10 Likeliest Players Sixers Are Eyeing Until Ben Simmons Saga Ends

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterNovember 29, 2021

10 Likeliest Players Sixers Are Eyeing Until Ben Simmons Saga Ends

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    In case you haven't heard, no, the Philadelphia 76ers have not traded Ben Simmons yet.

    Philly has managed to tread water this season without the All-Star point guard, posting a 10-10 record even with Joel Embiid missing time after testing positive for COVID-19. With the rise of teams like the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, the 76ers can't afford to be too patient while waiting for a star to become available to try and swap Simmons for, even though one Sixers source told The Athletic's Sam Amick that "this is like a multiyear thing."

    Amick also reports that there are "approximately 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Simmons swap, and there's an internal belief that a fair amount of them—let's say 5-10—could become available in the next year or two."

    While players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are likely on this list of 30, they certainly aren't possibilities for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to acquire.

    His history of running the Houston Rockets front office suggests Morey will chase the biggest (at least somewhat realistic) stars first, even if he ultimately has to settle for a smaller return.

    Even if he has to package Simmons with other talent and/or draft picks, the following 10 players seem like the likeliest he has been pursuing.

10. Dillon Brooks, G/F, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Nikki Boertman/Associated Press

    Starting things out on the realistic side, the Memphis Grizzlies seem like a sneaky-good trade partner for Philadelphia.

    Brooks, 25, is averaging a career-high 18.2 points per game to go along with 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals and a 35.5 percent mark from three. He's on a terrific contract, with $12.2 million this season and just $11.4 million owed in 2022-23.

    A straight Brooks-Simmons swap doesn't work financially, however, and the Sixers should be asking for more talent in return as well.

    The Grizzlies have some other helpful win-now vets (Kyle Anderson, Tyus Jones) and young talent (Desmond Bane, De'Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke) that could be assembled into a nice trade package for Simmons. Memphis also has 10 picks coming in the next three drafts, including six first-rounders.

    Brooks may not be the star Morey is seeking, but he could be the centerpiece of a nice haul from Memphis.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG Seth Curry, SF Dillon Brooks, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

9. Dejounte Murray, PG, San Antonio Spurs

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Murray is off to a career year and is one of only three NBA players (along with Luka Doncic and Russell Westbrook) to be averaging at least 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists this season (18.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 8.1 assists in 34.8 minutes).

    The 25-year-old point guard is also tied for fourth in the league in steals (2.1 per game) and is a defensive menace who could make up for a lot of what the Sixers are missing with Simmons out.

    Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported last month that Philly wasn't interested in a package of Murray and Lonnie Walker IV, but there's a number of variations of trade offers the Spurs could put together centered on Murray.

    San Antonio would need to either include Derrick White or Thaddeus Young to get close to matching Simmons' $33 million salary, and there's additional young talent on the roster (Walker, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones) to try and tempt Philly with assuming Keldon Johnson is untouchable.

    Even though Murray is just a 33.0 percent three-point shooter for his career, that's still an improvement over Simmons, whom opponents didn't need to respect when he was outside the arc at all.

    Like Dillon Brooks with the Memphis Grizzlies, Murray is a "starting point" player in trade talks for the Sixers, who will be looking for more star power at first.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Dejounte Murray, SG Tyrese Maxey, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

8. Jerami Grant, F, Detroit Pistons

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Grant has already emerged as a trade target for the Sixers, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    "The team has engaged in ongoing discussions with the Detroit Pistons to acquire Grant, another forward, a young player, and a draft pick in exchange for Simmons, league sources said. One source said power forward/center Kelly Olynyk and second-year swingman Saddiq Bey were mentioned as players who could be included in a possible deal. However, a source said the Pistons are unlikely to include Bey, a Villanova product, or Olynyk."

    Pompey also notes that Philly "would want a more high-profile player" than Grant, a 27-year-old forward who has yet to be named an All-Star in his career.

    Grant's play has slipped this year compared to a breakout 2020-21 campaign, with his averages down to 19.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals on 39.9 percent shooting overall and 31.4 percent from three.

    His three-level scoring and defensive versatility would still make for a good fit in Philadelphia, where Doc Rivers could interchange him and Tobias Harris at the forward positions depending on the matchup.

    The Sixers would still be wise to ask for more from Detroit, but Grant is a nice start.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG Seth Curry, SF Jerami Grant, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

7. CJ McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    The idea of swapping McCollum for Simmons isn't new, but it could be worth exploring again as the season progresses.

    The 30-year-old shooting guard is once again having an impressive offensive campaign (20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 40.0 percent from three) and can excel with the ball in his hands or as a spot-up shooter.

    Portland is still a mess defensively this year (111.5 rating, 28th overall) and would get bigger, stronger and far more versatile on defense with Simmons in the starting lineup over McCollum.

    The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Sixers asked Portland for three first-round picks and three draft swaps in addition to McCollum, something the Blazers obviously turned down. If Portland has to include anything, a player like Larry Nance Jr. or Nassir Little would help the Sixers by adding a versatile defender to help fill Simmons' old role.

    A Simmons-McCollum base trade still makes a lot of sense for both sides.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG CJ McCollum, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

6. OG Anunoby, SF, Toronto Raptors

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Raptors' leading scorer this season, Anunoby has become a two-way star and has been one of the league's better wing defenders for years. While his shooting efficiency has dropped with an increased workload (53.4 percent true shooting), Anunoby has crossed the 20-point-per game mark (20.1 points) while cutting down on his turnovers (8.1 percent, the lowest of his career).

    His name was mentioned as a possible trade target of the Sixers by Marc Stein before the season:

    "Rather than pursue a swap centered around Pascal Siakam, it is easier to see Philadelphia trying to push to acquire a rising star capable of replicating Simmons' versatility—namely OG Anunoby—who can be packaged with a playoff-tested veteran ballhandler to give the Sixers' backcourt a needed boost (Goran Dragić)."

    A package of Anunoby and Dragic would be a major boost to Philly, but also likely require the Sixers to send back some additional talent or picks. It would also be shocking to see Toronto actually give up on Anunoby, given his development and team-friendly contract (four years, $72 million), even if it meant getting Simmons.

    Morey and company should certainly try for Anunoby, who, like Simmons, is an elite defender and one with a far better offensive game.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG, Seth Curry, SF OG Anunoby, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

5. De'Aaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings

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    Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press

    Fox hasn't looked the same this season following a breakout 2020-21 season, with his scoring, assists and shooting efficiency all down.

    Chaos has again fallen on the Kings, who fired head coach Luke Walton following a 6-11 start to the year. Alvin Gentry is off to a 2-1 start as his replacement, although this is a team that still needs a lot of defensive work (26th overall with a 110.7 rating). Simmons could certainly help.

    Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported before the season that Sacramento wouldn't "discuss any framework" of a deal that would include Fox or Tyrese Haliburton, the team's starting backcourt. Following an 8-12 start to the season, it's unclear if that has changed.

    Still, Philly should definitely keep tabs on Fox if he becomes available—or disgruntled—in Sacramento. In his four-plus seasons with the Kings, Fox has now played under three different head coaches and has never finished higher than ninth in the West.

    With the Sixers, he wouldn't have to be the go-to scoring option with Embiid sharing the floor and could focus on his playmaking while taking more open, efficient shots.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG De'Aaron Fox, SG Tyrese Maxey, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

4. Jaylen Brown, G/F, Boston Celtics

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    The Celtics approached the Sixers about a trade for Simmons, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, although there seems to be a disagreement in terms of compensation. Charania reported that any potential deal between Philly and Boston would have to include Jaylen Brown, something the Celtics and president Brad Stevens were unwilling to do.

    This doesn't mean that the 76ers should give up all hope just yet, however.

    Boston is just 10-10 to begin the year, a season after they finished 36-36. In the nine games Brown has missed because of injury, however, the Celtics are a surprising 6-3.

    The future of Jayson Tatum and Brown together is certainly one teams around the NBA will keep tabs on, although there's no reason for a split yet with both under contract for the next three-plus years.

    Brown could play either wing position in Philadelphia, and while he's not capable of filling Simmons' playmaking role, he is a three-level scorer and good defender who would be a terrific No. 2 offensive option next to Joel Embiid.

    If there's any rumblings of the Celtics looking for a new co-star next to Tatum, Philly should strike.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG Jaylen Brown, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

3. Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    There were likely plenty of teams rooting for the new-look Wizards to fail this season in the hopes Beal would hit the trade market before he reaches unrestricted free agency this summer.

    A surprising 13-7 start to the season has put any hopes of a Beal trade on hold, with Washington currently just a game behind the Brooklyn Nets for first place in the East.

    A 3-4 mark in their past seven contests should have a flicker of hope still burning in Morey's eyes, however, especially with teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks rising up the East standings. If the Wizards even have a bad week or two, they could fall back out of the playoff picture altogether.

    Beal would be the perfect shooting guard in Philadelphia, able to serve as an offensive hub or switching to table-setter for guys like Embiid, Tobias Harris or Maxey.

    Like many of the players at the top of this list, Beal is a long shot who likely won't reach the market this season. Given his offensive dominance and versatility, however, the Sixers should continue to keep him on their wish list.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Tyrese Maxey, SG Bradley Beal, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

2. James Harden, G, Brooklyn Nets

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    Morey already tried to trade Ben Simmons in a deal for Harden last year when the latter was still a member of the Houston Rockets. With the nine-time All-Star not looking like himself in Brooklyn, Morey would likely still love to reunite with his former player.

    A 36-point performance in a win over the Orlando Magic on Nov. 19, which included a 19-of-20 showing at the free-throw line, looked like vintage Harden, although the 32-year-old has gone on to average just 15.3 points on 34.2 percent shooting overall and 23.5 percent from three while racking up 15 total turnovers over his previous three games.

    Still, the Nets are an East-best 14-6 overall and have shown no inclinations of wanting to trade Harden despite his dip in play. While they don't resemble the offensive juggernaut we expected coming into the season, the wins are still coming.

    Given the history between Morey and Harden, we can guess the former Rockets general manager won't give up trying to bring the 2018 MVP to Philly if he can.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG James Harden, SG Tyrese Maxey, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid

1. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Abbie Parr/Getty Images

    Described as Morey's "dream scenario" by The Athletic's Sam Amick, Lillard would be the ideal trade target for the Sixers.

    Of course, getting the six-time All-Star point guard out of Portland is going to take a lot more than just Simmons. The 76ers would probably have to start with an offer of Simmons and breakout young star Maxey and see what more the Blazers would ask for.

    This would only follow a direct trade request from Lillard, something that may never come at all.

    Morey has to pray that Portland (10-10 overall) continues to look like a borderline playoff team and that Lillard realizes new head coach Chauncey Billups just isn't enough to turn this into a championship-caliber franchise.

    If a trade request eventually comes and the Sixers win the sweepstakes with a Simmons/Maxey-based offer, then Morey looks like a genius for holding out and not moving his All-Star point guard previously.

    While the odds of this are still extremely low, Lillard looks like the player Philly is still holding out hope for above all others.

    New Potential Sixers Lineup: PG Damian Lillard, SG Seth Curry, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid