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An early-season check in on all of Ben Simmons suitors

Now over a month into the season, lets see how the potential Ben Simmons suitors have faired!

Philadelphia 76ers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

We are now a few weeks into the 2021-22 NBA season and we’ve gotten a small taste of how teams are performing. The Sixers have been fun for the most part, as they’ve proven to be a team with a lot of talent and a young developing star in Tyrese Maxey. However, the large shadow that is the Ben Simmons situation continues to cast over the team.

The Sixers continue to hold out on the situation, trying to leverage time/opportunity for better trades to arise. Dealing Simmons at the beginning of the season, where everyone loves their newly assembled teams, was always going to be difficult. Now that we are 15 games or so in, we are beginning to see some cracks growing on multiple teams.

So let’s check in on the franchises linked to Simmons. We’ll focus on the main suitors that have been linked numerous times to trade discussions; the Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Minnesota Timberwolves

It’s only right to start off with the team that had the most reported interest in Simmons originally. It always made sense from their point of view, as Simmons and Karl-Anthony Towns would fit together seamlessly.

The Timberwolves started off this season hot, as they won three of their first four games. They’ve come back to earth since then, however, as they’ve won two of next nine games to amass a not-so-impressive record of 4-9. To make matters worse, during that losing streak Towns liked (intentionally or non-intentionally) a tweet saying “#FreeKAT”. He later claimed that he was hacked, but the bad look and spotlight was put on the Timberwolves yet again.

The Timberwolves have had their fair share of headlines since the beginning of the season. They fired Gersson Rosas, the executive that seemed to be most interested in Simmons’ talks, and replaced him with a very familiar name in Sachin Gupta.

From the Timberwolves side, a Simmons trade makes a lot sense still. The franchise is desperately trying to make the postseason again, a feat they haven’t achieved since they traded away Jimmy Butler. Simmons is far from a flawless player, but is he undoubtedly a floor raiser for any team and would likely help the Timberwolves in pursuit of their goal.

Like most teams, there are plenty of roadblocks to a Simmons deal being achieved between the Sixers and Timberwolves. The Timberwolves lack a lot of win-now pieces that they’d be willing to move. They aren’t dealing Karl Anthony-Towns or Anthony Edwards anytime soon, which leaves a lot of “meh” players on the table. D’Angelo Russell is a name many would point to, but he has injury concerns and has been very inconsistent this season. Factoring in a max contract into both of those concerns doesn’t make an appealing offer.

That leaves the Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, and picks offer as the only real package that could be cobbled together. Beasley, who would be labeled as the “headliner” in this deal, has had a horrid season thus far averaging just over nine points per game while shooting 32.1% from the field. Yikes.

Assuming the Timberwolves keep Edwards off the table, it’s hard to see a deal coming together between the two teams. Even with a new front office, the Timberwolves should and likely still are very interested in acquiring Simmons. Their team as currently constructed doesn’t seem to have enough talent of squeaking into the play-in tournament and Simmons would help that. The only path to a deal that might be found is if the Timberwolves send lightly protected picks to a third team, in which the Sixers receive a win-now talent.

Portland Trail Blazers

If you thought the Timberwolves update was rough, wait until you see all of the news that’s developed with the Portland Trail Blazers. Spoiler alert: it’s rough.

The Blazers decided to run back their team for the most part last season. Damian Lillard, who was questioning his future, seems to have settled on the idea of remaining in the pinwheel city. A pretty big win for the Blazers franchise.

They have had a hard time putting together more W’s since then. They currently sit at a 7-8. While that’s not a bad record by any means, it also isn’t a great one either — especially with a top-10 player in Lillard on the roster. They’ve lost to quite a few undermanned teams, including the Sixers — who were without Simmons, Embiid or Harris. The defense hasn’t picked up at all since hiring a new coach, as they still rank in the bottom five. Chauncey Billups even called out process legend Robert Covington, saying he needs to be better defensively.

The Blazers have been just fine on the court. The roster has talent outside of Lillard; CJ McCollum has been great this season, Norman Powell is a solid addition. This roster, as most expected heading into this season, just doesn’t seem to have enough talent to seriously compete in a talent-heavy conference.

There’s also been numerous headlines emerging off the court, as a probe was launched into the allegations that Neil Olshey, the Blazers’ GM, has fostered a hostile work environment within the team. The original deadline for this investigation has been extended, as the investigation firm continues to interview people. The Blazers’ CEO, Chris McGowan, has also recently resigned from the team.

With or without a Simmons deal, massive change seems destined for the Portland Trail Blazers. What kind of change that will be remains to be seen.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers emerged as a dark horse team in Simmons’ talks earlier in the season, even reportedly offering Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert. Talks seemed to have cooled substantially after they came to terms of a contract extension with Brogdon, ruling him out of trade talks for this season.

The Pacers have a wide collection of win-now talent and simply good players. Health has been the main factor in them being 6-9, as the team just struggles to get its core players back. They have some foundation to build on, as Myles Turner has emerged as a DPOY candidate, Chris Duarte is in the Rookie of the Year race, and they still have an All-Star in Domantas Sabonis.

Brogdon signing an extension, and ruling him out of any trade talks this season, effectively put a nail in any Simmons trade. While the Pacers still have plenty of good players most of them are due for contracts very soon, which takes away a lot of value in trading for them. Brogdon would’ve been excellent with the Sixers, and would’ve been a great backcourt mate alongside Tyrese Maxey. While the Pacers have a lot of good pieces none of them are really big needle movers for the Sixers outside of maybe Brogdon.

Could the Pacers circle back around in Simmons trade talks? Sure, if it goes into this offseason. But for everyone’s sake let’s hope it doesn’t.

Boston Celtics

Talk about a late-comer to the Simmons trade party. The Boston Celtics reportedly engaged the Sixers on a Simmons deal a few weeks back, with talks stopping (at least for now) when the Sixers asked for All-Star Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics have had a difficult season thus far, which I’m sure everyone on this site hates to hear. Brown is currently out with injury, and Jayson Tatum has struggled a bit early on in the season. The team has struggled to maintain some late leads which has led to some frustrating losses. The frustration boiled over when Marcus Smart told the media that Brown and Tatum “don’t pass the ball”. The good news for Smart is there’s a player that’ll pass you the ball as many times as you want with Simmons.

The Celtics, thus far, have been unwilling to deal Brown and will likely keep that stance for the foreseeable future. While things are far from good in Beantown, the Celtics are still 7-7 with some injury problems on the roster. Sure, the idea of building a team around two perimeter scoring talents is easier said than done — but that shouldn’t and doesn’t mean that they’ll just deal away Brown right away. Tatum’s struggles early on have been well documented, and are partly the reason the Celtics aren’t better.

Brown remains the factor in if any deal will be struck for Simmons. The Sixers won’t be interested at all in a Smart headlined package. It’s Brown or bust, and it seems like they’ll pursue other deals in the meantime.

Toronto Raptors

Finally! A positive update I can give with one of the teams heavily involved in Ben Simmons trade talks. Sure, the Raptors record of 7-8 isn’t anything to applaud, but they’ve built a foundation there for numerous players. Pascal Siakam has also recently returned from injury.

Scottie Barnes looks to be the Rookie of the Year frontrunner. They have a legitimate talent in Barnes, who also has a very similar play style to Simmons. Barnes’ emergence may have driven Toronto’s initial interest in Simmons down quite a bit. Why trade for Simmons when you can grow a very similar player? Simmons’ fit on this current Raptors team would be pretty clunky, as they have an abundance of ball handling talent already.

The Raptors, like the Pacers, have a ton of good talent in Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Siakam which makes them an attractive team to do a trade with.

I would expect Toronto to remain with what they have, as they have a good roster with young developing talent. Barnes’ emergence has put the nail in any Simmons deal between Philly and Toronto, in my eyes at least.

Sacramento Kings

Back to dysfunction we go! The Kings are no stranger to that, either. The Kings currently sit at 6-8, which isn’t horrible considering where the team is on their rebuilding timeline of the Fox-Haliburton backcourt.

De’Aaron Fox has struggled mightily this season, shooting just 23.1% from three. He’s slowly raised his field goal percentage and I would expect his play to improve with some time. Considering how much Fox has struggled, the Kings could be in a worse spot. Harrison Barnes has put together a career year thus far, and the roster also has talent in Tyrese Haliburton, Davion Mitchell, and Richaun Holmes.

However, it was recently reported that Luke Walton, their head coach, was on the brink of being fired due to their not-so-great start. There were also some apparent concerns being raised already between the backcourt pairing of Fox and Haliburton.

First off: Wow. I get the Walton thing as it seems like he’s been the subject of possibly being fired for the past two-three years. What I don’t get is the rising concerns between the Fox/Haliburton pairing. Is it seamless? No, but most backcourt pairings aren’t this early on. Both Fox and Haliburton are relatively young and still have a full season to develop chemistry with each other as they play more and more.

The Kings’ GM, Monte McNair, has been very vocal about ending their league long playoff drought. Are the Kings good enough to squeak into the play-in tournament? It seems like that question is being asked more and more as the season progresses.

If the Kings are serious about making the playoffs this season they should absolutely be involved in Simmons talks. Sure, the fit between Simmons/Fox/Holmes isn’t the best but Simmons would raise their floor substantially. The Kings, thus far, have reportedly refused to put Fox or Haliburton into Simmons talks.

There are also some kinks in a Simmons-to-Sacramento trade for the Sixers’ side of things. Fox is a good player, however there is a ton of overlap in play style between him and the rising Tyrese Maxey, who has been excellent so far this season. Haliburton is good, but his prime wouldn’t match up at all with the Sixers in their win-now state.

The Kings very well might revisit their stance on not offering Fox/Haliburton in a Simmons deal, depending on how their team performs from here on out. I’m just not sure if the Sixers would share the same interest.

San Antonio Spurs

It’s been tough to watch the Spurs fall as far as they have. Gregg Popovich is arguably the best coach in NBA history. They’ve been the model for what most franchises aspire to be, as a winning and stable team.

Those days seem to be gone, however. The Spurs now just kind of... exist? Both DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are long gone and the youth movement is in full effect. Dejounte Murray has blossomed and is easily in the conversation for Most Improved Player.

This is the typical time in which a franchise would embrace a rebuilding mode and lose games. That’s a tough sell for an all-time great coach in Popovich, who has put together one of the best coaching records in NBA history. The Spurs have struggled big time and are currently in the basement of the Western Conference at 4-10.

Popovich has long been a fan of Simmons, and has voiced his support for him over the past few years. An All-Star talent coming to San Antonio would be a breath of fresh air, but would it be best for them at this point? Sure, Simmons’ arrival would help them win a lot more games. Their ceiling, however, would be still low with him as their best player.

On the Sixers’ side of things it doesn’t look realistic as of right now. Murray is a really good player, but the same fit concerns that applied with Fox apply for him. He is a better shooter than Simmons, but is that really saying much? It seems like the Sixers should prioritize getting a shot maker that can hit threes at an average rate.

Keldon Johnson is a fun talent and would fit a need that the Sixers desperately need right now as a big wing that can score a bit. Johnson being a headlining player in a Ben Simmons trade wouldn’t move the needle much, however, atleast in the short-term.

The Spurs’ direction on where they want to be remains a mystery, but don’t rule them out of Simmons’ talks as long as Popovich is there.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Like the Raptors, the Cavs have actually put together a solid start to the NBA season. Evan Mobley looks like a stud, and the Cavs have a plethora of talent in Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Lauri Markkanen.

The Cavs have put together a very respectable 9-6 record thus far. They are a fun team to watch, and run an extremely large front court lineup that has actually been good. Unfortunately, it seems like their season is on the brink of being derailed due to injury and COVID-19 problems.

Collin Sexton, someone mentioned heavily in Simmons rumors, went down with a torn MCL. That’s tough to see, as he looked to cash out with a payday in his upcoming restricted free agency. Mobley will also be out for a few weeks with an elbow injury.

The Cavs make a lot of sense as a Simmons suitor. Mobley and Simmons would be a defensive nightmare for teams to matchup against, and that isn’t even mentioning their additional defensive talent in Issac Okoro and Allen.

The roadblock to any deal coming together with Ben Simmons is in regards to the Cavs’ success and Garland. The Cavs have been awesome so far this season, and there is an argument to be made that they should just keep their good thing going. Sexton going down with injury and an upcoming huge payday rules him out of being traded, for now. The Sixers should, and probably are, interested in Garland. The Cavs are understandably high on him, and he also is a Klutch Sports client — both being factors in him probably staying put.

The Cavs probably don’t have any intention of shaking things up for the time being. I could see them revisiting Simmons talks if their season begins to slip due to injury problems or if they eventually cool off with their stellar play. Their ownership group has been very vocal about making a postseason push.

Going Forward

The main motive of diving into each of these teams is to help show you how many situations in the NBA are beginning to sour. The Sixers tried to trade Simmons in a time when everyone’s record was a clean slate, and everyone was high on their newly built rosters. We are now over a month in and we are beginning to see cracks start to show for these franchises.

While there are some franchises in good places (Toronto, Cleveland), many of these suitors have very uncertain futures ahead with big ambition on making the playoffs. Even the Pelicans, who haven’t been mentioned in any Simmons talks, seem like they’re destined to implode. Simmons is arguably the biggest floor raiser in the entire NBA, and a team very well might go for him on a trade if they feel like their team is slipping.

I preach patience in allowing Daryl Morey and the Sixers to find deal with maximum value in the next few months. There are a lot of situations beginning to boil over, and the heat will only continue to rise over time.

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