With the NBA draft and free agency approaching, trade buzz is starting to ramp up. For the Philadelphia 76ers, this means plenty of Ben Simmons talk.
On Tuesday, we heard that the Sixers have started trade talks regarding Simmons and have engaged in early discussions with teams around the league, seeking an “All-Star-caliber player” in return. To follow on from this development, we’ve received a few more reports over the last day, adding some extra details to what the Sixers and any potential trade partners could discuss this summer.
Here’s a round-up of what you need to know as we examine how this situation is starting to develop.
Who’s interested in Ben Simmons?
Marc Stein has reported that “numerous teams” want Simmons, and specifically mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings as suitors. Stein added that the Toronto Raptors have “expressed interest” as well.
The Cavs and Pacers have been mentioned before, so it’s not surprising to see them crop up here, especially with reports indicating that Cleveland may be willing to move on from Collin Sexton before he hits free agency in 2022. The Timberwolves want to be active in the trade market this summer and are very interested in Simmons (which I wrote about in more detail here). However, with D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards likely off the table (plus Karl-Anthony Towns, obviously), they aren’t really left with anything to interest the Sixers unless they manage to get a third team involved. The Kings could use a talent injection as they try to move up the Western Conference (they finished 12th this season) and desperately need help defensively after they ranked dead last at that end of the floor this year. Simmons’ elite impact and versatility would be huge for them in that regard.
The Raptors don’t make as much sense, seeing as they already have quality forwards like OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. Plus, trading Simmons for someone like Fred VanVleet wouldn’t give the Sixers the kind of lead playmaking or perimeter creation off the bounce that they ideally need, given VanVleet’s limitations as a driver. Organising a Ben-Simmons-for-Kyle-Lowry sign-and-trade wouldn’t exactly be enough for the Sixers either. As much as Lowry would help with his shooting and sound playmaking, teams don’t just give up someone with Simmons’ value for a free agent, especially one who’s 35 years old and would limit Philly’s window to contend. Nevertheless, Masai Ujiri is the kind of creative executive to make off-the-radar deals and put players in a situation where they can grow in the Raptors’ excellent development system. Ujiri making a few calls is understandable.
Of course, we all know how problematic Ben Simmons’ lack of offensive growth and involvement in the second round of the playoffs has been. But even still, he’s only 24 years old, under contract for four more years, has three All-Star appearances, an All-NBA nod, and two All-Defensive First Team selections. Plenty of teams will call to at least see what the asking price is.
As Stein mentioned in his piece, more teams will emerge. Daryl Morey isn’t going to rush to make a trade or settle before he receives the exact return he wants he either.
De’Aaron Fox is likely off the table
The Kings have been mentioned fairly often by Sixers fans when discussing Ben Simmons trades. Buddy Hield is a popular suggested target, but as much as his high-level, high-volume three-point shooting would help, he wouldn’t offer nearly the level of creation off the dribble or passing that the Sixers need. Hield simply isn’t a lead guard or potential No. 2 next to Joel Embiid, and that’s the kind of player the Sixers need to headline their return if they’re trading Simmons.
This is where De’Aaron Fox is a far more interesting player, given his buzzing speed, slashing ability, knack for getting to the free throw line (7.2 attempts per game this season), and playmaking craft. The main downside with Fox for the Sixers is that he isn’t a very advanced three-point shooter or pull-up threat, despite the improvements he’s made in this area. Compared to guys like Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine, Fox’s shooting just isn’t as threatening to bend defenses from deep in the same way.
Furthermore, Fox doesn’t seem to be available.
Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee has reported that it’s “highly unlikely” Fox is going to be traded:
The potential for a deal is there, but the 76ers are reportedly seeking an All-Star caliber player in return. De’Aaron Fox would probably fit that description, but sources have maintained the Kings are highly unlikely to trade their dynamic 23-year-old point guard. The Sacramento Bee has confirmed the Kings have expressed interest in Simmons, but Fox has not been discussed in any trade talks.
Anderson added in his report that the Sixers could want at least three first-round picks if the Kings were to offer a package focused around Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III:
Sacramento would probably be willing to offer a package that includes Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and one or more future first-round draft picks. One league source recently told The Bee the Kings would have to send a minimum of three first-round picks to the 76ers in a trade constructed around Hield and Bagley. Another source said the 76ers wouldn’t be interested unless Fox or [Tyrese] Haliburton were included in the trade, but Hield’s elite 3-point shooting and Bagley’s unrealized potential could be appealing if a better deal doesn’t materialize.
Sure, more first-round picks would be valuable and could be used in other moves. But unless the Sixers are orchestrating another deal to acquire a better creator or involving a third team, a trade with the Kings that doesn’t at least include Fox (who isn’t an ideal target anyway given his limitations as a shooter) isn’t nearly enough.
Another familiar name has also cropped up in connection with the Sixers again.
Kyle Lowry’s potential interest in Philly
As Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported, Kyle Lowry, who’s hitting free agency this summer, may be interested in heading to Philly:
Even Philadelphia — in possession of more first-round capital than the aforementioned contenders — would currently need to complete a sign-and-trade for Lowry or another high-impact veteran playmaker to join the 76ers. It’s said Lowry would welcome the chance to play for his hometown team, and the veteran floor general has long been a favorite of Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
Besides a Lowry sign-and-trade not being appealing for the reasons I mentioned above if Simmons is involved, it would also be seriously difficult to organise if the Sixers kept Simmons because of their tight salary cap situation (as Bryan Toporek wisely pointed out today). If a sign-and-trade were to bring Lowry to Philly, it would make more sense for multiple teams to be involved. This would allow Simmons to join a team that makes more sense for him than Toronto, while Philly could potentially receive something else in return.
Ultimately, there are better targets than Lowry for the Sixers at this point if they’re moving on from Simmons and looking for a new guard to help lead the offense alongside Joel Embiid.
Danny Green’s free agency
Lastly, a smaller piece of information that’s worth highlighting. In the same offseason piece, Jake Fischer mentioned that Danny Green could also be a sign-and-trade candidate this summer:
Danny Green’s unrestricted free agency has been mentioned by league personnel as another potential sign-and-trade opportunity for Philadelphia, should the veteran desire to play elsewhere. Green was a valued member of Doc Rivers’ rotation, yet there’s an expectation the swingman will draw significant interest from several playoff teams, and his next franchise could feasibly send another rotation piece back to Philadelphia — just like when Miami exchanged Josh Richardson for Jimmy Butler back in 2019.
Green was an important part of the Sixers this season. His size and intelligence on defense combined with his quick-trigger, 40.5 percent three-point shooting and off-ball movement made him an ideal fit on the floor, while his character and leadership was valued by his teammates and coaches all year. Beyond those positives, from a purely financial standpoint, re-signing Green and having him as another medium-sized contract (something the Sixers lack) could be helpful for other trades in the future.
It’s not easy to secure wings who can help in so many areas like Danny Green, even as he approaches the late stages of his career at 34 years old. It would be a nightmare trying to find and afford a better option in free agency. The Sixers should do what they can to keep Green, but if he decides he wants to move on, it’s at least reassuring for the team that they might be able to land something in return for him.