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Guessing which players are on Sixers’ 30-player list of Ben Simmons trade-targets

Sneaking in to the Sixers’ war room

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Sixers finally got back in the win column Thursday, snapping a five-game losing streak with a big 103-89 road win over the Denver Nuggets. Without Joel Embiid, Matisse Thybulle or Danny Green the Sixers (9-7) were able to pull off the huge upset over the reigning regular season MVP in Nikola Jokic and the rest of the Nugz.

But the Ben Simmons situation marches on. While Simmons is not yet ready to play in terms of his mental health, it seems like there are still trade talks occurring on some level.

The latest from Sam Amick, of The Athletic:

“But here’s the part that may come as a surprise: A source with knowledge of the list said there are approximately 30 players who would satisfy the Sixers in a Simmons swap, and there’s an internal belief that a fair amount of them — let’s say five to 10 — could become available in the next year or two. And while it might sound like a long list, consider this much: It’s approximately six percent of the league and the rough equivalent to the number of All-Stars selected every season. The framing of the timeline, more than anything else, speaks volumes about the long-term approach the Sixers insist they’re taking.

“This is like a multi-year thing,” a Sixers source said.”

It’s hard to know if Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and the rest of the Sixers’ braintrust would bother to ask for players like Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Morey seems like the type of team president who might include some laughably unobtainable players on his list.

As John Hollinger wrote about Morey when he was with the Rockets:

“They called about trades more than any other team, by a mile. But second, they always started with a sky-high asking price, making borderline absurd offers and then working their way back to something reasonable.”

So that got our Tom West speculating:

“When considering how high Daryl Morey’s asking price has remained throughout this saga, it’s safe to say that there are probably quite a few unrealistic targets on that list of around 30 players. There are plenty of stars who would be great returns for Simmons in a trade, but that doesn’t mean they’re remotely attainable. However, if there are genuinely five to 10 players who would satisfy the Sixers and could be available in the next year or two, as the team believes, that’s more intriguing.”

We (Dave Early and Paul Hudrick) huddled together to tackle the question: who might be on this dang list?

DE: Paul, why don’t you start it up with an off-the-cusp list.

PH: This was actually tougher than I was expecting when you presented this idea, Dave! Getting to 30 players the Sixers’ front office could feasibly view as “All-Star-caliber” — while also making sure they’re a player that fits reasonably next to Joel Embiid — was a tall task. To get there I had to establish a tier of players the Sixers have zero chance of getting, but that they’d of course love to trade Simmons for.

On the list, but no Flipadelphian way it’s happening (in no particular order):

  • LeBron James
  • Kevin Durant
  • Steph Curry
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Luka Dončić
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Trae Young
  • Paul George
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Ja Morant
  • Draymond Green
  • Jrue Holiday
  • Khris Middleton
  • Devin Booker
  • Chris Paul

PH: There are a few players on this list that are in the “no bleeping way” category simply because their teams are championship-caliber. Draymond Green for Simmons is sort of intriguing, but there’s no way in hell Golden State does that with the start they’re off to.

The next tier is made up of players that maybe aren’t impossible, but feel extremely unlikely.

  • Jaylen Brown
  • Donovan Mitchell
  • Jamal Murray
  • Zion Williamson
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

PH: The Celtics were quick to shoot down any possibility of Brown being traded, but things change. I still don’t see it happening, but a Boston implosion could change that outlook. Mitchell doesn’t seem impossible since there’s been friction with Rudy Gobert in the past and the West can humble teams in a hurry, but again, I’d simply put the chances at higher than zero. Maybe Murray’s injury is factor here, though Aaron Gordon and Simmons seem to overlap. Who the hell knows what’s happening with Zion. If for some reason he becomes available, you’d have to imagine Morey sniffs around. SGA just signed an extension, so this would have to wait until the offseason ... which would be difficult for Sixers fans to cope with.

And finally, “somewhat realistic” names.

  • Damian Lillard
  • Bradley Beal
  • Zach LaVine
  • OG Anunoby
  • James Harden
  • De’Aaron Fox
  • Brandon Ingram
  • Darius Garland

PH: Beal, LaVine and Anunoby are mentioned because they’ve been linked to the Sixers in the past, but their teams would likely have to suffer a cataclysmic collapse to grease the wheels on a trade. Lillard and Harden are the two biggest names that seem somewhat possible — though Harden would probably have to be through a sign-and-trade this offseason.

The last three guys I don’t feel great about. People I’ve talked to indicate that the Sixers haven’t been very interested in Fox and reports are the Kings haven’t put him on the table. From a value standpoint, it might be reasonable, so Fox falls in this tier. Someone on our team referred to Ingram as “Gumbo Tobias” which is equally hilarious and accurate. Not sure he’s a perfect fit, but like Fox, makes some sense value wise. If Cleveland wants to go all-in on defense, a trade for Garland could make sense, but I’m not sure either side goes for it.

So, that’s my 30 names. Do I feel great about it? Not really. Maybe there’s a big man like Karl-Anthony Towns that they view as a weird but not crazy fit or a super young guard like Anthony Edwards that doesn’t fit the timeline but is too good to pass up.

What do you think so far, Dave? Would you talk me in or out of any of those names?

DE: That’s a really good list. And the social aggregator sites need to get your scoop about no mutual interest for Fox! Great work. That tiny tidbit has me thinking the following: if Fox (who is quite good) isn’t on this list, and we haven’t heard of much real traction on a deal, then this list probably does include a who’s who of seemingly unobtainable names like Tom sniffed out.

Daryl did pick up a fine for suggesting Steph Curry “join em” in Philly. I’m thinking the Amick report indicates that the Sixers view Simmons as roughly a top 30 talent-contract combination. And they want to make clear they’re looking at the best of the NBA through a multi-year lens. It’s the least they can do to posture for leverage to put that out into the ether.

So I expect most All-Stars to be on there except maybe Russell Westbrook, Mike Conley, Domantas Sabonis, Rudy Gobert mostly for talent/fit and then Kyrie Irving because they just don’t know if he’d play or re-sign later if he did. But I just can’t quit Irving in theory because I’ve seen weirder things happen and he’s that good.

Any name on the list probably has the other team leaning towards “no thanks” at the moment. Otherwise, you would think we might have heard some legit scuttlebutt, no? For example, CJ McCollum probably isn’t on the list at this point. If he was we probably would be knee-deep in credible Simmons-for CJ-swap rumors. But maybe CJ is there “if all else fails plan,” who knows.

From your initial no Flipadelphian way you had 17 names. I’d venture that Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, and maybe Jrue Holiday are not on the wish list due to a combination of talent, age, fit and making room for rising, younger stars.

You brought up the T-Wolves players in KAT and Edwards and I think those two would bump a couple of those aging stars out of our top 30. I’m guessing Cade Cunningham, and perhaps even fellow rooks Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes might get a “yes” from Daryl too despite their trajectory not aligning perfectly with Embiid’s. These names are probably on untouchable lists by their respective squads, but Morey knows he could see how they fit while also keeping the “trade him for Beal later” if the scenario were to arise.

I can imagine a world where the Sixers would give a very quick “yes” to Anthony Edwards, whereas I think the Warriors offering Draymond Green would get a “listen, I gotta run, I’m gonna give you over to Ned Cohen, but let’s keep in touch.”

Here’s my list, asterisks indicate more synergies.

  1. Giannis
  2. Kevin Durant
  3. Luka Dončić
  4. Nikola Jokic
  5. Steph Curry (the “come play with your brother” pitch).
  6. James Harden** (UFA next summer, sign-and-trade option, all he’d have to do is want to come, turn down piles of money, tell KD that Embiid is better and they could make it work next summer).
  7. Damian Lillard** (says he’s been limited with a core injury for several years impacting him today but he’s definitely on the list).
  8. Anthony Davis
  9. Jayson Tatum
  10. Paul George
  11. Jimmy Butler (we truly could have had it all).
  12. Kawhi Leonard (injury concerns, you don’t know at what point might he be fully healthy but he’s Kawhi).
  13. Donovan Mitchell (every team should have their pitch ready to lure the runner up Rookie of the Year, not a ton of synergies but I assume he’s top of mind).
  14. Devin Booker (every team should be making their “surely Chris Paul can’t do this forever” pitch; like Mitchell, has shared CAA as an agency, same with Embiid).
  15. Zion Williamson* (not extended yet, very disgruntled, a weird fit next to Embiid; I think they’d be willing to try it but he’s also the perfect three-team trade dude here, spit-balling Zion to Boston, Brown to Philly, Simmons to the Bayou).
  16. Bradley Beal*** (not yet extended, shares trainer with Embiid and Charles Bassey in Drew Hanlen, in some ways the perfect solution for next summer if they’re only parting with Simmons once Beal was signed, taking away the risk of losing whoever they trade for to free agency months later; the presence of these scenarios, and ones like Harden’s, actually increases the chances we see Simmons held by the Sixers through the trade deadline).
  17. Trae Young
  18. Karl-Anthony Towns* (see Zion, although I do assume Daryl would be open to trying the KAT-Joel pairings too).
  19. Zach LaVine (unlike Harden, both LaVine and Beal can still sign extensions during the season, but they’d be set to earn far more if they don’t, extending next summer; yet all it would take would be for LaVine to say he wants Philly-Philly like Nick Foles once did and it’s feasible either today with tremendous flight risk, or next summer as sign-and-trade).
  20. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (see Jimmy Butler).
  21. Jaylen Brown* (I put an asterisk because there was a rumor but like Paul said, you might need either a cataclysmic event or to involve another big name like Zion or Towns to get them interested).
  22. Brandon Ingram (the dude selected just behind Simmons in 2016 is going to surface in rumors over and over; instead of both teams being thrilled to make this deal, perhaps both would eventually wince and hit the button, despondently).
  23. De’Aaron Fox (seems like he should be on the list but is he? Paul, you make it sound like he’s not. Also, Tyrese Maxey sure has done a lot of what fans might have hoped to see Fox do...another despondent push of the button down the road?)
  24. OG Anunoby (honestly not sure here, guessing he is on the list but Raptors say no...but one to keep an eye on, still amazes me OG fell so far on draft day).
  25. Ja Morant
  26. LaMelo Ball (if you’re willing to put someone as untouchable as Steph Curry on your list, I think you may as well ask for LaMelo, right? He’s not Curry but his team probably values him as their own version).
  27. Anthony Edwards (see LaMelo).
  28. Cade Cunningham (you’d get the top overall pick, worth more than Simmons on the trade market, then keep him or trade him, so he’s gotta make the list).
  29. Jalen Green (see Cade).
  30. Jamal Murray (see Kawhi).
  31. Evan Mobley (?)
  32. Scottie Barnes (?)
  33. Darius Garland (?)

DE: (continued): Shoutouts

Maybe you could find homes on the list for a couple of Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Bam Adebayo (criminally under discussed here, but a quick “no” from Miami), Jrue Holiday, Klay Thompson, Michael Porter Jr. Pascal Siakam, Mikal Bridges, D. Sabonis, Jaren Jackson Jr. Collin Sexton, Tyrese Haliburton, Tyler Herro, Miles Bridges, Jerami Grant, Julius Randle. A couple of those dudes will likely be regarded as untouchable by their teams, the rest the Sixers may not want (yet) for various reasons. Maybe with draft compensation one way or the other a Bridges (zing) gets crossed down the line.

But hopefully we got you at least thinking about who may have made the Sixers’ cut. Apologies if we forgot your favorite player. This list is probably fluid. If Lonzo Ball hits 12 triples in his next outing maybe he bumps someone else.

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