Lamb, but the fit would be a struggle.
Things are already crowded inside with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner on the roster. Simmons, without a dramatic adjustment to his game, would turn Indiana's end of the floor into a phone booth.
On the other hand, Turner can stretch the floor out to the three-point line. Sabonis, despite a 32.1 three-point percentage in 2020-21, could reasonably be expected to do the same. And lineups with Sabonis, Brogdon and Simmons would be loaded with passing ability.