The process of getting former No. 1 pick Ben Simmons a fresh start out of Philadelphia has begun. After an abysmal close to his fifth season with the 76ers that featured him being scared of taking shots in games for fear of costing his top-seeded team with misses from the field and free-throw line, it appears like the time to move on has come.
As the end of June approached, agent Rich Paul opened discussions with Philadelphia president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and head coach Doc Rivers in Chicago as to how to best proceed with Simmons following such a dreadful run. Simmons, who has been an Eastern Conference All-Star this past season, shot 34.2 percent from the free-throw line this postseason, the worst clip in NBA history. It ended up affecting every part of his game unrelated to defense, where he remains one of the league’s most effective players.
The 76ers have said all the right things about wanting to keep Simmons, hoping to work with the effective playmaker and rebounder on his shooting. While that may be true, it’s difficult to believe that Morey, whose analytical approach predicated on shooting led to his rise from a strategical and statistical consultant to positions with the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, and now the 76ers wouldn’t deal Simmons if the right deal came along. He’s got four years remaining on his contract that in which he’s owed over $145 million.
The presumption that Simmons has played his last game in a Philadelphia uniform has created a betting market for where his landing spot will ultimately be. PointsBet Sportsbook has released numbers on what team will end up trading for him, installing Portland as the favorite to strike a deal. Here’s a breakdown of how realistic all the scenarios are:
Portland Trail Blazers +250
The Blazers are attempting to keep Damian Lillard happy and in place after yet another first-round exit, which is why they’re at the top of this list. Would a package revolving around C.J. McCollum be feasible?
Although Lillard and McCollum have formed one of the NBA’s top-scoring combinations for years, Portland hasn’t been able to defend well enough to compete for championships outside of reaching the conference finals in 2019, where they were swept by the Warriors. This season’s disappointment generated the end of head coach Terry Stotts’ nine-year tenure as head coach.
Simmons can defend essentially every position on the floor and help push in transition and take some pressure off Lillard in handling the ball. It would be an interesting fix.
For Philadelphia, bringing in McCollum, who played in Pennsylvania at Lehigh, would provide playmaking and shooting. Another asset or two would have to be part of the deal, but it’s conceivable that this might be one solution for the 76ers’ plight.
Washington Wizards +300
The Wizards are up at this price point because of the presence of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, but this doesn’t appear to be as realistic an option.
Washington just let go of head coach Scott Brooks and has their top guards signed through 2022 and both have player options for the following season. Westbrook and Simmons wouldn’t be a great fit because both are suspect shooters, so they would almost have to be traded for one another. This almost certainly wouldn’t work for Philadelphia due to the perception that the 32-year-old Westbrook’s best days are behind him despite his triple-double assault this past season. I’d pass on Washington being a landing spot.
San Antonio Spurs +450
San Antonio has long-term money tied up in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, who both can handle the ball and play similar positions to Simmons, but it’s hard to imagine the 76ers being happy with either as the primary return on a deal.
Murray is more realistic, but he too has issues with his shooting. Of course, he’s actually a solid free-throw shooter, finishing at a 79 percent clip this past season. If the Spurs would be willing to part with him and some other assets because they want to build around Simmons, this is a somewhat feasible scenario but would be pretty surprising.
Utah Jazz +550
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are untouchable, so I’m not going to spend much time on this scenario since their salaries are the only ones that would match a return for Simmons.
Packaging shooter Bojan Bogdanovic, Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson and glue guy extraordinaire Royce O’Neale would be another option and would provide three great complements to Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, but it would be a pretty wild shake-up for the Jazz to make coming off a season where they finished with the NBA’s best record and reached the conference semifinals.
Gobert and Simmons finished first and second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and you can certainly build a team around them Mitchell and other role players since Mike Conley’s salary is technically coming off the books but this looks like a far-fetched scenario.
Oklahoma City Thunder +550
OKC mastermind Sam Presti just acquired Kemba Walker with the intent of moving him elsewhere, so there’s that. Walker has just finished a tenure with Philadelphia’s rival Boston Celtics but will almost certainly exercise a $37.63 million player option for the 2022-23 season. That’s probably not something the Celtics are interested in pursuing unless they can get multiple first-round picks out of the deal.
The Thunder certainly does have those assets since they have stockpiled picks over the past few seasons in an attempt to strike a deal for the type of player Simmons can become if he fixes jumper ever became available. Presti traded James Harden once upon a time so they do have a history of striking deals, but I don’t see Oklahoma City coming off its top young players, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley. This is an interesting longshot scenario that hinges entirely on whether Presti believes Simmons will ever reach his ceiling.
Golden State Warriors +600
There’s going to be no reunion of brothers Stephen and Seth Curry in Philly and even though Klay Thompson is coming off a second major injury, the other “Splash Brother” isn’t going anywhere. Draymond Green is untouchable too, wired into the fabric of Golden State’s culture.
That leaves Andrew Wiggins, another non-shooter who excels on defense, as the key cog in any Simmons deal. Even though it would get a large salary off the books quicker, I don’t see the 76ers having any interest in this.
Los Angeles Lakers +625
Outside of LeBron James’ tight relationship with Simmons’ agent Paul and the fact that people love to bet on Lakers-related stuff, I’m not certain why L.A. is even included on this list. Anthony Davis and James will be the driving forces here for the foreseeable future and there’s simply no way to land Simmons. If I were betting on this, Portland and Oklahoma City would be my choices for where Simmons ultimately winds up if a deal is struck.