Nothing has changed of late in the Ben Simmons standoff with the 76ers. He is under contract but not playing. The Sixers, who enter Friday’s home game against the Clippers as winners of 10 of their past 12 games and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, do not want to trade him unless they receive a difference-maker in return.
And yet, much has changed in the NBA’s trade-market landscape with less than three weeks until the Feb. 10 deadline.
In the months since Simmons’ playoff fizzle — and since he told the Sixers he would not report to training camp and intends to never play for the team again — more than one-third of the league has been floated as a possible new destination for the All-Star point guard, either through credible reporting or by dissecting the best possible fits on the court and in the salary books.
The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey had new reporting Wednesday about recent discussions with Sacramento and Atlanta, which also included Tobias Harris. As we approach February, here are where some of the other possible trade partners stand.
(Note: These breakdowns primarily apply to direct two-team trades. Getting a third team or fourth team involved could obviously create way more possibilities for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and the Sixers, but those are frankly too much for this non-front-office human to sort through.)
Portland Trail Blazers
This has perhaps been the most popular possible destination for Simmons. Portland has the highly desirable superstar in Damian Lillard and a more realistic option in scoring guard CJ McCollum.
Right now, that franchise is a mess. Portland fired general manager Neil Olshey in December after an independent investigation into his workplace conduct. Lillard recently opted to have abdominal surgery and will be out for at least six weeks. McCollum, meanwhile, recently returned from a collapsed lung. Their team entered Thursday with a 18-26 record.
Portland is certainly a candidate to be active at the deadline. But there is a difference between trading the expiring contracts of role players such as Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, and trading Lillard or McCollum. Would interim general manager Joe Cronin receive permission to deal either of the Trail Blazers’ longtime backcourt stars?
The Athletic reported in early December that the Pacers are moving toward a rebuild and are expected to be active in the trade market. But Indiana’s major players available are big men Myles Turner (who is currently out with a foot injury expected to keep him out past the trade deadline) and Domantas Sabonis, neither of whom are a exactly a good fit with Sixers superstar Joel Embiid.
Malcolm Brogdon could have been an option as a more traditional point guard for the Sixers, but he signed a contract extension before the season began and is ineligible to be traded at the deadline. So, any package would need to be centered around Caris LeVert and/or T.J. Warren.
The Inquirer reported in November that the Sixers had discussions with the Pistons about Jerami Grant, who has been out since mid-December following surgery to repair the UCL in his thumb.
In Detroit, Grant has demonstrated he can be a go-to scorer while also flashing the defensive versatility that made him so valuable in Denver and Oklahoma City. The Pistons, however, are one of the NBA’s worst teams and are rebuilding around youngsters Cade Cunningham and Villanova product Saddiq Bey.
Grant is likely to be one of the most coveted players at the trade deadline, with multiple contenders as suitors.
With Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle and the electric Anthony Edwards on the wing, the Timberwolves could view Simmons’ defense and versatility as what’s missing to elevate them from play-in team to a tough first-round out.
Any package would likely center around point guard D’Angelo Russell, who could take some pressure off Embiid by creating his own shot and being fearless in crunch time. Remember when Russell buried two three-pointers in the final minute of overtime to force a second extra frame in November’s matchup against the Sixers?
However, what would adding Russell mean for Tyrese Maxey, who is having a breakout second season for the Sixers?
The Cavaliers have arguably been this season’s most pleasant surprise. They once had a bit of a backcourt overload, with Collin Sexton seemingly the odd man out and a candidate to be moved.
Now, Sexton is out for the season with a torn meniscus. So is veteran Ricky Rubio, who tore his ACL in late December. As a quick fix, Cleveland traded for Rajon Rondo.
Cleveland has a clear young core of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. Unless one of them is included in a deal for Simmons, this feels like a non-starter.
The Raptors’ slight rebuild post-Kyle Lowry is on a quicker track, with Rookie of the Year candidate Scottie Barnes paired with Pascal Siakam.
Toronto values big, versatile defenders like Simmons. But it would likely take both Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby to make a deal happen.
Golden State Warriors
This seemed to be more of a possibility surrounding last summer’s draft, when the Warriors had two lottery picks, which became Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
It’s fair to wonder if the development of those players, plus second-year big man James Wiseman, matches the timeline of this final championship push with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. But those young players also don’t quite fit the Sixers, who are in win-now mode with Embiid in his prime.
It’s hard to envision the Warriors disrupting their core with a new addition such as Simmons after they began the season scorching, and are now working Thompson back into the fold.
A swap for All-Star Jaylen Brown, whose scoring punch and size would be an excellent fit for the Sixers, certainly grabs one’s attention. But it seems less-than-realistic, especially after Brown defended his partnership with Jayson Tatum with an “I think we can play together” earlier this month.