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This Ben Simmons for Kyrie Irving trade proposal makes sense on paper, but that’s about it

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In a few ways the Ben Simmons for Kyrie Irving swap we keep hearing proposed makes too much sense. You’d hope so with how often it’s been bandied about at least. Simmons wants a change. The Sixers should be happy to give that to him if they could land someone of equal or superior value in return. Kyrie (on the floor) fits that bill. The player who may have hit the biggest shot in NBA history would be eligible to play in Philadelphia despite his not being vaccinated. But there’s too many reasons it doesn’t work. Perhaps we can shelf this suggestion or rumor until something changes.

Let’s look at this deal and some more of the latest Ben Simmons situation because you can’t get enough.

On paper sure

In Irving on paper, the Sixers would finally get that primary initiator, creator, the point-guard who can both dribble and shoot they’ve been dreaming of since Markelle Fultz- blah blah blah, you know this part.

The Nets might get someone eager to play and signed for the long-haul, one of the most versatile defenders in the NBA, someone they could stick on Jimmy Butler, Khris Midd- blah blah blah you’ve heard this part too.

Irving is from New Jersey, he could even take over Simmons’ mansion in Moorestown. The team’s Camden practice facility is more “Jersey” than Brooklyn is anyway, right?

So it does makes sense why this deal has been proposed every few days over the last couple months.

But then there are still the reasons it doesn’t work

1) Irving doesn’t seem like he’s all in

Back in October, we learned the following from Sam Amick of The Athletic”:

“One thing is for sure — at least for now. While an Irving trade for Ben Simmons with Philadelphia is seen by some as an easy solution to both teams’ problems, sources with knowledge of the 76ers’ view said there is no interest in Irving at the moment. From management on down, it seems there is an unsurprising level of skepticism about that pairing working out any better than the Joel Embiid-Simmons duo that is zombified at the moment.

As we chronicled in a recent roundtable, it’s still widely believed that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is holding out for either Portland’s Damian Lillard or Washington’s Bradley Beal (I would posit, by the way, that Lillard is all by himself when it comes to the Sixers’ dream targets).”

As of today, there is fair reason to wonder how badly Kyrie Irving wants to hoop. There was a rumor that the seven-time All-Star would retire if traded. And while he has taken some measures to dispel those rumors, it’s hard to know where his priorities truly lie.

Irving took to social media to insist he won’t lose the game he loves over vaccine mandates.

Per Irving’s Instagram:

“Don’t believe that I’m retiring,” Irving said. “Don’t believe that I’m going to give up this game for a vaccine mandate or staying unvaccinated. Don’t believe any of that s***, man.”

But it seems (for now) like he is at least headed for losing a year of championship contention in Brooklyn. Mayor-Elect in NYC Eric Adams originally made it seem like he might revisit mandate rules. But then days later he made it pretty clear there will be no changes to local rules denying eligibility to unvaxxed performers.

So Irving remains out indefinitely and doing his thing.

Around these parts fans are rightly focused around the contention window of Joel Embiid’s prime. Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor, says Daryl Morey’s Twitter profile.

So the idea that a player like Irving might have bigger fish to fry than contend for a title has to be more than a little scary.

2) Irving could leave in free agency next summer

The other element here is that Irving’s salary was not extended by Brooklyn. The Nets had plans to offer him a max-extension but that has appeared to fizzle with his stance. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent by Summer.

As you may recall, before the 2021 season started, Daryl Morey hopped on reddit and had this to say about the dangers of trading for players in walk-years:

“I think the endowment effect is likely the biggest reason more trades are not made along with the fact that the only real currency to “even up” a deal are draft picks....

“For example, if a good player is in the last year of his deal, you often will look for players that have longer good contracts so you can ensure the player you receive will stay and you won’t take the risk they will leave in free agency. Initially we will painstakingly analyzing the relative merits of the deal but when we flip it we often quickly realize that if we were to think about trading a player with multiple years on his deal we generally wouldn’t even consider players with one year remaining.”

The sentiment should give us a sense for how reluctant Morey might be to trade for (even an available and predictable) player in a walk year.

At that also may give us a sense of how differently the Sixers’ President might view someone like Damian Lillard (four years remaining) from a Bradley Beal or Zach laVine (each could reach free agency after this season). Jaylen Brown, the latest name to pop up in rumors for Simmons, on the other hand is signed through 2024. It makes sense they’d be interested in Brown.

It seems likely Morey would offer more assets in (addition to Simmons) for someone like Lillard in order to avoid worrying about losing him in a few months to a rival team. He once took a “walk year” gamble trading for Chris Paul in Houston, but it only cost him Patrick Beverley, Montrez Harrell, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a first. No All-Stars.

3) Simmons may not be vaccinated either

There is also another element. ESPN Insider Ramona Shelburne hinted that the health and safety protocols Simmons followed upon returning to Philly suggests he may not be vaccinated.

That conversation she had with Pablo Torre on the “ESPN Daily” pod. If so, he wouldn’t represent a solution for Brooklyn; unless Simmons wanted a trade enough to get a jab.

For now we should shelf the Simmons-Kyrie ideas, as tempting as they may seem. They don’t feel probable at the moment. What might be more likely?

The latest

A recent update from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer:

“Boston now joins ​​Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Indiana, Minnesota, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio and Toronto as the known teams that remain engaged with Philadelphia. But the Sixers have received very few firm offers for Simmons at this juncture, sources said, and have mainly outlined two- and three-team frameworks they would accept.”

In another part Fischer adds:

“The weekly updates on Simmons’ status with the team and whether he’s being fined have had no impact on his trade value among rival executives.”

I imagine we might find it humorously predictable to see Daryl Morey’s list. The usual names of Lillard, Beal, possibly no others.

Oh yeah thanks Cleveland, I love this proposal! Why don’t you call Portland and Washington and see if this deal gets you in the ball park for Dame or Brad, then call us back!

The range of outcomes here is kind of nuts. If Irving returns to the Nets’ lineup, Brooklyn vaults to big favorites. If Irving remains out all season and (a healthy and engaged) Simmons returned to the Sixers then they might become favorites in the East. A blockbuster for Philly would appear to do the same. The East feels wide open at the moment. The Sixers are better (and more fun) than expected. It’s fascinating to dream how much better they could be with a big change to the current rotation whether that’s Simmons or another star.