Buzz around the Ben Simmons situation has picked up in recent days. We heard on Friday that trade conversations were gathering momentum, and now we have a slight update from The Athletic’s Shams Charania regarding the latest list of teams interested in trading for Simmons.
According to Charania, the Knicks and Lakers both have interest now, joining a group of teams that we’ve been hearing about for months as possible suitors:
The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers are among the teams interested in Simmons, sources said, although it’s unclear how much traction Philadelphia truly has on any move.
The Lakers are an interesting team to join the mix, but it’s hard to see this being much more than them doing their due diligence with Simmons’ availability and value. In this unlikely scenario, the Lakers would have to move one of their big three contracts (most likely by sending Russell Westbrook to a third team) to make things work financially and significantly reshape their team, all to add a player in Simmons who hardly fits well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as another player who needs the ball a lot to be effective and would offer absolutely zero spacing.
The Lakers simply aren’t that good right now, and their 15-13 record and 23rd-ranked offense reflect that. Going out of their way to land Simmons wouldn’t exactly turn their roster into one built to succeed around LeBron in the playoffs.
The Knicks are another team that have been struggling this season. At just 12-15 with the league’s 17th-ranked offense and a defensive rating that’s fallen all the way to 25th (after ranking 4th last season), they’re down in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have some interesting young talent, but they don’t have the kind of star creator that the Sixers are set on acquiring. Ultimately, significant value would surely need to be coming to the Sixers from a third team in a trade. And again, Simmons isn’t an easy fit with the team’s star, Julius Randle, another player who needs to have plenty of control of the ball to be maximized.
Charania reiterated in his report that the Sixers are still asking teams for “an All-Star-caliber player and/or multiple first-round draft picks” in return for Simmons.
Of course, the key date this week when we can expect more rumors to start heating up is Wednesday, Dec. 15, when free agents who signed deals in the offseason are eligible to be traded. Even though some of these players may not be to the Sixers’ interest and won’t be coming to Philly in a trade, this increase of players on the trade market can make it easier to match salaries and make things work in multi-team deals.
Lastly, another name that plenty of NBA fans have discussed in trade machine chatter is Kyrie Irving, given the Nets’ push for a championship and Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated and make himself able to play. Well, in Charania’s latest piece, he noted that there is “renewed optimism” about Irving potentially returning to play for Brooklyn:
It remains unclear whether Irving’s potential return this season would come via vaccination to meet New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement or by Brooklyn opening the door for him to play road games and practice at home, but sources have indicated a renewed belief that Irving could play this season after all. Nets players and coaches want to have Irving rejoin the team as soon as possible.
Irving’s return to play would reinforce the Nets as a truly dangerous title contender — they’re already rolling along with a 19-8 record at the top of the Eastern Conference. Even if the Sixers can land a quality player(s) in return for Simmons, they’d still have another potential playoff roadblock in the full-strength Nets to try to get past.
There still needs to be a major change for Irving to return and be able to play in home games, though. The Nets have maintained the stance that if Irving is going to be active, he needs to be fully committed to the team by playing in all games. For now, there’s still no new indication that Irving is willing to be vaccinated yet, and Charania added in his report that there are no plans for New York City to lift its vaccine requirement.