Although no request has been made, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski in late June that the team and its young star — Simmons is represented by Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul — are expected to continue talking into the free-agency period, which begins Monday at 6 p.m. ET.
Should 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey swing a deal now and trade the 25-year-old three-time All-Star, or should the franchise wait until the start of the 2021-22 season? What types of moves are available that will improve Philadelphia’s roster after a disappointing second-round playoff upset?
Simmons goes to Sacramento
Marvin Bagley III
Morey has been looking for a king’s ransom in exchange for Simmons, and he gets one here. Haliburton is another big point guard who is coming off a strong rookie campaign and would be a core player who could fit immediately into Simmons’ starting role. Hield’s outstanding long-range shooting would give the 76ers a different dimension as they try again to leap to the championship-level tier.
Hield and Seth Curry on the court simultaneously, getting open shots created by the defensive attention drawn by Joel Embiid, is a scary thought. Bagley was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft just three years ago, and if he can shed his injury-prone label, he still has a mountain of potential.
The Kings have been widely rumored to be shopping Hield and Bagley this offseason. (Hield nearly went to the Lakers before they traded for Russell Westbrook ahead of the draft.)
Haliburton is an outstanding young player, but Simmons has legitimate, achievable All-NBA upside and, at 25, could become a long-term centerpiece of the franchise. Simmons could also fit with De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento’s other main pillar, by moving to more of a frontcourt role and anchoring the defense while providing the secondary playmaker role on offense.
Giving Simmons a fresh start in a new market, and playing next to Fox, could allow him to finally reach his awesome potential.
— André Snellings
The superstar swap with Portland
Trail Blazers get:
Two first-round picks
If Morey and coach Doc Rivers want to maximize Joel Embiid’s championship window, this is the deal they need to make. Sure, there are plenty of trades that can net All-Star-caliber players, depth and/or future assets. But if they’re going to try to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, they need to swing for the fences and grab a top-10 player to pair with Embiid. This would make the Sixers one of only a handful of teams with two legit MVP candidates on their roster. It would place them right near the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy. Plus, with Dame Time on the team, you know where the ball is going at the end of games.
I know Portland is not keen on the idea of parting with Lillard. However, I still believe Simmons is a franchise-type player. He would still be surrounded by a good supporting cast that includes McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Simmons is an excellent distributor and definitely improves the Blazers’ porous defense (they ranked 29th last season). Maxey is a young player with plenty of upside who got invaluable experience playing in the playoffs last season. Not to mention, Portland would add two first-round picks to help bolster the roster either via the draft or trade.
— Jorge Sedano
Simmons and Lillard pair up
Trail Blazers get:
Protected first-round pick
Morey is shooting much higher than this, as Lillard is the player he wants if the 76ers send Simmons to Portland. At some point, however, Morey will need to stop pretending that Simmons is valued as a superstar in his prime and not as an All-Star with significant flaws.
McCollum has never been an All-Star, but he might realistically be the best player Philadelphia can get in return for Simmons at this point. He’s averaged an efficient 21.8 points and 3.8 assists in six seasons since becoming a full-time starter, and with his skill set, he should be able to thrive playing off of Embiid with the Sixers. He also averaged 22.8 points per game in the playoffs during that span, and as much as Dame Time dominates the headlines, McCollum has proved himself as a willing and able clutch shot-maker.
Little, 21, a late first-rounder two years ago, is a talented project on a rookie deal. My suggestion is to model the pick protection after the pick the Wizards gave up for Russell Westbrook (and was rerouted via the Rockets to the Thunder on this year’s draft night): lottery protected in 2023, top 12 in 2024, top 10 in 2025 and top eight in 2026, becoming a pair of seconds if not conveyed by then.
The Blazers are in a rough spot of needing to upgrade the roster to keep Lillard content with staying in Portland — with the risk of a big move still not being enough to prevent the face of the franchise from eventually asking out. That’s a harsh reality the Rockets recently lived with James Harden, forcing them into a full-fledged rebuilding project after his partnership with Westbrook fizzled quickly.
Dealing for Simmons without giving up a ton of draft capital would allow the Blazers to hedge their bet.
Simmons could be a phenomenal co-star for Lillard, serving as a hyper-talented Draymond Green to the Portland star’s Stephen Curry. Imagine that duo running pick-and-rolls 30-plus feet from the hoop, the gravity from Lillard’s ridiculous shooting range often putting Simmons in position to catch the ball going downhill and attack defenses with a 4-on-3 advantage. Simmons, a stopper who can guard any position, would also give the Blazers a chance to finally fix their defense.
If the Blazers can’t contend — and keep Lillard — the 25-year-old Simmons would at least be one significant piece for Portland’s rebuilding project.
— Tim MacMahon
Chicago feels bullish on Simmons
If anything has been made clear over the past several weeks, it is that there is a significant gulf between the public perception of Simmons and his trade value around the NBA. After a particularly rough playoffs — including the infamous moment in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals when he passed up a wide-open dunk — the Sixers find themselves in a position where they’d like to move on from Simmons but will only do so for a reasonable return for a 25-year-old three-time All-Star.
So what is that return?
Well, the most logical deal on the board, ever since the idea of trading Simmons has come up, is not to move him for Portland’s McCollum, as has often been suggested. Instead, it is to send him to Chicago for another mid-20s All-Star-level player in LaVine, as well as a useful combo guard in Satoransky.
LaVine isn’t a perfect player by any stretch — particularly defensively — but if there’s any team that can make up for those deficiencies, it is Philadelphia, which can surround him with above-average or better players at that end at just about every position, including arguably the league’s most dominant interior threat in Embiid. But it’s at the other end where LaVine, who shot better than 50% from the field and 41.9% from 3-point range last year in Chicago, would do wonders for a Sixers offense that never ceases to get stuck in quagmires trying to navigate its awkward fits across the court.
Chicago, meanwhile, offers the best opportunity for Simmons to maximize his talents, with a partnership with All-Star center Nikola Vucevic — one of the best shooting big men in the NBA — precisely the kind of tandem that would allow Simmons to accentuate his speed, size and skill set in getting downhill to the rim to either score for himself or create for others.
And, with the Bulls fully committed to winning now after trading two first-round picks for Vucevic, acquiring Simmons — who is under contract for the next four seasons — would give them some cost certainty that they don’t have with LaVine, who is a year away from free agency. LaVine, meanwhile, would undoubtedly welcome the chance to play on a contender in Philadelphia after never coming close to sniffing the playoffs in his first seven NBA seasons.
The boost on offense would allow Philadelphia to remain firmly in the hunt in the East, while the Bulls — if they can unlock Simmons — would actually have a better chance of finally getting back into the playoff mix themselves than if they just hang on to LaVine with their current roster.
— Tim Bontemps
Minnesota creates a Big Three of No. 1 picks
2022 protected first-round pick (top-3 protected in 22, top-2 protected in 23 and unprotected in 2024)
2024 protected first-round pick (two years after the 2022 first is conveyed — top-5 protected, top-3 protected and top-1 protected)
This is not the “grandfather” of an offer that Morey was holding out for, but it is the best available trade package that will come his way.
The trade with Minnesota for Simmons checks the boxes on what Philadelphia is hoping to accomplish. Philadelphia receives an All-Star-caliber point guard back in Russell, shooting off the bench in Beasley and two potential lottery picks.
Despite missing 49 games the past two seasons with various injuries, Russell still averaged 20 points and six assists. In 37 games last season, Beasley averaged 19.5 points and shot 40% from 3-point range. Russell is under contract through the 2022-23 season and Beasley through 2023-24. The 76ers would still remain one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference even with Simmons not on the roster.
This would be considered a swing-for-the-fence type of trade for Minnesota considering the package sent out, but keep in mind that Simmons is under contract for the next four seasons. If Simmons were a free agent, it would be unlikely that the Timberwolves would be on the top of his wish list of teams to sign with, but the grouping of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and Simmons — all former No. 1 overall picks — would leave the Timberwolves with three franchise-level players.
— Bobby Marks
Deal or no deal, Daryl?
If I were in Morey’s position, I wouldn’t seriously consider a Simmons trade until the situations of Bradley Beal in Washington and Lillard in Portland are resolved. Morey’s M.O. is hunting for stars, and dealing one in Simmons for less talented players who fit better doesn’t follow that model.
Let’s consider that players like Simmons almost never get traded. He’s a three-time All-Star before the age of 25 with one All-NBA appearance to his credit. Only one other player in modern history previously chosen for multiple All-Star Games has been traded at such a young age: Kyrie Irving when he asked out of Cleveland.
Certainly, Simmons’ invisible fourth quarters in the 76ers’ playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks put pressure on them to do something different by the postseason. But the trade deadline is still nearly seven months away, and Philadelphia will have a lot more information by then both about whether Simmons can evolve at all as a shooter and whether Beal or Lillard are on their way out of their respective situations.
Granted, even if Beal or Lillard does want out, those teams might not be interested in Simmons as the centerpiece of a deal for their stars. Most likely, however, the kinds of packages of lesser players and draft picks or prospects proposed here will still be available midseason, allowing the Sixers to work on trades with multiple teams to satisfy everyone’s needs.
The big potential downside to keeping Simmons is that his trade value further erodes with a poor start to the 2021-22 season. I’d be surprised by that. The kind of slow-paced, half-court game in which Simmons is weakest is less common in the regular season, when he can create more offense in transition. The 34% free throw shooting we saw from Simmons in the playoffs was also way out of line with his career mark of 60%, which is closer to Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s past two seasons (66%) than Shaquille O’Neal’s career mark (52%).
I’m less concerned that bringing Simmons to training camp will undermine Philadelphia’s season. This is a league in which Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell went from a relationship that didn’t appear salvageable to the NBA’s best record in barely 12 months.
Talent wins in the NBA. In Simmons, the Sixers already have more of it than they can get in a trade.
— Kevin Pelton
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