There is an inherent difficulty in trading Ben Simmons this summer, because on one hand, Daryl Morey is in charge of the Philadelphia 76ers, and on the other, the three-time All-Star's trade value is at an all-time low.
Morey is no dummy, and after getting fleeced on the 2019 trade of Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in one of his final moves as the longtime shot-caller for the Houston Rockets, the pressure is on to hit a home run.
Except, Simmons is fresh off revealing his one flaw — an inability to shoot outside the restricted area — as fatal to the Sixers' title chances and a roadblock to his ability to command any championship contender. The necessity to deal Simmons this summer is obvious to everyone, including opposing general managers.
Weeks after ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported news of a sitdown between Morey and Simmons' powerful agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, to discuss the former No. 1 pick's future, including the possibility of a trade, The Athletic's Shams Charania confirmed what was an open secret around the league: Simmons is available, Morey has begun fielding offers and the asking price is extremely high.
This should surprise no one. Star players have fetched massive returns of late, and Simmons, despite his shortcoming, is a 25-year-old All-NBA and All-Defensive talent with four years left on his max contract. Consider last offseason's trade of one-time All-Star and fellow first-team All-Defensive guard Jrue Holiday, which cost the Milwaukee Bucks their first-round draft flexibility through 2027 and two rotational players.
Also unsurprisingly, there is robust interest from executives hoping to snare an elite player as his value sinks into a valley and capitalize on his potential to lead a roster better built to maximize his skills as a playmaker. According to renowned NBA scribe Marc Stein, now publishing at Substack, the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves are among the early bidders.
Only, the Sixers have no interest in the sort of draft capital that has defined recent star transactions, because their window to win with MVP runner-up Joel Embiid is now. Morey is looking for players who can contribute to a title next season, whether it be another All-Star or multiple plus performers. For many trade partners, that would require a third team to facilitate a deal; for others, a decision comes with great risk.
With that in mind, here are a handful of trades that could make sense for both the Sixers and their suitors.
The package: Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton and the No. 9 overall pick in this year's draft
A good way to gauge trade ideas is to ask yourself which team is giving up too much, and if you waver on a decision, then you are probably on the right track. This deal settles into that zone, nicely, and Sacramento has plenty of options to offer alternative assets to make this package a little more palatable for either side.
The Kings will not want to part with Haliburton, a rock-solid point guard with the understanding and ability to make winning plays in all facets who finished third in this year's Rookie of the Year voting. Among recent lottery selections, the Kings would prefer to part with Marvin Bagley III, a project who does little to help a team with Embiid on the block, but trading Haliburton is better than the alternative of dealing De'Aaron Fox.
Neither Haliburton nor Hield may ever make an All-Star team, and that is a tough pill for Philadelphia to swallow, but together they can space the floor and create lineup flexibility around Embiid. Morey will ask for more, including further draft compensation from a perennial loser, which he could flip for more talent, and Harrison Barnes is another name of interest from Sacramento's war chest of good-but-not-great players.
The framework for a trade is somewhere in here, and for a Kings team that has failed for years to acquire All-NBA talent via the draft, free agency or trade, any asking price outside of Fox might be worth a gamble.
Los Angeles Lakers
The package: Hahahahahahahahahahahaha [catches breath] hahahahahahahaha
Draw the connection between Simmons and fellow Klutch client LeBron James all you want, but the Lakers lack both the talent and draft assets to keep Morey on the phone long enough to propose a laughable deal.
The package: Kyrie Irving
Listen, this trade almost certainly would never happen, mostly because Kevin Durant chose Brooklyn with Irving as the place they want to build a contender, and if healthy, the Nets were the championship favorite.
Only, Irving was not healthy and has not finished any of his past four seasons in good standing. Still, he is the best possible return for Simmons, if only because the Portland Trail Blazers will balk at trading Damian Lillard's blue-chip present for an investment in Simmons' potential. Embiid's defense would mask Irving's deficiencies, and Irving's spectacular scoring ability would solve Philadelphia's late-game scoring woes.
In Brooklyn, Simmons' lack of interest in shooting makes him an ideal fit alongside Durant and James Harden. Offensively, Simmons could be a tremendous pick-and-roll partner, operating in the spacing his superstar teammates provide, and defensively he would give the Nets a dimension they are sorely lacking.
A pipe dream, sure, but a fun one at that.
The package: Pascal Siakam and Toronto's top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick
If Morey requires an All-Star in return, he may have to settle for one as flawed as his own, and Siakam fits that bill. After his breakout contribution to Toronto's 2019 championship run and an encore 2020 All-NBA campaign, Siakam's stock has fallen. He no-showed an Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Boston Celtics and underperformed expectations along with the rest of the Raptors relegated to playing in Tampa.
Siakam also underwent surgery last month to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which could limit his availability to begin next season. None of this is ideal for Philadelphia. Siakam is also two years removed from significantly contributing to a title and one removed from a brilliant two-way season. His rapport with Cameroonian countryman Embiid does not hurt, although his career 3-point percentage (32.5%) might.
Practically, a sign-and-trade of Kyle Lowry for Simmons would also work. Lowry is a perennial All-Star and Philadelphia native. He is also 35 years old and has missed at least 20% of four of his last five seasons to injury. His window to contribute to a contender is a short one. He alone is not enough value in return for Simmons, and a Raptors package centered around Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby feels like too much.
The Raptors also own this year's No. 4 overall pick, which they could use to entice a third team. Only, the return on a deal including a top-four pick and a player of VanVleet or Siakam's caliber — either of which starts a conversation for Lillard or Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal — could be superior to Simmons.
The package: Zach LaVine and Tomas Satoransky
If it is Simmons' unwillingness to shoot that worries Philadelphia, LaVine solves that problem and then some. Long considered a self-serving scorer, LaVine's production this season — a nightly 27-5-5 on 51/42/85 shooting splits to warrant his first All-Star selection — was undeniable, even to his detractors.
Why not just stick with LaVine if you are Chicago? Well, we saw how that played out last season, when the Bulls traded two first-round picks — including the No. 8 selection in this year's draft — for Nikola Vucevic in an effort to build a playoff roster around LaVine. That failed miserably, falling short of a play-in tournament bid. LaVine can walk in free agency next summer, when he will presumably command a massive contract, and why not invest your future in Simmons, who has at least proven capable of contributing to a winning team?
Simmons would provide the NBA's third-biggest media market with some needed name recognition, and the roster fit is an interesting one. Vucevic's floor spacing at center is the ultimate complementary weapon. Coby White and Patrick Williams have potential to be molded as weapons with which Simmons can create. Add some more shooting around them, and you have a path to the playoffs or possibly more.
The package: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and the No. 13 overall pick in this year's draft
The Sixers rejected a trade offer of Brogdon and a first-round pick for Simmons, according to KRON4 News reporter Jason Dumas, which had to be a borderline insulting offer to Morey. Brogdon is a solid player who would complement Philadelphia's roster well, but his ceiling is nowhere near Simmons', and he carries with him career-long injury concerns. Warren, who missed all but four games last season with a foot injury, likely is not even enough to engage the Sixers in serious conversation, despite his breakout bubble performance.
Simmons could be brilliant on a team coached by Rick Carlisle, featuring Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert — either of whom Philadelphia would prefer in the trade — but Klutch does not have a single client in Indiana, and something feels far-fetched about Simmons establishing the agency's Midwest branch.
New Orleans Pelicans
The package: Brandon Ingram
Ingram failed to make the Western Conference's stacked All-Star contingent after his 2020 debut, but his production as a long-limbed scorer and playmaker remained largely the same, albeit for another lottery team. The 23-year-old holds significant potential to improve as a defender and consistent offensive force, which is reason enough for the Pelicans to be wary of trading him for another star in search of his ceiling.
Acquiring Simmons and re-signing Lonzo Ball around Zion Williamson presents its own roster construction concerns, but the entertainment value alone of all three in the open floor could be worth Morey's asking price, even if it includes one of New Orleans' cache of draft picks or a young player like Nickeil Alexander-Walker. There may not be enough shooting to solve the spacing around those three, even if Ball has transformed into a reliable 3-point shooter, but it is the kind of mix that could generate a lot of electricity.
Morey surely views Simmons' value as higher than Ingram or really any of the aforementioned deals, but everyone across the negotiating table also understands the reasons the Sixers are fielding offers for a young player with a decorated résumé and four years left on his contract, and shares the same concerns.
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