The problem with trading Ben Simmons is as it always has been: finding a deal that actually makes the Sixers a better team. A recent report by veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein listed the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors as teams known to have expressed interest. That list is certain to grow. For now, though, let’s look at how each team lines up with the Sixers, and the deals that could give 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey something to think about.
The deal: Darius Garland and Larry Nance Jr. for Ben Simmons
Why it makes sense for the Sixers: There’s been a lot of speculation about 22-year-old guard Collin Sexton as a match for Simmons, but Garland sure looks like the better option for the Sixers. He’s a better three-point shooter (.395 vs. .371 in 2020-21). He’s a better distributor (9.1 assists per 100 possessions vs. Sexton’s 6.1). He’s not as good of a finisher as Sexton, but he can create his own shot (just 31 percent of his two-pointers were assisted last season, compared with 42 percent of Sexton’s). Getting Nance in the deal would be a real bonus, giving the Sixers a player who can help replace Simmons’ defensive versatility and rebounding while also shooting 36 percent from three-point range.
Why it makes sense for the Cavaliers: A lot depends on how they value Garland vs. Sexton and how they view their options with the No. 3 overall pick in the coming draft. Really, Simmons would be the perfect complement to either Garland or Sexton. His pass-first mentality would slot nicely next to a dribble-drive volume scorer while dramatically upgrading the Cavs’ perimeter defense. In addition to Garland and Sexton, the Cavs drafted guard Isaac Okoro at No. 5 last year, though he’s coming off a less-than-stellar rookie season. The top of this year’s draft is guard-heavy. The Cavs could be in position to add 19-year-old G league prospect Jalen Green or Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, though USC center Evan Mobley is another possibility. Either way, the addition of Simmons could make plenty of sense.
Trade potential: High
The deal: De’Aaron Fox and Delon Wright for Ben Simmons and Tyrese Maxey
Why it makes sense for the Sixers: Fox is a budding superstar, a ballhandler who can break you down, push the pace, create for himself, or facilitate for others. His scoring and efficiency have improved in each of his first four seasons. The only thing holding him back is his three-point shooting — he connected on 32.2 percent of his attempts last season. But he isn’t afraid, averaging 5.5 attempts per game. It’s almost impossible to think the Kings would be willing to part with Fox, but Maxey would certainly sweeten the offer. Getting back Wright would give the Sixers a better player in the here and now who can shoot or score off the bench.
Why it makes sense for the Kings: It might not, to the point that it’s basically a pipe dream. You don’t trade away 23-year-old playmakers of Fox’s prowess unless they force you to.
Trade potential: Lukewarm
The deal: Ricky Rubio, Malik Beasley, and Jaden McDaniels for Ben Simmons
Why it makes sense for the Sixers: It probably doesn’t. In theory, though, Rubio would give the Sixers a point guard who can replace Simmons’ role as a facilitator and an intriguing prospect in McDaniels, who has the potential to develop into a defender and rebounder that offsets what the Sixers lose in that department. Beasley would then give them a guard who can shoot and score and would give Doc Rivers a number of potential combinations. But are the Sixers really a better team, especially when you consider the defensive liabilities of their best offensive lineups?
Why it makes sense for the Timberwolves: Nothing really makes sense for the Timberwolves at the moment. The combination of Simmons, De’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns could at least leave them dreaming of some version of a Big Three. The combination of Simmons and Anthony Edwards would give them a perimeter defense with serious potential. Given where Minnesota is, Simmons could be worth a swing.
Trade potential: Lukewarm
The deal: Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren for Ben Simmons
Why it makes sense for the Sixers: I’m not sure it does. On paper, the Sixers get two players who can get shots, one of whom would slot in nicely at the point. Problem is, Brogdon has all kinds of injury problems. Warren, meanwhile, is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. If you could guarantee both players would be healthy for the duration of their careers, the deal would be a no-brainer. But that’s kind of the point.
Why it makes sense for the Pacers: Again, I don’t think it does, especially when you consider the preexisting ill fit between Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers would have some crazy potential on the defensive end, but their offensive fits would be just as wild, and not in a good way.
Trade potential: Poor
The deal: Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade for Ben Simmons
Why it makes sense for the Sixers: Lowry is one of the few players who can replace Simmons’ defense while also upgrading all of his deficiencies. Problem is, he makes most sense playing alongside Simmons, or alongside whoever replaces Simmons. Factor in the cap implications of a sign-and-trade and it just seems far-fetched. If the Sixers are hoping to get serious value for Simmons, this ain’t it.
Why it makes sense for the Raptors: Getting Simmons in return for a player who would be leaving anyway is a no-brainer. But good luck finding an offense that can accommodate both him and Pascal Siakam.
Trade potential: Poor