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June 28, 2021

Sixers mailbag: Ben Simmons trade scenarios, his current value, and a potential position change

Plus, which member of the team would win MasterChef?

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Ben_Simmons_3_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Sixers guard Ben Simmons.

Hello and welcome the "Kyle Goes On Vacation" edition of the Sixers mailbag, which received so many questions that we could actually stretch this out across multiple posts throughout the week. I am enjoying some unexpected downtime all week thanks to Philly's big-time choke, but the content must continue.

As always, additional questions can be posed in the comments, via email, on Twitter, or by passenger pigeon if you can find me. Hope you're all having a better, more relaxing week this week.

(If you don't see your question below, don't worry. We'll have another mailbag later this week.)

I think Ben's value is ultimately going to settle somewhere between the extremes. The fans who believe he's ultimately going to get them Damian Lillard are probably going to be left unhappy. The people who think they should move him for whatever pu pu platter of picks they can get for him are just as misguided, though, and I think you can still aim high.

To me, the high-end of the market is probably someone like Zach LaVine. He is certainly not a perfect player, with defensive warts of all kinds, but he is a dynamic offensive player who would make life easier on Joel Embiid and take some creative and shotmaking burden off of Tobias Harris' shoulders. And there are reasons on both sides of the deal to consider making it happen.

On Chicago's end, you're staring down the possibility of paying LaVine next summer, which you may not want to do given the lack of team success they've had with him as a lead guy so far. You're worried that a pairing that includes new acquisition Nikola Vucevic is just not good enough on defense to get it done. So you turn that into a hyper-versatile defender who can playmake and benefit from Vucevic's floor-spacing ability at the five, buying yourself security with Simmons' long-term contract and a player the front office is familiar with. Bulls GM Marc Eversley is a former Sixers guy, and ostensibly knows more than enough to know what they're getting.

The benefits are obvious for Philly. They get a guy who can create his own shot and hit from all over the floor, protect his defensive warts with Embiid cleaning things up on the back end, and see what things look like for Embiid once he has better spacing all of the time. LaVine shot a blistering 41.9 percent from three on over eight attempts per game, more impressive when you consider how many of those were pull-up jumpers.

Philly would almost certainly need to find an actual point guard to round out the lineup — LaVine is merely okay as a playmaker — but they would be able to remain fairly young (LaVine is just 26) while still trying to compete in the short term.

Is it the slam-dunk star fans wanted, or Philly could have had if they moved Simmons earlier? No, but I think LaVine is a very good and still fairly realistic option.

Trades involving high draft picks only feel feasible to me if they are immediately being used as part of a multi-team deal. The Sixers simply cannot afford to flip Simmons for high draft picks, even in a well-regarded draft, without a corresponding move that follows.

This is something I talked about when discussing the possibility of a Warriors deal last week, and I do think a multi-team deal of this sort might end up being what the Sixers need in order to get the type of return they want. A Simmons-for-star direct trade feels pretty difficult to make happen at this juncture, since most teams who would really want him likely want to throw him on the floor as a secondary player next to the established perimeter star Philly covets.

Is it impossible? No, don't rule anything out. But it feels exceedingly unlikely.

I wouldn't be so bold as to claim it will have no impact, but moving Simmons to a forward spot (at least on this roster) doesn't feel like as transformative a move to me as it does to other people. You ultimately need to answer the same question — how do you structure an offense that isn't hampered by teams ignoring Simmons as a perimeter scorer? And how do you do that on a team whose best player is a post-up center?

It's not as though the Sixers have sat on their hands waiting for Simmons to come good. Embiid routinely steps out to the three-point line to space the floor and give Simmons room to operate. The Sixers have traded for guards and wings, young and old, in an attempt to move him off-ball and get around the problem. Teams are not going to defend him any differently if he is a forward — they're already using power forward types on him regardless, with Atlanta cycling through John Collins and Danilo Gallinari to check him in their round two loss.

The other half of this is moving Harris for a combo guard/playmaker who can actually make an impact, and I personally struggle to see how you do that. Part of the reason you're considering a Simmons trade is because even in his diminished state, he still has more value on the open market than Harris, whose contract and own postseason struggles put a cap on whatever you can expect back. Swapping Harris out for an expensive and/or average-ish perimeter playmaker is likely not going to make you any better. In fact, without a wing who can hunt mismatches and score with regularity, you could end up with even worse problems. Somebody has to replace the production, and Simmons has shown you he's not the guy to assume a bigger scoring load.

Again, it could make a difference. Maybe you could get Embiid some corner three looks with Simmons running a 1-4 P&R with this guard to be named later. I just don't see what the endgame is for this sort of arrangement unless you get an absolute killer at guard, and they would need a small miracle to find that guy with their current pool of resources.

I guess this depends on exactly how high you are on the Cavs' guards and how low you are on Simmons rebounding. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland look like promising young players, but asking either to make the leap from "fun player on a bad team" to "lead playmaker on a title contender" is a huge ask. Garland was absolutely killing a lot of people down the stretch of this season, and Sexton has gotten better every year for Cleveland, improving his overall efficiency and playmaking while assuming a bigger burden as a scorer. I would just be skeptical of how quickly that can translate to a team looking to win and centered around Joel Embiid.

I'm not sure either guy is good enough at enough things to be the highlight of a Simmons package. If you could combine Garland's flashier handle and superior playmaking ability with Sexton's scoring ability, that'd be an ideal fit with the roster they'd join. But I don't think you can wait to see if Garland hits the next level as a scorer, or for Sexton to create as many shots for teammates as he'd need to.

There's also the salary-matching issue, one that will make picking up Kevin Love a borderline requirement to get this done. You could spin that into a positive if you want — a rejuvenated Love would give you shooting off of the bench and some versatility in the frontcourt depending on how the rest of your roster fills out, and he could give Embiid another outlet in the minutes they share. But he's also a pretty uninspired defender, a constant injury risk, and making a boatload of money at a position where the Sixers already have a lot of resources tied up.

I think it's hard to put a price on what Lillard means to Portland, and I think if he gets to the point where he wants out, where he wants to go matters as much as what you can offer. I don't think Simmons is necessarily the guy to lead a Lillard package right now, but that might ultimately be meaningless if Lillard has his eyes set on another team in another market. My suspicion is that Lillard is going to get where he wants to go one way or another.

Is that Philadelphia? Maybe. But he's a West Coast guy through and through, and if the Sixers don't start threatening more seriously than they have in recent years, I don't think the guy who takes pride in seeing things through on his own is going to change his mind in order to join another flawed contender. If (and perhaps when) he pivots to ring-chasing mode, he's going to give himself the best chance possible to win.

(By the way, something we rarely discuss but is worth mentioning: are we sure guys want to play with Embiid in this spread-out, perimeter-heavy era? Maybe his leap to near-MVP status will make him a bigger draw now than ever, and I supposed Harden did say he wanted to come to Philly...alright I talked myself out of this point already.)

I assume the veterans on this team are better cooks than the young guys, who almost certainly either eat like trash or haven't refined their culinary skills yet. If Dwight Howard hasn't learned to cook by now, I am not too bullish on his ability to do so in the years to come.

Let's say the answer is Mike Scott. He grew up in a military family, so there were probably stretches of time where the kids in the Scott household had to polish their skills and step into a parent's role growing up.

I will say this as well and leave the analysis of said statement up to you — I can tell you with certainty that Tobias Harris has good taste in Philadelphia-area eateries.

This specific scenario seems pretty unlikely. The sort of teams who are willing/able to absorb Simmons into cap space in exchange for picks are bad teams in markets that I would almost guarantee Simmons and his representation do not want him moved to. For example, if the Thunder wanted to make a godfather picks offer for Simmons, it feels unlikely that OKC is where Simmons and/or Rich Paul want him to be. And even then, OKC has to get there first — they have an ungodly amount of cap holds to sort through first.

Even if they could finesse that sort of move, you would have to know with absolute certainty through some backdoor politicking that a big star was coming in free agency or available to you for a big picks package following the Simmons move. Trading Simmons for nothing more than picks and young talent is a good way to ensure Embiid is pissed off in the short-term.

Moving Simmons to improve the team and fit is one thing. Risking it all on free agency, where Philadelphia almost always struggles to land top talent, would be pretty crazy.

Brogdon is good, and he's the sort of player who could form a mutually-beneficial partnership with a guy like Embiid. The attention Embiid would draw in the post would free Brogdon up for more catch-and-shoot looks, where Brogdon is absolutely lights out — he made 44.4% of his catch-and-shoot attempts in Indiana last season on pretty high volume. And Brogdon has certainly done well for himself running pick-and-roll with Domantas Sabonis in Indiana, which he would hopefully be able to translate playing with a different sort of big in Embiid.

That said, I think I'm quite a bit more skeptical on him in Philly than most, especially as a Simmons replacement. Brogdon is sturdy in just about every area, but his lack of dynamism off-the-bounce puts a cap on his playmaking and really hampers him as an at-rim attacker. Brogdon rarely gets to the free-throw line, something that was true as a secondary player in Milwaukee and as a leader with the Pacers, and he has not been a good finisher around the basket during his career. Brogdon had an uptick in that department post All-Star last season, but I wouldn't necessarily bank on that as a long-term step forward.

Ideally, you want someone stepping into the point guard role who can either put serious pressure on the rim or suck defenders out to them with off-the-dribble shooting. Brogdon does not really qualify on either front, and he has always felt like a guy who'd be better as an additive piece to the current group. If Indiana was interested in Harris, I'd be much more interested in swapping him out and seeing if the Sixers can make a Brogdon-Simmons-Embiid trio work.

I don't know that Porter Jr.'s value would have dropped at all during these playoffs, mainly because this was a year of ascent for him. His role expanded considerably this season, and Porter Jr. actually improved his efficiency despite nearly doubling his minutes and his shot attempts in year two on the floor. Not only that, he was absolutely terrific in Denver's opening round series against the Portland Trailblazers, playing a role in a series win that was honestly sort of an upset given Denver's health.

Porter Jr. simply doesn't have the repeated string of faceplants that Simmons does, which isn't to say he can't get there. It's always fair to be skeptical of guys who can't defend in the playoffs, though I think these playoffs have had plenty of examples of how to hide guys (or at least live with their flaws) if they are good enough on offense.

If anything, the thing that would bring Porter Jr.'s value into question is the back tweak at the start of the Phoenix series, which will inspire doom and gloom based on his health history, or his lack of playmaking ability with a reasonably high usage.

I'll tell you this much — Daryl Morey is not just going to dump Ben Simmons for the sake of doing so.

I am very excited for Deathloop, mostly because I think Arkane is a fantastic developer that makes games unlike most other AAA games on the market. I'm curious to see if they can build a game that is still as satisfying as Prey or Dishonored when the gunplay is more essential. I love their world-building and storytelling, but the mechanics can feel a bit heavy at times relative to some competitors.

The new Metroid game coming out in October and Back 4 Blood (which I suppose is a rebranded version/continuation of Left 4 Dead) also figure to be fixtures in the rotation when they release this fall. Most of the time, the games I end up really sinking my teeth into these days are the "one more run" type games like Hades, where you end up burning considerable time in them even if individual runs are short-ish.

Honestly though, video games have been on the back burner for me between work and trying to see everyone I wasn't able to during the extended COVID social break we were on for a while there.


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