Five Possible Ben Simmons Trades
It's a shame this is where we are after such a fun regular season filled with success and good vibes. But for the third time in four seasons, the ride ends in the same place: with a second-round exit. And the problems are the same. The Embiid-Simmons pairing would work out fine long-term if Simmons showed the willingness and capability to improve alongside Embiid. Joel has turned himself into an MVP-caliber player by his fifth year in the NBA. Simply put, Ben has not. At all. And we've had enough of waiting. It's time to give Joel some real help. And cater the roster to someone who can truly carry a franchise.
1) Portland Trail Blazers
76ers receive: Damian Lillard
Trailblazers receive: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, 2 first round picks (2021, 2023)
Now this deal is entirely based on the All-NBA guard's desire to stay in Oregon after their third first-round exit in the last four seasons. They are fully capped out for the foreseeable future, and as good as their offense is, their defense was one of the worst in league history last season. And some recent rumors would indicate that he "wants to win big, and wants to do it now." So maybe Portland is no longer the place for him. If Lillard does indeed request a change of scenery, Daryl Morey should not hesitate to empty the tank of young talent and assets to give Joel Embiid a ridiculously-talented partner in crime.
Lillard is a threat to score as soon as he steps across half court, which the Sixers really haven't had...ever? His elite level playmaking, shot making, and shooting is truly cream of the crop. The amount of things he will open up for this offense and Embiid cannot be put into words. He has hit two of the most iconic shots in postseason history, and is plenty capable of carrying an offense if Embiid has to miss any period of time. Yes, losing Simmons and Thybulle will ultimately hurt their defense, and will almost undoubtedly remove them from the NBA's top five team defenses. But the offense will improve a hundred fold. This is an offensive-driven league, and having shot making guards or wings is the way of the future (and present). What you sacrifice in depth is more than made up for in top-end star talent. And that's what allows for more postseason success.
This acquisition would allow Tobias Harris to assume the third scoring option, which I believe is much more fair to him and more fitting to his game, hunting for mismatches in the post and driving. You'd be looking at a starting five of Lillard-Seth Curry-SF-Harris-Embiid. There are a few options you could look to fill that SF position. Both Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green will be free agents, so maybe one of those two could fill the gap. Maybe you address this position in the draft, or through another free agent signing.
2) Portland Trail Blazers (again)
76ers receive: CJ McCollum, Robert Covington
Trailblazers receive: Ben Simmons, #28 overall pick
This is the "other" Blazers offer. If they miss out on the Lillard sweepstakes, or just don't think a move that monumental is required, a CJ McCollum trade would be very practical for both teams. The "Simmons for McCollum swap" has been talked about at nauseum, so I decided to add a little more to it.
CJ McCollum is your bonafide perimeter scoring option. He's a "true hooper." Efficient and diverse three level scorer. His ability to consistently create looks for himself off the dribble is something the team really hasn't had since Jimmy Butler, and even then he was more of a slasher and playmaker than he was a shooter and scorer. His presence alone will take such a massive burden off of Joel Embiid's shoulders to do everything, and even create looks for himself and others as a center. His scoring will unlock an element in the Sixers' offense that just couldn't have been there with Ben Simmons. My favorite non-Embiid Sixer of all time will also be making his return, and will be helping make up for the loss of Ben Simmons on the defensive front. Covington will also help to add another floor spacer and give our scorers more room to do their thing.
A starting 5 unit of Maxey-McCollum-Covington-Harris-Embiid is an improvement from where it was last season. You gain a great shot creator to open up the offense, another floor spacer and off-ball disruptor on defense, all while maintaining their youth, depth, and only losing one late first round pick.
3) San Antonio Spurs
76ers receive: Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, 2025 1st round pick
Spurs receive: Ben Simmons
The Spurs don't stand out as a suitor for Ben Simmons. In fact, splurging in a trade for a player like Ben Simmons seems like the last thing Gregg Popovich would ever do. But oddly enough, the legendary coach is reportedly very intrigued in acquiring Simmons, with reports going as far to say he "would trade anyone on the roster" to get him.
Dejounte Murray is one of the best defensive guards in the league today, earning All-Defense recognition at the age of 21 back in 2019. He can run an offense, knock down mid-range jumpers off the dribble, and has flown under the radar as an overall talent at just 24 years of age. Although he isn't the greatest perimeter scoring threat (33.2% 3PT for his career), he at least is a threat to score from outside of the restricted area, which in of itself will help to open up the offense compared to the other guy. Keldon Johnson had a remarkable sophomore season averaging nearly 13 points per game, and showing promise as an explosive slasher, all while increasing his range and diversifying his offensive repertoire. He can't be a championship team's best perimeter scoring option right now, but he is still only 21 years old with so much room to grow. The hometown kid, Lonnie Walker IV, is a bit of a project right now, as the efficiency and success have yet to catch up to his athletic gifts. They probably wouldn't give up the #12 overall pick from this season, so including a 2025 pick will almost certainly be lower than 12th, falling in the Spurs favor.
The trade on its head doesn't solve the team's primary goal: acquiring an established sub all-star to all-star caliber perimeter scoring talent to replace Simmons' shortcomings. What this move does do is save a good amount of cap space. Simmons is set to earn upwards of $33 million next season. Murray is making less than half that number: $15.4 million. Both Johnson and Walker are on rookie deals. The move would save the Sixers $11 million next season. That isn't a very impressive number, but after George Hill's disastrous postseason performance and Tyrese Maxey continuing to show why he belongs in the rotation every single night, Hill and his $10 million salary also become expendable. Is there a way Daryl Morey can spin a sign-and-trade for a name like Kyle Lowry or Spencer Dinwiddie with some salary cap magic? This trade could allow him to open the door for later moves down the road.
4) Minnesota Timberwolves
76ers receive: D'Angelo Russell, Juancho Hernangomez, 2022 1st round pick
Timberwolves receive: Ben Simmons
Minnesota has long been rumored to be a destination for Ben Simmons, as their core of Karl-Anthony Towns and offensive minded guards like D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards provides little to no impact defensively. And the Timberwolves have done a very poor job of drafting players to set up their core guys for success (see: Jarrett Culver, Kris Dunn, Josh Okogie). Making a move for Simmons makes sense for this franchise, seeing as they are attempting to keep Towns happy in Minnesota.
D'Angelo Russell has played on so many teams and has had so much happen in his 6 years in the league that you forget he is still only 25 years old. Last season in Minnesota, he was battling a knee injury and only played 42 total games. He's another three level scoring threat, and the 2019 all-star is also an excellent pick and roll player. Even with a bit of a decrease in minutes, he still put up 19 points and nearly 6 assists per game on a 38.4% clip from deep. Something Russell offers that many of the shooting guard options cannot is the comfort that he can be a lead ball-handler with the ability to consistently make plays for other people as well as get his own. Juancho Hernangomez can stand in and give the team some much needed forward depth. And barring some monumental offseason development from Anthony Edwards, the Timberwolves will more than likely miss the playoffs next season, giving the Sixers a lottery pick that they can dangle in trade discussions.
DLo instantly slots in as your next starting point guard, and nothing else changes in that starting lineup. Russell-Curry-SF-Harris-Embiid. Acquiring Hernangomez is a nice replacement for what Mike Scott was ideally going to provide the team from a backup stretch 4. Again, the defense at the two guard positions is a bit problematic, but as long as Embiid is back guarding the goal, it should hold up just fine. And the offense will pass with flying colors, adding a legitimate shot creator into the mix. To varying degrees, all 5 of these trade scenarios would be the best spacing Joel Embiid has ever played with.
5) Washington Wizards
76ers receive: Bradley Beal
Wizards receive: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, 2 first round picks (2021 & 2023)
Similar to the Damian Lillard situation in Portland, Bradley Beal is a supremely talented offensive player who is in a situation where the team around him is not winning and patience may be running out. What is different from Lillard is that Beal has been the subject of many rumors ever since John Wall's Achilles injury in December 2018. And after being eliminated by the Philadlphia 76ers earlier this postseason, he was asked about his future in the nation's capital. His response: "I'm not sure."
Bradley Beal was second in the NBA in scoring last season at 31.3 points per game. His scoring acumen and gravity are one of the best in the league today. And he did it all in a situation in Washington with poor spacing and poor coaching. The Sixers should do everything it takes to pair the Wizards star next to Joel Embiid and go all-in on winning a championship with a more cohesive unit. He would give the Sixers a #1 scoring option. Less of an offensive burden will allow Embiid to become a much better rim protector, and despite losing their two best perimeter defenders in a deal for Beal, they should be able to get back a version of Embiid we have not seen since 2017 on the defensive end.
Because Beal isn't nearly on the level of someone like Damian Lillard, I allowed the Sixers to keep an extra asset in Tyrese Maxey. And doing so will almost assure him the starting point guard role next season. The rest of the starting lineup remains unchanged. Maxey-Beal-SF-Harris-Embiid. Off the bench, you still have Seth Curry, have the opportunity to re-sign Danny Green, Dwight Howard and Furkan Korkmaz, and can land a couple of veteran guys on the free agent market.