The 76ers have been adamant and consistent about not trading Ben Simmons just to make a trade.
With Simmons, they were a contender for the Eastern Conference title. So the Sixers are now only interested in a deal that would improve their chances of that, or at least keep them where they are now.
That’s where the Indiana Pacers come in.
A league source told The Inquirer that the Pacers were among a group of teams still inquiring about Simmons’ availability. Another source confirmed the Sixers have interest in Indiana’s Caris LeVert.
The Pacers shooting guard along with point guard Malcolm Brogdon and at least one first-rounder should be enough to get a deal done. Simmons will make $33 million this season. Brogdan, who Indiana is open to moving, is set to receive $21.7M, while LeVert has $17.5M coming his way.
Brogdon, LeVert, and a first-round pick may not be the sexiest deal for a team that was holding out for an All-Star level player, multiple picks, and pick swaps (The multiple picks were intended to go to an additional team in a three-team deal). But that might be the best deal they can get at the moment.
What would the Sixers be getting back?
While he’s not an All-Star, Brogdon would likely keep Philly pretty much at the same level they are at with Simmons. The 2017 Rookie of the Year can defend, shoot, and score.
Brogdon averaged a career-high 21 points to go with 5.9 assists, and 5.3 rebounds last season while shooting 38.8% on three-pointers. He also made 86.4% of his free throws. Brogdon has averaged 15.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 0.9 steals for his career while shooting 38.6% from three-point range over 297 career games.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder is a leader with good intangibles even though he lacks the height and athleticism of the 6-10 Simmons. Brogdon overall , however, would fit better with the Sixers than Simmons, who shies away from shooting and struggles from the foul line. So he would keep the Sixers close to the same level at the position.
LeVert would be a bonus once he gets healthy.
The 27-year-old, who has a lengthy injury history, is dealing with a stress fracture in his back. The Pacers are optimistic that he’s dealing with a minor setback and may be available for the start of the regular season.
This injury comes after he didn’t make his Pacers debut until March 13 against the Phoenix Suns, exactly two months after being acquired in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets. LeVert hadn’t played since Jan. 12 with the Nets and had surgery on Jan. 26 to remove a small cancerous mass from his left kidney.
His injury history dates to his college days at Michigan.
In five NBA seasons, LeVert has never played a full season. As a rookie in 2016-17, he played 57 games out of 82. LeVert played 71 games the next season, followed by 40 (2018-19), 45 of 72 (2019-20) and a combined 47 of 72 last season between the Nets and Pacers.
Should the Sixers make the trade?
Trading for LeVert as a primary piece for Simmons doesn’t make sense for the Sixers. Brogdon would be the primary acquisition with LeVert and at least one pick to complete the package.
As I wrote Saturday, under normal circumstances, it would benefit the Sixers to hold onto their disgruntled player until his trade value rises.
If this were the case, a great time to unload Simmons would be after Dec. 15, the first day this summer’s signed free agents can be traded. That time frame provides a bigger pool of potential trade partners.
There’s no guarantee, however, that things will get better.
It could get worse amid this messy divorce if the Sixers start losing games and fall way behind expected conference powers such as the Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami Heat in the standings.
So it’s probably better for everyone just to move on now.
The only downside is a trade to the Pacers would keep Simmons in the same conference. That could open up the possibility of the Sixers facing and losing to him in the playoffs.
Do the Sixers want to do a deal with that possible downside?
However, Brogdon is a much better leader and shooter than Simmons. He’s also a pretty good defender. So he would fulfillthe need the Sixers have for a point guard. He’s also had some nagging injuries in the past, but would be a good get.
The Pacers can provide a better package than other interested teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum is a better player than Brogdon and LeVert. He just doesn’t fill the bill at the point guard spot like Brogdon.
Meanwhile, LeVert is very quick and athletic. He can score from the outside and on drives to the basket.
He could be a candidate to start at shooting guard or small forward or provide scoring off the bench. In 35 games — all starts — last season with the Pacers, LeVert averaged career highs in scoring (20.7), assists (5.2) steals (1.4) and a career-high-tying 4.6 rebounds.
So this is definitely a deal that would work for the Sixers.