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August 30, 2021

NBA trade rumors: It's 'a matter of when — not if' Sixers deal Ben Simmons

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Ben_Simmons_6_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons.

One of the biggest storylines all NBA offseason has been developing right here in Philadelphia — or Wimbledon, or LA, or wherever Ben Simmons is at the moment — with rumors flying left and right about the Sixers shopping the All-Star guard after another season ended too soon. 

There were Damian Lillard rumors. Bradley Beal was mentioned. There were talks of three-way trades with every asset-hungry team. And there were, of course, even rumors with teams who had nowhere near the pieces to acquire the perennial All-Defensive team player. In recent weeks, however, those rumors have slowed to a silent halt, with the most recent reports being that both sides were preparing to start the season with Simmons in a Sixers uniform.  

The closer it gets to the start of training camp, the more realistic a possibility that becomes, but it also hardly means that Simmons will be with the team for all or even most of the season. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, it's "a matter of when — not if" the Sixers trade Simmons, who the team has apparently been shopping as part of "expansive discussions with several teams" but has yet to reach "the cusp of a deal."

Here's more from Charania:

The 76ers opened up trade conversations around Simmons, the three-time All-Star, in July, but so far their conversations have not reached the cusp of a deal. Philadelphia has conducted expansive discussions with several teams, including Minnesota and Toronto, but neither a Timberwolves package nor the Raptors’ proposals have appealed to the 76ers as of yet. Philadelphia has set a high price threshold for teams to meet in talks for Simmons thus far.

So far, Simmons’ situation remains the same. While the 76ers have told teams they are comfortable bringing Simmons back for the 2021-22 season, rival executives believe it’s only a matter of when — not if — the All-Defensive team stalwart is moved.

For now, all signs continue to point to Simmons’ career in Philadelphia coming to an end.  []

The issue now for the Sixers is that training camp is right around the corner, the team already spent significant time shopping Simmons to the Rockets last year and it appears he has lost the faith of head coach Doc Rivers and the team's MVP, Joel Embiid. And Simmons' side has reportedly said they're ready to move on as well. In other words, bringing him back to practice could get a little awkward, even if the team says it's willing to do just that, as Kyle Neubeck pointed out in his latest mailbag... 

I think a lot of people believe it would be untenable for completely justifiable reasons. Looking at this thing from the outside and a big picture view, everything suggests it will get messy if this situation drags on. There have been numerous reports about the lack of communication between Simmons and important figures with the team, there's reason to believe the relationship with his head coach is icy, and logically, you could understand why Simmons would reject this situation entirely. He's shouldering most of the blame for their early playoff exit and being openly shopped by the team, and while he needs to own his responsibility in their faceplant, I would understand if he's not interested in being the organizational scapegoat.

As a thought exercise, we can entertain the scenario where Simmons either says he's refusing to report or is mentally checked out on the team. Either one is problematic from an on-court perspective, and you could argue it's even worse from a mental/team morale point of view. Players will be asked about it constantly, and what you don't want to have happen is for any opposing factions to form in the locker room. Maybe they're all checked out on him after the refused dunk attempt heard around the world, but I don't think that's the case, and letting the situation linger would open them up for petty squabbling they really don't need.  [MORE]

Still, there shouldn't be a ton of motivation on the Sixers' end to rush this thing — especially if Simmons reports and doesn't seem distracted by the trade chatter. 

For one, Simmons' value likely isn't going to get much lower, and the guard typically plays his best basketball in the middle of the season, right when the team could look to deal him ahead of the trade deadline. Meanwhile, while the Blazers have made some upgrades this offseason, they probably haven't made the type of upgrades that Lillard wanted, the kind that would make them a legit contender. And if the start of the season proves that to be the case, Portland could lose whatever remaining goodwill it had built up with their franchise player.

According to Charania, Lillard is indeed still the main target for Philly... 

The Timberwolves have been motivated to find a deal for Simmons but would likely require a third team given their asset pool of Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels and D’Angelo Russell might not entice the 76ers.

Philadelphia has its eyes set on Portland All-NBA guard Damian Lillard, sources say, but the Trail Blazers have fully focused on continuing to build around Lillard. As of now, Lillard is continuing to evaluate the Trail Blazers’ present and future and is slated to begin training camp with the organization. The 76ers are stuck between deciding whether to make a move now with Simmons — or waiting until a star like Lillard shakes free.  []

Beyond that, other options may present themselves and the Sixers could find a trade partner who has not yet emerged — or a new team could decide to pack it in early and open up a three-way possibility that had not previously been there. All the while, the Sixers proved they could be a successful regular season team with Simmons at the point, meaning as long as the 25-year-old guard doesn't completely check out or, worse, refuse to report, the team should be just fine plugging along and waiting for an upgrade. 

Yes, making a deal now would be ideal, giving whatever new piece(s) they acquire a full camp and regular season to learn the system, get familiar playing with Embiid and more. But this isn't the kind of deal you make hastily. And it seems like the Sixers are now prepared to wait a bit before trading Simmons — but it still very much sounds like he'll be out of here eventually.

At this point, that seems like the best resolution for everyone involved.

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