A breakup between former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers has seemed imminent since a disappointing playoff performance by the team combined with Simmons’ offensive limitations drawing increased scrutiny in the press.
But first, let’s focus on what Simmons is. He’s blossomed into one of the best defensive players in the league, he is a gifted rebounder, passer, and ball-handler, and at 25, he’s just now entering his prime and any move would seriously impact the NBA futures market. He would be a welcome addition to just about any team in the league.
Despite that, the market for Simmons has been quiet this offseason. That could be due in part to rumors of the 76ers having an exorbitant asking price for him. Recently, though, Simmons’ agent (he’s represented by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports) ramped up the pressure on the Sixers to make a move.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Simmons not only wants to be traded, but if he’s not before the season starts he won’t be reporting to training camp. The frustration stems from a belief that coach Doc Rivers threw him under the bus during the team’s disappointing playoff loss to Atlanta in the second-round last season.
In a glaring moment in the series that highlighted Simmons’ offensive timidness, he passed up what appeared to be an open dunk to pass to teammate Matisse Thybulle for a contested layup. After the game, Rivers said he “wasn’t sure” if Simmons could be the starting point guard on a championship team. That comment was apparently the “final straw” for Simmons, and something he’s not willing to move on from.
Rivers probably isn’t the only culprit, though. Star center Joel Embiid was also publicly critical of Simmons for his passivity after the Atlanta series and Danny Green recently talked in an interview about Simmons in the past tense, as if the team was already planning for a future without him.
The public nature of Simmons’ frustration obviously puts the Sixers in a difficult spot from a negotiating standpoint. Teams aren’t going to make their best offers if they feel the team is in a position where it has to trade him. And as a team with title aspirations with Simmons on the roster, Philadelphia risks falling below contender status if they trade him for a less-than-stellar return. The connection to Klutch is also adding an additional layer to the drama. Teammate Tyrese Maxey, who had a promising rookie season, is also a Klutch client and Klutch is apparently ready to cut all ties with the Philadelphia organization, so Maxey might have to be included in a Simmons trade.
Simmons has also complicated matters by having his camp leak that he prefers to play in California. There are four California teams. Assuming Simmons probably isn’t interested in playing for the Sacramento Kings, that leaves the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors. All three could be title contenders, but only the Warriors have the collection of young talent and draft picks that could make a workable trade. But if the Warriors get Simmons, his style actually duplicates a lot of what Draymond Green does — both are offensively limited playmakers and good defenders, but it would give the team two players on the court at once who don’t like to shoot.
Here are three teams that could make the most sense in a Simmons trade.
Portland Trail Blazers
A Simmons for C.J. McCollum trade gets the Blazers some needed defensive versatility and gives the Sixers a great perimeter shooter and scorer to complement Embiid’s inside presence. Portland also has promising young guard Anfernee Simons and could include a stash of draft picks to make it happen.
Golden State Warriors
As mentioned above, Green’s presence makes Simmons’ fit somewhat difficult to envision, but his talent is undeniable. The Warriors could offer a package that includes Andrew Wiggins plus some combination of their three prized young prospects, James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga. Klay Thompson’s return somewhat makes up for having two offensively challenged players on the court, and Green and Simmons would undoubtedly be fun to watch finding Steph Curry and Thompson for open threes. They would also give the Warriors two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in the same lineup.
The Kings aren’t contenders, but they are definitely a sleeper pick to make a playoff run. If Simmons wants to be in California, they might be the team with the most to offer Philadelphia in a deal. De’Aaron Fox is an up-and-coming star and Richaun Holmes is an active and versatile presence inside, so Simmons could form a great core with them. The Kings could provide shooter Buddy Hield, forward Harrison Barnes, and some combination of young players Marvin Bagley III, Tyrese Haliburton, or Davion Mitchell along with future draft picks for Simmons.