Ben Simmons may have played his final minute in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform.
The Sixers point guard was dreadful in the team’s series against the Atlanta Hawks, and he was often benched late in the games for his inability to make free throws or provide anything for the team on offense.
Following Philly’s Game 7 loss at home, Sixers head coach was noncommittal about Simmons’ future with the team, and Joel Embiid seemed to publicly call out Simmons for passing up a wide open dunk late in the fourth quarter.
Simmons' lack of shooting ability seems to have caught up with the Sixers, as the No. 1 seed was unable to beat a Hawks team that is the first team to make the Conference Finals without an All-Star in 27 years. WynnBET had given the Sixers favorable odds to win the series after Game 4, but a blown lead in Game 5 as well as Sunday’s loss sunk the Sixers.
Simmons still has a lot of money and years left on his max deal, and his postseason is going to make it hard for the Sixers to trade him.
Even though he made the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team, Simmons has major flaws in his game, and there’s reasonable concern about him being a point guard going forward. It’s hard to justify paying any player max money if they aren’t on the floor late in games, and it’s even harder when your main ball distributor can’t stay in the game because he’s an offensive liability.
The Sixers need a true point guard, and Simmons’ fit with Joel Embiid has been questionable at best. If Philly wants to maximize Embiid’s prime, it may be time to deal Simmons. Here are three teams that could make sense for a potential trade:
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are rebuilding, but they just acquired Kemba Walker and another first-round pick from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Al Horford and Moses Brown.
Walker, who has two years remaining on his deal, would come off the books faster than Simmons and when healthy (a big question) could be the primary ball handler that Philly needs. With a plethora of picks in the upcoming draft, it’s possible that OKC would be willing to deal the No. 16 pick it acquired from Boston to bring Simmons into the fold.
Oklahoma City is going to struggle to lure free agents, but Simmons could be a solid complementary player to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt. Since Simmons’ value is at an all-time low, Thunder general manager Sam Presti may want to jump on the opportunity and try to develop him into a more complete offensive player.
Obviously, Philly would have to be willing to risk taking on Walker’s deal with his injury concerns, but a first-round pick and more financial flexibility could be enough to begin talks on a deal.
The Bulls went all in this season by trading for Nikola Vucevic, but things didn’t work out as they missed the playoffs.
With Zach LaVine entering a contract year, the Bulls need to find a way to build a winner in Chicago if they want to convince him to stay. LaVine came into the league as a slasher, but he’s become an elite perimeter scorer in Chicago, as he shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range last season and 38.0 percent in the 2019-20 campaign.
Chicago could use Simmons’ playmaking ability, as guard Coby White has shown to be more of a scorer than a distributor early in his career.
With Lauri Markkanen hitting restricted free agency, the Bulls could orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Sixers involving Markkanen and Simmons. Markkanen is a stretch four that would fit much better than Simmons alongside Embiid, but the Sixers certainly would want White in the deal since they’d be losing a playmaker.
That’s where things get interesting, but if Chicago is willing to part ways with White, the Bulls could receive a draft asset or a young player (Tyrese Maxey?) in return. It’s going to be tough for the Sixers to find an ideal pattern, but the Bulls may be desperate enough to improve to take a shot on a Simmons-LaVine backcourt.
Simmons’ playmaking and elite defensive ability would certainly benefit LaVine, but the questions (as always) will come down to just how effective Simmons can be as a team’s primary ball handler.
The Sixers wanted to trade for Raptors guard Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline, but they ultimately backed out with the price being too high. Lowry is a free agent this offseason, but Toronto could try to orchestrate a sign-and-trade to send Lowry home to Philadelphia.
Obviously, Toronto would love to get something in return for Lowry if he leaves, and Simmons would fit nicely defensively alongside undersized guard Fred VanVleet.
The only downside is that Simmons and Pascal Siakam have very similar play styles when they look to score, as neither is an elite perimeter player. Still, Toronto would certainly rather have Simmons than nothing (I’d think), and Lowry would immediately fit in with the Sixers as a veteran point guard that can score at a high rate.
It’s possible that the swap could be straight up in a sign-and-trade, but Toronto would have leverage since Philly can’t sign Lowry for much money outright. If Daryl Morey is that intent with getting Simmons out of Philly, this could be a quick fix that the Sixers already had their eyes on during the 2020-21 season.