The Ben Simmons drama continues.
On opening day of the 2021-22 season, news broke that 76ers coach Doc Rivers had thrown the three-time All-Star out of practice and that Simmons had been suspended for Philadelphia’s season opener against New Orleans. What happened? ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Simmons “declined several times to sub into a drill,” adding that his “reluctance to physically and mentally engage” with the 76ers has been a consistent theme since he has returned to the team.
Simmons then missed a scheduled individual workout on Thursday, telling the team’s staff that he was dealing with tightness in his back. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Simmons will miss Friday’s game against the Nets and is “currently not mentally ready to play for the team.”
It’s no secret at this point that the 76ers have discussed potential Simmons trades with teams and are looking for a lot in return. It’s also no secret that Simmons would like a fresh start.
It doesn’t appear as though a trade is coming soon, but there are a few teams that have reportedly shown interest in Simmons since he became available and are positioned to make a move for him.
Ben Simmons contract
The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Simmons signed a five-year, $170 million extension with the 76ers in 2019. His current contract, which doesn’t include a player option or team option, takes him through the 2024-25 season, setting him up to be an unrestricted free agent in the 2025 offseason. According to Spotrac, Simmons is set to make $33.0 million in 2021-22, $35.5 million in 2022-23, $37.9 million in 2023-24 and $40.3 million in 2024-25.
Wojnarowski reported that the 76ers won’t move Simmons for role players. Their goal is to find someone who will “help keep them a championship contender.”
The 76ers finished the 2020-21 season with the best record in the Eastern Conference, eventually losing to the Hawks in seven games in the second round. They’re built around one of the league’s best players in Joel Embiid, a two-way force who finished runner-up in MVP voting last season.
Ben Simmons best potential trade destinations
What’s been said: Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee reported back in August that the Kings had “shown interest” in Simmons. More recently, The Athletic’s David Aldridge reported that Simmons would have “no problem going to Sacramento.”
The fit: The Kings finished with the worst defensive rating in the NBA last season, so adding arguably the best defender in the league makes a lot of sense. Simmons would give them a much-needed boost on that end of the court. His fit offensively would depend on which players Sacramento would send to Philadelphia, but Simmons would give a Kings team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 15 seasons an established star to build around.
What it would take: There are a couple of ways this could go. De’Aaron Fox is the closest thing to a star on Sacramento’s roster right now, but the Kings have reportedly “made it clear” that he would not be included in a possible Simmons deal. (Tyrese Haliburton is off the table as well, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick). Option No. 2 is building a package around Buddy Hield. Though he’s not a star, Hield is an elite 3-point shooter. His shooting would complement Embiid nicely on offense.
What’s been said: Marc Stein mentioned the Timberwolves as one of the “most determined suitors for Simmons.”
The fit: It’s hard to think of a star who would pair better with Simmons than Karl-Anthony Towns. Defensively, Towns would benefit greatly from playing next to one of the most disruptive and versatile defenders in the league, someone who can legitimately guard four positions. Offensively, Towns is the type of shooter who would be able to open the floor up for what Simmons does best. Simmons and Anthony Edwards would also have the potential to be a dynamic one-two punch in the backcourt.
What it would take: There’s a package built around D’Angelo Russell that could make sense for both sides, but The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski has said that the Timberwolves would “rather not” trade Russell. It should come as no surprise that all the reporting points to Towns and Edwards being off limits, so a third team would almost certainly have to get involved to make the Timberwolves a possibility.
Portland Trail Blazers
What’s been said: The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Trail Blazers turned down a potential package from the 76ers revolving around Simmons and CJ McCollum that included three first-round picks and three draft swaps.
The fit: The Trail Blazers weren’t much better defensively than the Kings last season, so they’d also benefit from Simmons wreaking havoc on that end of the court. On the other end, Damian Lillard is the type of player who could unlock Simmons’ off-ball potential. Even if the Trail Blazers would have to give up some offensive firepower to acquire Simmons, he could give them the balance they need to break through in the Western Conference.
What it would take: Marc Stein reported a while ago that 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey “longs for” Lillard. There was a brief period in the offseason in which it appeared as though a Lillard trade demand was coming, but he’s since made it quite clear that he’s not interested in leaving Portland. In which case, McCollum would be Portland’s best and only real ticket to getting Simmons. McCollum has developed into one of the league’s better scorers, averaging 21.8 points on .456/.398/.837 shooting splits over the last six seasons, but he doesn’t quite fit the billing of a star.
Golden State Warriors
What’s been said: The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported that the Warriors were one of the teams Morey called during his “initial round of inquiries” about Simmons, but trade talks are said to have “never even really been alive” between the two sides.
The fit: It’s fun to think of Simmons playing off Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the greatest shooters of all time who thrive off-ball. Simmons’ fit next to Draymond Green isn’t nearly as clean, but with shooting at every other position, perhaps it would work out. Besides, the two of them would form one of the most feared defensive duos we’ve seen in a long time. They’re smart enough to find a way to make it work.
What it would take: The contract of Andrew Wiggins would help match salary, while some of the young players on Golden State’s roster — James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and Jordan Poole — would likely be the draw. A rebuilding team might be interested in that sort of package, but for the 76ers, it doesn’t make much sense.