It’s time for a little Ben Simmons round up. It’s nearly impossible to bring you all of the scuttlebutt that exists because this topic is ongoing, omnipresent, and oppressive. So no doubt, we’ll miss a few key stories here or there that are still very much worth discussing. With that said, let’s spill another gallon of ink on this subject to get you the background you need to carve up your buddies in that next Simmons-trade group chat debate.
“Help me help you” - Jerry McGuire
Joel Embiid is playing at MVP-candidate levels so far this season. Basically, when he’s in the lineup, the Sixers are a handful at 15-8. They’re just 3-8 without him.
Joel Embiid's 15 games since returning from COVID:— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 29, 2021
3.4 assists (2.3 TOs)
Some folks say it would count as a crime against humanity if Dary Morey doesn’t do all he can to help a player this dominant win a title in his prime.
Joel Embiid over his last 5 games:— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 29, 2021
36 PTS - 11 REB - 4 AST
36 PTS - 13 REB - 2 BLK
23 PTS - 10 REB - 2 BLK
41 PTS - 10 REB - 5 BLK
32 PTS - 9 REB - 6 AST pic.twitter.com/D4OxrTeYnt
But who’s available?
“You can have it all. Just not all at once.”- Oprah Winfrey
LeBron James has long regarded Ben Simmons as a little brother, and they both share Rich Paul as an agent. So you know LeBron and Anthony Davis (also with Klutch) would love to bring on another Klutch All-Star in Simmons.
Liberty Baller alum Jake Fischer, now with Bleacher Report, recently joined Silver Screen and Roll’s The Anthony Irwin Show to dish the dirt on a possible Lakers-Sixers blockbuster.
“What I was told was that the Lakers called Philly and they said ‘we’re interested in Ben’...it was a short conversation being that to get there the only salary numbers that can match Ben Simmons’ own expensive salary is A.D. or LeBron or Russell’s....”
“The only way literally to get there contractually is to put in Russell Westbrook. And he’s just not a player- the Sixers have a literal, tangible I don’t know how long it is but it’s somewhere between 24 and 30, a list of players that they would take back for Ben Simmons....but I know that they have these All-Stars that they want and Russell Westbrook is just not one of those guys.”
So who is a player the Sixers want? Fischer named the usual suspects, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA was one player we reported the Sixers had exhibited interest in as well. The Kentucky product’s name keeps popping up more and more lately.
The Philadelphia 76ers are searching for a return package headlined by a player from the ‘Damian Lillard/Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tier’ in a Ben Simmons trade, per @TheSteinLine pic.twitter.com/R88D7EXz5j— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 11, 2021
Fischer added that Westbrook isn’t in the same “stratosphere” as Philly’s true targets. Then he added something we’ve heard from credible folks like Ramona Shelburne, Zach Lowe, and Woj before.
“They don’t want to trade [Simmons] at all,” said Fischer, “like they’d love for Ben to come back and play....I genuinely believe that that’s what they want.”
The takeaway: The Lakers are not going to offer James or Davis and the Sixers wouldn’t even sniff Westbrook. There’s still that prevailing sentiment that the Sixers would prefer Simmons to just suit up and play until one of Lillard or Beal is ready for change.
So where do the Sixers stand on that point? Could they actually convince the former first overall pick to take the towel/cell phone out of his practice sweats and hoop?
“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”- LeBron James
Let’s jump over to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski for the next update.
Woj recently appeared on an ESPN broadcast and offered us fanatics a few measly morsels.
“....I think you’ll see the Sixers start to reengage teams. Certainly [Simmons] is no closer to agreeing to come back to play with the Sixers this season and they don’t have any real traction on a trade yet....You can expect teams who’ve been engaged with Philly previously, Indiana, Sacramento, Minnesota among them, but here’s an interesting team to watch, the Cleveland Cavaliers.... They’e got some really intriguing assets either in a straight deal with Philly or perhaps a three or four-team deal....”
This nugget came before the fifth place Cavs learned the soul crushing news that guard Ricky Rubio suffered a season ending knee injury.
So the Cavs have now lost two back court players in Collin Sexton (meniscus) and Rubio (who tore this same ACL in 2012) for the year with knee injuries. But at 20-14, Cleveland may want to get greedy here and make a playoff push.
ESPN’ Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks did a deep dive on these Cleveland rumors during a recent Hoop Collective pod. What would Marks offer for Simmons if he were running these upstart Cavs?
Marks ventured, having recorded before the Rubio news, “it’s a combination of [Collin] Sexton, [Isaac] Okoro, [Ricky] Rubio and two [first round draft picks], and I don’t know if that gets it done.” Moments later, Windhorst who has history covering Cleveland, added “the [Cavs owner] Dan Gilbert that I know, would go for Ben Simmons.”
The Takeaway: The Cavs were already in play as a landing spot for Simmons before the Rubio news which should only increase their desire to improve. But they don’t seem to have the parts for a two-team deal. So unless Rich Paul can convince his client Darius Garland to demand a trade, this would likely be a multi-team deal as the injured Sexton doesn’t scratch any 2022 itches for Embiid and company. If they’re aiming for next season, they can try to lure bigger fish than Sexton. Cavs big Evan Mobley looks so good that maybe they’d view Jarrett Allen (who’s been awesome) as expendable and ship him to a third team, who’d in turn give Morey the star he covets. That’s more how I’d see it going down. But there’s something here. Cleveland is ripe for a splash.
“The best players will play, that’s the way it will always be.” - Larry Bird
One player that Fischer noted (on more than one occasion) was on that tangible list is Boston Celtics’ wing Jaylen Brown. The former Golden Bear recently seemed frustrated with teammate Al Horford’s postgame comments. And Joel Embiid “liked” this tweet from Keith Smith:
Jaylen Brown was asked about Al Horford's comment that the team is "searching" and "has to look in the mirror".— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) December 28, 2021
Brown said: "Searching and looking in the mirror? Nah. No comment."
Then Brown, dealing with a hamstring issue this season, followed up those disgruntled-seeming comments by making a bit of inauspicious history:
Jaylen Brown shot 13-36 from the field and did not record an assist tonight against the Clippers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 30, 2021
His 36 FGA without a single assist are the most by any player in a game since Antoine Walker shot 21-36 with 0 assists against the Wizards in 1998. pic.twitter.com/JF6wowuviO
So what do you think? Could Morey try to buy low on the Celtics wing?
Takeaway: Joel used some 3-D chess here, “recruiting” Brown on Twitter without making anything explicit. You can guess where the big fella stands on that topic. Zach Lowe recently speculated on a pod that a Boston blowup would more likely be a summer 2022 thing if it happened at all. But he did suggest we keep an eye on the Celtics as an off-the-grid suitor for Simmons, as they struggle to maximize all of their perimeter talent.
“This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” - Kevin Garnett
On Tuesday, The Daily Six founder Derek Bodner joined host Adio Royster and I on the “Out of Sight podcast” and named the Minnesota Timberwolves as one of his likeliest landing spots for Simmons. There’s loads of insight from Bodner about this subject and others so definitely check that pod out.
The Takeaway: The Wolves won’t want to include Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards, and the Sixers are obviously not prepared to take an offer centered around any of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, or Taurean Prince. Like Cleveland, (or Oklahoma City) the Wolves represent a legitimate landing spot, but perhaps not the most likely team to provide Philly the key player they want.
It should be noted that teams with a stretch big (like the T-Wolves’ KAT or Indiana’s Myles Turner) in house make sense since any team acquiring Simmons will want a center who loves to spot up outside the paint in order to fully tap Simmons’ creation ability. While the Cavs or Thunder might say “let’s just bring him in and figure the rest out later” the Wolves or Pacers can more reasonably say “this fits.”
“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” - Elon Musk
The latest Simmons next team odds, per our buddy at Oddschecker.com, Kyle Newman:
It’s interesting to see the Blazers and Knicks at or near the top of that list, and clearly oddsmakers have been persuaded by the recent Cavs smoke. Maybe Rich Paul, based out of Cleveland, even recommended the city to his client, who knows? Ignoring the Nets now that Kyrie Irving is back as a part-time player.
So after scouring the web for Simmons sound bytes, we’re mostly back to where we started. The teams that want Simmons the most don’t have the high-end, go help Embiid this June All-Stars the Sixers truly desire. So the Sixers would much rather Ben just play, help them stack some wins, while hoping someone on their list becomes available. The rub is that Simmons still appears nowhere near return and these Sixers are simply not that good without their only other All-Star in the lineup.
If we had to make some type of forecast we’d probably bet that a deal goes down on Feb. 7, (the days leading towards that Feb. 10th deadline) with Simmons landing someplace like Cleveland, Minnesota, Indiana or Oklahoma. If you said it would be a three or four team deal I think I’d like your chances even more. But we can’t quite rule out this pushing on towards the summer either. Who they get is the bigger mystery.
The Sixers know that you can’t truly expect to win a championship without a franchise player (they have that) plus another All-Star. So what are the chances just one of the 24-30 dudes on their tangible list become available between today and Feb. 10? Morey, Brand, Embiid and we fans have a lot riding on that exact question.