One of the more interesting stories to come out of the NBA bubble that will be a large topic of discussion this offseason is the future of the Philadelphia 76ers. After trusting the process and adding superstar players around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid the 76ers seem to be just short of a title run and right outside the group of realistic title contenders every year. It is no secret that head coach Brett Brown is on the hot seat and that Embiid and Simmons don’t play well with each other. Not to mention that it is hard rely on Embiid and Simmons for a deep playoff run with their injury histories.
Now that Simmons missed the rest of the season after having surgery on his left kneecap, Embiid was tasked with carrying the 76ers through the playoffs all by himself. Though the 76ers were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics, Embiid averaged 26.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, and a block during games where he played significant time without Simmons in the lineup. Those numbers are similar to his overall regular season averages.
This past season Simmons averaged 16.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 2.1 steals a game. During his three games in the bubble he averaged 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a steal a game.
In 2020-21 Simmons will enter the first year of his 5 year $170 Max Extension. He will make $29.25 Million during the 2020 season.
Here are some potential track packages that could entice the 76ers to move Simmons.
Speed up the Rebuild in Cleveland
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr., Dante Exum, 2020 1st Round pick (5th Overall), 2022 1st Round pick Via Milwaukee
When Simmons got hurt within that day Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported that the Cavaliers believe they have an “enticing” package that could land them Ben Simmons. He commented:
“But the Cavs believe they have enough to assemble an enticing package, especially with recent first-rounders littering the roster, a top six pick coming in October and a future first from the Milwaukee Bucks. Those picks, combined with one of the young guys and some salary filler, is a good start. It’s also why the Cavs have spent the first few years of the post-LeBron era stockpiling assets. In any potential trade discussion, the Cavs would cling tightest to Kevin Porter Jr.”
This deal is what Fedor had in mind. It is their past two early first round picks in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, a salary cap filler in Dante Exum, a valuable role player in Larry Nance Jr., and two future first round picks.
Sexton is a combo guard that could get the 76ers at least 20 a night as a starter. Garland is a little more of a project after having an lackluster year one. But Garland was viewed as a top 10 pick because of his upside and shooting ability and the Sixers would like the idea of adding another shooter into their lineup. Exum is a former 5th overall pick, but at this point is just a bench player. If the Sixers are interested in making a midseason addition next season to fuel a playoff run they can package Exum and a pick for a that player. Nance can help fill the Sixers void at power forward. He will almost never be the teams number one option for a night, but there are a lot worse options for Sixers to have at that position.
The Cavaliers first round pick remained in Cleveland because it remained in the top 10, if the team feels that there isn’t a prospect they feel can change their franchise they could package it with some players to get a superstar player like Simmons. The 2022 1st round pick from Milwaukee can be valuable if Giannis Antetokounmpo were to sign elsewhere during the 2021 offseason.
The two players the Cavaliers should try to hold onto is Kevin Porter Jr. and Kevin Love. Porter Jr. looked extremely promising next season and should be viewed as the future of the team, though Garland and Sexton were selected higher than him in their respective drafts. The Cavs have been shopping Love for seemingly forever, because he does not fit the youth movement this team seems to be starting. However if the Cav’s pull a win now move and try to trade for Simmons keeping Love is essential for the teams immediate future.
The big three of Simmons, Love, and Andre Drummond should be enough to earn the Cavaliers between the 6 seed and the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference at least. The three are potential All-Stars next season if they can stay healthy. However the only way the 76ers take this deal is if they are content with a slight regression adding youth to their contending team.
Two former #1 overall picks in New Orleans
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Ben Simmons, Al Horford
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick, Lonzo Ball, 2021 First Round Pick Via L.A. Lakers
Coming into the NBA restart bubble, the New Orleans Pelicans seemed to be the favorite to take the Memphis Grizzlies eight seed. But after some inconsistency in Zion Williamson’s minutes and some lackluster play by some of their star players including Lonzo Ball. The Pelicans were eliminated from playoff contention. On paper they have the roster to make a playoff run in the tough Western Conference, but they might be lacking a piece that will solidify them as a threat in the West for years to come.
In this deal the 76ers would take on part of the log jam that the Pelicans had at the guard positions this year. The upside to taking that on is that the 76ers could choose between Holiday and Ball who they feel would be a better fit at point guard for their roster. Holiday started his career in Philadelphia as a point guard, but has transitioned to an off guard in recent years to take advantage of his shooting ability. Ball has shown flashes why he was the second overall pick in 2017, but has not been able to develop a reliable jump shot or offensive game overall. His biggest appeal is his passing ability. Ball can take on a role as a distributor and let the other starts on the team handle scoring. Redick is also a former 76er, but he was in Philadelphia as recent as last season. In a surprising move the two sides parted ways in the offseason. Redick signed with the Pelicans and the 76ers relied on Josh Richardson, Shake Milton, and rookie Matisse Thybulle at the two guard. Redick would likely return to a similar role that he had with the team prior to signing in New Orleans. The first round pick from Los Angeles would ensure that the 76ers received long term compensation for Simmons services. Holiday, Ball, and Redick could all be off of the 76ers by 2022.
The Pelicans would be trading away their shooting for size. A starting lineup featuring Simmons, Williamson, and Horford would be massive and always the favorite to outbound the other team. Williamson and Simmons would be a star duo that could be the centerpieces of the Pelicans franchise for a long time. Horford is a bonus that gave the Pelicans an insurance policy at center incase Derrick Favor and Jahlil Okafor sign elsewhere. Even if one or both sign back with the team, Horford can be the starting center with elite backup play from Okafor and Jaxon Hayes. While Favors can return to power foward, be the teams sixth man, and be a reliable starter when Williamson sits out. The starting lineup of Ben Simmons, Josh Hart/ Nickel Alexander-Walker, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Al Horford can make the playoffs in the West as soon as next year.
Revisiting an idea from last season
Oklahoma City Thunder: Ben Simmons, Mike Scott
Philadelphia 76ers: Chris Paul, 2023 First Round pick via Miami Heat from Los Angeles Clippers
When speculation first started that Ben Simmons was not a great fit for the 76ers, one potential deal being discussed by the media was a swap Simmons for Chris Paul. At the time Paul had come off of his third season with the Houston Rockets and it didn’t seem to be working. The Rockets made a blockbuster sending the ‘washed up’ Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder with a bunch of draft picks for Russel Westbrook. This season the Thunder shocked the NBA by still being competitive despite trading away their two biggest stars Westbrook and Paul George. The Thunder are the four seed in the Western Conference and will be matched up against the Rockets in the first round.
Despite showing that he is still one of the best point guards in the NBA, CP3 is not in the long term plans for the Thunder who, despite their 40 win season, are in a rebuild. Rather than move Paul for another large contract and more draft picks the Thunder can package him and draft pick for the player for the future like Ben Simmons. The future of the Thunder can be centered around Simmons, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and possibly another superstar signed later. Since Danilo Gallinari is likely to leave in free agency the Thunder can either play Simmons in the backcourt with Gilgeous-Alexander or slot him at power forward, which the 76ers were trying before he got hurt. Mike Scott is simply thrown in as salary cap filler, but can be a veteran off the bench for the Thunder team next season.
Paul would become the point guard that the 76ers need. The 76ers can base their offense around a pick and roll game with Paul and Embiid. Unlike Simmons, Paul can put the ball in the basket from almost anywhere. He can shoot threes and also shoot mid range shots which would take attention away from Embiid under the basket. The 2023 First Round pick acquired from the Paul George deal is a bonus added in because as good as Paul is, he is not a part of the long term future of the 76ers like Simmons would be for the Thunder. This deal would be a win-win for both the organizations involved and would result in better records for both teams.
Get Devin Booker to the playoffs
Phoenix Suns receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Cameron Johnson, 2020 First Round pick (10th Overall)
Even after going 8-0 in the NBA restart the Phoenix Suns just fell short of their first postseason appearance since the 2009-10 season. After inspiring play this season the Suns should not stand pat this offseason and hope this team could develop into a playoff team next season. But instead they should try to acquire another star to compliment Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. In order to win in the Western Conference a team must have at least two established stars on their roster and Ayton isn’t quiet their yet to be Bookers number two.
The Suns have enough young assets to give the 76ers a realistic and impressive offer for Ben Simmons. Ricky Rubio is an extremely solid starting point guard in the NBA that distributes the ball well and could get the best out of the players around him. The Suns can feel comfortable moving Kelly Oubre Jr. and is 18.7 points a game because of the development of Mikal Bridges. They can feel comfortable starting Bridges going forward after having him fill in for Oubre after tearing his meniscus. When Oubre gets healthy he cane start at the three for the 76ers and move Tobias Harris to the four to space out the floor. Cameron Johnson was a bit of a head scratcher when he was taken 11th overall last year since he was projected to be a late lottery pick. But he has played extremely well in Phoenix and became a starter for them early in his career. The Suns can throw him in as a potential future starter for the 76ers and he could be a great shooter off the bench right away.
Most years the Phoenix Suns first round pick would be a lot better, but even after almost making the playoffs the Suns pick landed within the top-10. In this years draft it is unlikely the Suns will take a player with that pick who can be a difference maker right away and push them to the next level. However the 76ers can take a player with that selection with the intentions of developing them into a potential star while they attempt to contend next season with the roster they have.
Pairing Booker with Simmons in the backcourt may be enough to get the Suns into the playoffs next season. They both play extremely different games. Booker can shoot the basket from anywhere and could score 30+ on any given night. While Simmons drives to the basket, gets rebounds, and plays great defense. Since they play so different the two would compliment each other really well if paired up. It also should be noted that Simmons worked with Suns head coach Monty Williams last season when he was the assistant coach in Philadelphia.
Give Pop one last shot at a playoff run
San Antonio Spurs receive: Ben Simmons, Al Horford
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Dejounte Murray, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills, 2020 Second Round pick (41st Overall)
For the first time in 22 seasons the San Antonio Spurs has missed the playoffs. Though head coach Gregg Popovich didn’t make a big deal about it, the NBA community thinks otherwise. It is an end of an era not seeing the Spurs make the playoffs. They have been so dominant for over two decades which is unheard of in the NBA. However after the Kawhi Leonard trade the writing seemed to be on the wall for the Spurs that their era of dominance may be over soon. If the organization gets desperate and feels like they need to make a move in order to remain relevant, they may go after a player like Ben Simmons.
The Spurs and 76ers can offer each other star players that fit better in their starting line ups. Though the Spurs got him an extremely cheap deal, they definitely need to let go of Dejounte Murray if they were to trade for Simmons. Murray is a traditional point guard who would fit better at that position for the 76ers. He may not be the flashiest scorer, but he does a little bit of everything and could slip into their starting line up nicely. Lamarcus Aldridge was a great signing for the Spurs, but at age 35 he is starting to decline. This past season he missed the All-Star game and started to look his age. Also because of a disheveled lineup Aldridge has to play a lot of center, while he is naturally a power forward. If traded to Philadelphia Aldridge can resume play at his natural position and pair up with Joel Embiid in the front court. Patty Mills was been a great bench player for the Spurs since joining the team in 2012. But in this deal he is a cap filler who could be rotated in at point guard for the 76ers off the bench. The Spurs second round pick will be in the early 40’s and could produce a solid player.
Also if the 76ers aren’t attached to Aldridge and Mills their contracts are up after next season which gives them a max contract slot in a year where LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Andre Drummond, and Victor Oladipo hit free agency.
The Spurs would receive Simmons who would become their number one player and center of their team and future. They also get Al Horford who is a legitimate center who struggled making the transition to power forward last season in Philadelphia. If this trade goes through the Spurs starting lineup could be Simmons, Demar DeRozan, Keldon Johnson, Rudy Gay, and Al Horford. The roster may not be star studded but it fits a lot better and is extremely coachable by Popovich. This lineup may be enough for the Spurs to return to the playoffs next season.
Three Team Mega Blockbuster
Utah Jazz receive: Ben Simmons, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward
Boston Celtics receive: Rudy Golbert
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, 2020 First Round pick via Memphis from Boston (14th Overall), 2022 First Round pick via Utah Jazz, 2025 First Round pick via Utah Jazz (Top 10 Protected)
Whenever a major superstar is on the trade block there is usually a 3+ team blockbuster deal that gets discussed on how to move a superstar or sometimes two. This three team deal makes a lot of sense for the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers for a lot of reasons. The 76ers are likely going to try to move Ben Simmons because of fit. The Utah Jazz will likely have to move Rudy Golbert because of chemistry issues between him and Donovan Mitchell. While the Boston Celtics will always try to get better, regardless of how they finish the season.
If this past season is taken away Mike Conley is considered one of the best point guard in the NBA. In his prime he was an All-Star caliber point guard, but he played in a western conference filled with talented point guards. If he were to return to how he played during the 2018-19 season, he would be a top-5 point guard in the Eastern Conference. If he doesn’t return to form, the 76ers get $34.5 million in cap space when he hits free agency. Bojan Bogdanovic would space out the floor by becoming the teams starting three moving Tobias Harris back to the four. Both are lethal shooter that would open the floor for pick and role by Mike Conley and Joel Embiid. Ed Davis is a cap filler with upside. He’s been a solid bench player until last season, possibly a change in scenery can get him back to form. The Memphis pick remained at 14th overall after the draft lottery which would be given to Philadelphia from Boston if it lands there. The other Jazz draft picks are added in because Simmons is a lot more valuable than Conley after last season.
After the dysfunction last season in Utah they need to hit the slight reset button. the Mike Conley experiment didn’t work last year and the team may be forced to chose between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Golbert. Golbert is entering a contract year and Mitchell is more valuable to the teams future. So they swap out Mitchell and Golbert for Simmons and Horford. Simmons and Mitchell would be a top 3 back court in the Western Conference. While Horford is a veteran center who may be a downgrade from Golbert defensively, but is a former All-Star that could regain from the season prior as a teams starting center. Gordon Hayward was an All-Star in 2017 during his last year in Utah. However after breaking his leg in Boston he has not been the same. The team might be interested in reacquiring Hayward hopefully returning him to the player he once was.
Boston may be the biggest winner in this deal, because they swap out a bloated Gordon Hayward contract for a huge position of need which is center. Hayward didn’t fit the Celtics lineup, especially after drafting Jason Tatum and was rarely in the starting lineup. But after Al Horford left in free agency, a gaping void was left at center that Enes Kanter could not fill. The Memphis Grizzlies draft pick is not as valuable as many thought it would be after they clinched the nine seed in the east and could get packaged with a player like Hayward to acquire a center. Golbert would be an major upgrade and could be the final piece that gets the Celtics to a championship. After acquiring Golbert Joel Embiid, Jarrett Allen, and Myles Turner will be neutralized by the Celtics come playoff time.
The 76ers starting lineup next season would be Conley, Milton/Richardson/Thybulle, Bogdonovic, Harris, and Embiid. That lineup may produce the best season the league has seen of Joel Embiid yet. The Utah Jazz starting lineup would be Simmons, Mitchell, Hayward, Ingles, and Horford. That lineup may be good enough to contend in the Western Conference and be seen as legitimate contenders next season. Finally the Boston Celtics lineup would be Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, Rudy Golbert. That Celtics lineup could win a championship as soon as next season.