When news broke Monday that the Boston Celtics had inquired about Ben Simmons, sports talk radio in Philadelphia and social-media platforms went abuzz.
While sources indicate there’s been no traction on a deal between the Celtics and 76ers, the inclusion of All-Star Jaylen Brown’s name in the latest Simmons rumor caused quite an uproar.
For the Sixers, that deal would be a no-brainer. They might not get a better player than the 6-foot-6 swingman in exchange for Simmons.
A move that would involve Brown is a nonstarter for Boston, according to sources. It doesn’t make sense for the organization. So all the speculation about him coming to Philadelphia appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking.
If they were to talk to the Sixers, Boston would likely want to keep Brown and Jayson Tatum to play alongside Simmons — not trade one of their stars to get him. Simmons, Brown and Tatum would be a solid trio, one that could turn the Celtics into an Eastern Conference contender.
That would give them size with the 6-10 Simmons handling the ball and the 6-8 Tatum and Brown on the wing.
So Boston would want to put a package together that includes a player like Marcus Smart and pair him with young players, like Romeo Langford, in a deal for the Sixers’ disgruntled three-time All-Star.
It’s clear what sparked the conversation surrounding Brown. The Celtics have failed to live up to their preseason hype and players on their roster could be ripe for plucking. They’re 5-6 under first-year coach Ime Udoka, a former Sixers assistant. Boston has lost four of its last seven games, and there’s been some internal drama.
Smart was critical of the play of Tatum and Brown following a 128-114 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 1. It marked the team’s third straight defeat.
“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen,” Smart said. “Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”
Brown and Tatum combined to score 48 points while playing isolation basketball. But they struggled as the Bulls battled back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to take the double-digit victory.
After his comments, Smart, Brown and Tatum led a players-only meeting that became emotional and not wholly productive.
“Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, it’s something that we probably didn’t need,” Brown said to the media of Smart’s comments. “But we all communicate and talk to each other, so we’re all trying to find ways to win.”
Right now, the Celtics have two ball-dominant players in Brown and Tatum, and on occasion their teammates are left standing around and watching. When that type of team struggles, it’s easy to conclude that one of the ball-dominant players has to be moved.
This is the type of situation the Sixers have been waiting for. This type of drama could help facilitate their lofty trade demands. In this scenario, a potential trade partner is underachieving and enduring chemistry issues that could have a lasting negative impact.
But remember, the Sixers’ position that they’re not going to trade Simmons just to make a trade has been consistent. They’re trying to win a championship, and believe they’re in a better position to win one with him on the roster.
So the Sixers only intend to make a deal for a difference-maker.
Now a week after Smart’s comments, word leaked that the Celtics have inquired about Simmons and Brown would have to be included in any deal for him.
Brown would definitely elevate the Sixers.
The fifth-year player, who’s sidelined with a strained hamstring, has improved in each of the past three seasons. He also has the potential to become one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. And Brown is the Celtics’ leading scorer at 25.6 points a game and is shooting 39.7% on three-pointers.
So it would make a lot of sense to try to pair him with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.
But a trade like that, especially to an Eastern Conference rival, could come back to haunt the Celtics.
Brown, 25, and Tatum, 23, are All-Stars coming into their prime. That’s why Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens keeps looking to improve the roster and build around them — not trade one of them.