The 76ers’ quest to trade Ben Simmons hasn’t hit a crescendo yet … but it is stirring.
It’s inevitable, according to league sources. It’s just not clear when it will happen, where he will go, and what the Sixers will receive in return.
“Philadelphia has options,” a league source told The Inquirer. “They’re just not finite.”
The source added that more teams are interested in acquiring the three-time All-Star than have been reported because of this summer’s weak free-agency class. The lack of players available makes it more likely Simmons will inevitably be moved.
While there’s still a chance the Sixers get something done sooner, several league sources believe it could happen in the preseason.
It’s just a matter of dealing with potential trade partners with enough assets to be in the mix.
The Sixers are asking for a package that includes an All-Star player for their point guard. However, teams haven’t been willing to offer that leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
Knowing that parting ways is best for Simmons and the Sixers, teams are looking for a bargain-basement deal.
Sources believe potential trade partners will have more of a sense of urgency to acquire Simmons closer to the start of the season. They’ll be more willing to part ways with valued assets.
That would also enable Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to survey the league’s balance of power after the free-agency period. He would have a better idea of what assets the Sixers would need in return to compete for an NBA title.
But waiting does come with risks.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors via sign-and-trade), and Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) would be the most enticing potential trade options for the Sixers.
Beal is reportedly considering whether to request a trade from the Wizards. A sense around the league is that would be contingent on what Washington does with point guard Russell Westbrook. The source said Beal may consider leaving if the Wizards opt to trade Westbrook this summer. There have been some reports about the Lakers having interest in Westbrook.
Losing the nine-time All-Star could free up opportunities for the Wizards’ young players. But it could also lead Washington into another rebuilding process, and Beal wants to win now.
Right now, Beal would be a great fit to pair alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green with the Golden State Warriors, who have a lot of assets to make the deal work.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks have been reported as a potential landing spot for Lillard if he opts to be traded.
A league source said the Sixers have expressed interest in acquiring Lowry. However, the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Miami Heat are also reportedly expected to be top suitors.
The pressure to get a solid deal done for Simmons could be on Morey, especially if Beal, Lillard, and Lowry end up on new teams not named the Sixers.
Morey came to the organization in November with a reputation of winning blockbuster trades as the general manger of the Houston Rockets.
However, he’s been unable to secure trades for James Harden and Lowry this past season. An inability to move Simmons or get something substantial for him would cap an un-Morey-like year for the trade guru.
While the Sixers are publicly noncommittal about trading Simmons, bringing him back could lead to a circus-like atmosphere.
The 25-year-old knows he’d be better off elsewhere.
Simmons has turned into public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia. Fans have burned his jersey. The Philly and national media continue to mock his poor shooting. And in a recent radio interview, Philly movie star and comedian Michael Blackson, a former close friend of Simmons, spoke of his disdain for the Sixers guard and criticized his character.
It’s going to be tough for Simmons to regain favor with Sixers fans. It wouldn’t be surprising if he was booed at games and heckled around town at the start of next season. He knows that.
So if Simmons is not traded this summer, the Sixers might have to prepare for actions that could lead to a forced trade.
If he really wants out, Simmons could opt to be disruptive or not show up for training camp. The tactics have worked in the past for elite professional athletes looking to be traded.
Which underscores why league sources believe a trade is inevitable.