Ben Simmons’ days in Philadelphia have felt numbered ever since his woeful offensive performance contributed to the 76ers’ surprising second round loss to the Atlanta Hawks in 2021 NBA Playoffs. It was painful to watch Simmons at times during the series as he consistently bricked free throws and refused to attempt almost any fourth quarter shot — even a wide open dunk. As the Hawks finished off Philly in six games, head coach Doc Rivers and superstar teammate Joel Embiid essentially threw Simmons under the bus in the final postgame press conference.
The NBA waited for Simmons to be traded all summer, but it never happened. 76ers GM Daryl Morey reportedly asked for the moon for the 25-year-old All-Star, and no team was willing to meet his demands. It was easy to speculate that Morey wanted to hold on to Simmons as long as possible to see if a superstar guard like Damian Lillard would eventually hit the trade market.
Simmons has now taken matters into his own hands. He wants to be traded to a new team, and he’s threatening to hold out of training camp until it happens. With Simmons’ trade request hanging over the start of the season, we came up with nine possible deals and asked the corresponding SB Nation NBA communities how they felt about the proposed trade. These were the parameters for the deals:
- I came up with each potential trade. They had to work on ESPN’s trade machine
- The SB Nation communities gave their feedback on each deal. Sometimes that meant a thumbs up, sometimes it meant a thumbs down, sometimes it meant a counteroffer.
- Every trade includes draft compensation of some kind. Since that’s where most of the negotiation on these deals will take place, we chose to keep it vague rather than come up with specific pick protections.
This was a fun exercise when we did it with James Harden a year ago, but the polarizing nature of Simmons’ game made this an even bigger challenge. As we learned, it isn’t easy to find a deal that satisfies the 76ers’ win-now desires while also making sense for the other side.
Here are nine deals we thought could make sense.
Framework of the deal: Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren + a pick for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Pacers finished ninth in the Eastern Conference last year, and their big addition of the offseason was head coach Rick Carlisle. This team is positioned to “win-now” with most of the rotation in its prime, but their ceiling isn’t all that high. Simmons is the type of player a franchise like the Pacers would be unlikely to land in free agency. It could be worth it to cash in a few pieces for a 25-year-old All-Star who is under contract long term, and then figure out the rest of the roster around him later. While the Pacers get a new foundational star, the 76ers get a starting point guard who can shoot and a wing bucket-getter who can immediately help Embiid in the playoffs.
This is so tough because A.) I love what this does for Philadelphia B.) Ben Simmons is the most talented player in the deal, the youngest, and on a long term contract; all things that would behoove the Pacers’ braintrust to make this trade. While I normally am talent over everything, the fit is just so wonky with a frontcourt of Sabonis/Turner/Simmons. If there were a subsequent deal with one of the bigs to bring in more perimeter talent, I think it makes sense, but the team can already struggle in halfcourt or late clock scoring situations. On top of that, Brogdon and Warren are both sub All-Star talents who the Pacers have no real replacement for. Again, it’s wonky, but worth thinking about.
As dynamic and good of a player as Ben is, he isn’t an elite driver at the moment (11.4 drives per 75) and Malcolm Brogdon is (15.2 drives per 75). We don’t talk about the rim finishing. But, in all seriousness, the Pacers would really struggle without Malcolm’s consistent ability to get to the rim. Getting there causes the defense to tilt even if you’re not finishing at an elite rate, so you’re banking a great deal on Ben and Caris LeVert getting to the cup with more consistency.
Simmons and Sabonis operate from similar spaces as high or mid post playmakers using their height and court vision to pick apart a defense. What does that look like with two players who aren’t being respected past the free throw line? Playmaking is probably the most important offensive skill in the league, you can never have enough, but the fit is certainly odd.
I would ultimately be in on this for Indiana, but admit that the team would probably not feel similarly. They view themselves as a win now team, and I think it would require a one step back two steps forward approach trying to restructure a younger team around Simmons after trading two of the three best perimeter options in the organization, while knowing more moves are happening in conjunction here.
If I could, I would counter with something involving the same players, but adding in Tyrese Maxey and a conglomeration of Pacers picks to make that trade worthwhile for the Sixers. Maxey would provide another building block towards a younger team with a brighter future and the Sixers would acquire more draft capital for subsequent moves to tweak the roster. It’s not perfect and I wouldn’t want to part with Maxey if I’m Daryl Morey, but I would certainly try and make it happen. — Mark Schindler
Framework of the deal: Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Devin Vassell + a pick for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Spurs finished No. 10 in the Western Conference last year, and lost their best player in free agency when DeMar DeRozan went to the Bulls. San Antonio has collected some solid young pieces in recent years, but no true star. Simmons would immediately become the face of the franchise, and his long-term deal would give the Spurs a few years to try to add talent around him. In return, Philly would get a dynamic offensive guard in White, an awesome defensive wing with shooting ability in Vassell, and a capable point guard in Murray.
Parting with their presumptive starting backcourt, in addition to the promising Vassell, is a hard pill to swallow for a team that’s invested so much in their development. But the Spurs have entered asset acquisition mode this summer for a reason: the roster as constructed probably doesn’t top out as a world-beater. Simmons doesn’t get them all the way there, but he should raise their ceiling and complement many of the remaining pieces’ strengths and weaknesses. — Bruno Passos
Framework of the deal: Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, and Ricky Rubio + a pick for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Cavs have been collecting top-five lottery picks ever since LeBron James bounced to LA, but the team is still far away from contention. Evan Mobley could be the face of the franchise moving forward, but it’s hard to tell exactly how good Cleveland’s other young players are. Like the Pacers, Simmons is the type of player the Cavs likely would never get in free agency. A team with Mobley and Simmons could have incredible defensive potential. The Cavs would have a log jam in the front court, but Simmons is under contract long enough for the team to reshape the rest of the roster around him in coming years. The 76ers would get an exciting young point guard in Garland who could be set for a breakout third year. Okoro is an awesome young wing defender who needs to improve offensively, and Rubio could help Philly at point guard right now.
Maybe the Cavs do this as a talent play because Ben Simmons is no doubt better than anyone the Cavs currently have. But this is also a tricky deal because Garland is their best young creator and would fit well with Simmons. Okoro, meanwhile, is a standout defender just starting and they got Rubio. Simmons is also a tricky fit with a Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen frontcourt. In reality, I think the Cavs probably do this because it’s a talent play and they have to take those. But I don’t really know why the 76ers would do this?
I also think the Cavs would want to try and move off of Kevin Love in any trade they make here, but that wouldn’t seem to fit with what the 76ers would want to do here. Simmons to Cleveland might just be too complicated to do unless a third team gets involved. — Chris Manning
Framework of the deal: C.J. McCollum and Robert Covington + a pick for Simmons and Thybulle.
Why it might work: The Sixers might dream of trading Simmons for Lillard, but it’s possible his backcourt mate is the best they can do right now. The 30-year-old McCollum would give the team a new lead guard in the backcourt who can score from all three levels and pairs well with Embiid. Covington is already a fan favorite for starting his career in Philly. Losing Thybulle in this might be a tough for the Sixers, but seems necessary for the contracts to match. From Portland’s perspective, an all-in move for Simmons could keep Lillard around long-term and give the Blazers the defensive stopper they’ve been missing.
For the trade in question, the BE staff would accept that trade. Our only counter would be to make this trade less noisy. Let’s remove all the additional pieces and make this a straight CJ-for-Ben swap.
Simmons might not love the idea of Portland, but Klutch would unite one of their marquee players when one of their top coaching clients. With Larry Nance Jr. and Simmons in the fold, the Blazers’ defense would finally have the tools to compete with true contenders. — Steven Dewald
Framework of the deal: Steven Adams, Dillon Brooks, and DeAnthony Melton + Jazz and Lakers 2022 first round picks for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Grizzlies have a great young foundation led by Ja Morant, but the team still has a long way to go before they reach contender status even after sneaking into the playoffs last year. Acquiring a blue chip talent like Simmons while keeping Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and a solid young complementary shooter in Desmond Bane would be a major boon. For the Sixers, Brooks could be an immediate starter on the wing, Melton is one of the more underrated players in the league, and Adams would be an elite backup center. The picks could come in handy for a future trade, too.
If the Grizzlies could acquire a player that’s 25 years old and has been a 3-time All-Star, without giving up Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr., they should pull the trigger - even for the oft-criticized Ben Simmons. Grizzlies followers would be reluctant to give up Dillon Brooks, but Simmons would serve as a defensive and playmaking upgrade. Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and De’Anthony Melton sound like a good framework for the deal, and guys like Brandon Clarke or Desmond Bane could replace one of the guys in this deal. The rest will likely revolve around draft compensation, primarily the first-round picks from the Lakers and the Jazz in 2022 and maybe one of their own.
The allure of Ben Simmons is transforming him into a super-charged Draymond Green. What better duo for him to do that with than the electric Ja Morant and the sweet-shooting Jaren Jackson Jr.? — Parker Fleming
Framework of the deal: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels + a pick for Simmons, Tybulle, and Isaiah Joe.
Why it might work: Minnesota reportedly has heavy interest in Simmons, and there are some pathways to a deal. This package would give the Sixers a starting guard in Russell, a high volume shooter in Beasley, and high-upside, young defensive forward in McDaniels. Russell may be a negative team value on his current deal, but Philly could also flip him down the line. For the Wolves, Simmons’ elite defense is a perfect match next to Karl-Anthony Towns in the front court. This trade might come down to what Philly thinks of McDaniels after a promising rookie year.
As a Wolves fan/writer, I wouldn’t do this trade. DLo and Beasly are the two best perimeter shooters on the team and Jaden McDaniels looks like the steal of the 2020 draft. I also don’t think the Sixers are interested in Russell. I think the Wolves big plan is to win with Simmons AND Russell together so I’ll propose this. The Timberwolves trade Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, Taurean Prince, 2022 FRP, and 2024 FRP for Ben Simmons and Isaiah Joe.
The Wolves keep Russell, meanwhile the Sixers get extra pieces they can include in a trade once another star becomes available like Dame or Beal. Prince also cannot be traded until September 27th but teams could agree in principle. — Cooper Carlson
Framework of the deal: Goran Dragic, OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, and Malachi Flynn for Simmons, Thybulle, and Isaiah Joe.
Why it might work: The Raptors are embarking on a new era without Kyle Lowry, and it sure feels like they want a full team of big, athletic forwards with multi-dimensional skill sets. Simmons would fit. While a 1-for-1 swap with Pascal Siakam is possible, Raptors HQ chose to talk about this deal centered around OG Anunoby instead. Anunoby is a tremendous young wing who would be a plug-and-play starter for the 76ers. Boucher is a stretch big off the bench, Flynn is a promising young point guard, and Dragic could play a role right now in the last year of his deal. For the Raptors, a core of Simmons, Siakam, VanVleet, and Scottie Barnes could be the start of something big.
This is definitely one of the more creative Raptors-76ers trade ideas that I’ve seen! Here, you’re moving two players who clearly want to be moved in Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic, and that’s a good starting point. The 76ers also need a point guard, and I think Dragic would quickly become a fan-favourite in Philly, assuming he hasn’t lost a step.
Beyond that? Well, OG Anunoby becomes the real sticky point here. Yes, I realize that Anunoby is more highly valued by Raptors fans, including me, than he is anywhere else. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t deserved. For an example of that, look no further than… Matisse Thybulle, who made all-defence last year over the more deserving Anunoby last season!
Still — if we remove the Klutch factor here (Anunoby is a Klutch client) — if you had to move OG to get Simmons, getting Thybulle in return to fill OG’s spot is not a bad thing. Imagine fielding a lineup of Simmons, Thybulle, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa? I bet Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse would give that one some serious thought. — Josh Kern
Framework of the deal: Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Kings are already reportedly out on this deal, and it makes sense. Haliburton was awesome as a rookie. He might be the most appealing piece in any of the packages we mention in this article. Still, there’s a case for why the Kings should consider this. Simmons is a young All-Star signed long-term. Trading for arguably the best defensive player in the game is a great way to address what was the league’s worst defense last year. The Kings also have a promising rookie guard in Davion Mitchell who could take Haliburton’s place in the lineup. It’s totally fair if the Kings and their fans don’t like this deal, but it’s at least worth considering.
This is a highly-risky move for the Kings that I would not want to see come to fruition.
Tyrese Haliburton is an essential piece of the young core Sacramento is trying to build around alongside De’Aaron Fox. The Kings would essentially be trading Haliburton, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last season, and Buddy Hield, the best 3-point shooter in the league, in return for good defense.
The way this is set up, Kings undoubtedly lose the deal. Instead, I would offer Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III and a future pick in return for Ben Simmons. The relationship between Bagley and Kings brass isn’t quite as hostile as Simmons and the Sixers, but it’s no secret they both want out of their respective markets. Philly would acquire a young wing who wants a fresh start while Sacramento would do the same. — Marina Drab
Framework of the deal: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Moses Moody + a pick for Simmons.
Why it might work: The Warriors are trying to augment their aging championship core with young, unproven talent taken at the top of the draft. It sounds like a good plan in theory, but Golden State also can’t afford to waste time while Stephen Curry is still playing at an MVP level. Trading young pieces for Simmons would be a major boost in the short-term for Golden State, and immediately improve their chances at coming out of the West this year. For the Sixers, Wiggins could contribute on the wing right away, while Moody and Wiseman are nice long-term pieces. This deal may not give the Sixers the immediate talent infusion they’re looking to add, but the young pieces could be flipped in another deal down the road.
The main concern with Simmons on the Warriors seems to be whether the team can make a non-shooter work next to Draymond Green. But the Warriors have built elite offenses in the past with frontcourts of Green and Kevon Looney, Green and JaVale McGee, Green and Zaza Pachulia, and so on and so forth. The Warriors would have to eschew having a traditional center for it to work, but Simmons is bigger than many traditional centers (including Looney). With Simmons and Green, the Warriors would have a frontcourt starring two of last year’s Defensive Player of the Year finalists, and two of the top 12 assists per game leaders, who would be passing the ball to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. You have to be mighty high on Wiggins to think this does anything but dramatically increase the team’s title odds in the next few years, and that’s before mentioning how perfect of a fit Thybulle is on the Warriors. Maximizing a title window around a 33-year old Curry is more important than hoping that two draft lottery tickets in Wiseman and Moody pan out. It’s an easy yes for me, though it’s worth noting that Golden State’s front office is reportedly split on Simmons, so it may not be an easy yes for them. — Brady Klopfer
Liberty Ballers ranks the Ben Simmons trade packages
1. San Antonio - Murray, White, Vassell + a pick
The reason I like this deal better than most is the addition of Murray. Say what you want about Simmons, but he was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and is arguably the most versatile defender in the league. Getting a player like Murray that already has an All-Defensive Team nod would help mitigate the loss of Simmons on that end. At 25, you could talk yourself into Murray’s potential offensive upside — despite him not being a perfect fit playing next to Embiid — while also seeing a big role in helping the Sixers win now.
White would immediately become the Sixers’ sixth man and would be a damn good one. The Sixers’ bench has talent and potential but is awfully young. At 27, White adds maturity and experience. I love Vassell, but he is a tough fit here with wings like Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz and Isaiah Joe that fit a similar mold. You can never have enough good, young wings, but I might prefer another pick or someone like Keldon Johnson, who offers more perimeter shot-creation potential, something the Sixers desperately need. — Paul Hudrick
2. Indiana - Brogdon, Warren + a pick
You could argue this deal makes more sense with the Sixers looking to maximize Embiid’s prime. Brogdon gives the Sixers a traditional point guard that can help space the floor even more for Embiid while also providing solid defense. I love the idea of Warren — especially the bubble version that destroyed the Sixers — as either the team’s starting three or a flamethrower off the bench. Both players offer more perimeter creation than what’s on the current roster.
The reason I like the Spurs deal better is trepidation over the health of both Indiana players. Brogdon, who isn’t the most explosive player to begin with, has missed time with various injuries over the last three seasons. Warren missed all but four games last season after having foot surgery. Both players are 28 and have proven NBA track records — which aligns with what the Sixers want — but their injury histories would make me want more draft compensation. — Paul Hudrick
3. Sacramento - Hield, Haliburton
Adding more shooting in Hield makes a ton of sense. The more shooting around Embiid the better. My only concern is that I’d imagine Hield would come here with the expectation to start. That would mean one of Danny Green or Seth Curry — who were both excellent last season — would have to move to the bench, something I’m not sure Doc Rivers wants to do.
While Haliburton doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of a win-now acquisition, that’d be a strong return. Haliburton replaces Simmons as a big playmaker but with the ability to shoot. Would he be ready for the moment in the postseason? I think it’s 100 percent worth finding out … if Sacramento is willing to move him. — Paul Hudrick