The Case For Trading Ben Simmons For Picks
Imagine the level of noise if Simmons does indeed hold out for the start of the year, and the team gets off to a slow start. The Sixers’ leverage will continue to crumble, and everyone on or around the team will be miserable.
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There aren’t a whole lot of options left on the table for potential Ben Simmons trades, and all of them suck. They aren’t getting Damian Lillard. They aren’t getting Bradley Beal. They almost definitely aren’t getting any player back who makes them a bonafide contender this year.
With that in mind, I think that the Sixers’ best option here is hiding in plain sight: trading Simmons for a package centered around a whole bunch of picks. Specifically, I imagine a package of Malik Beasley + Taurean Price + 3-4 first round picks being the framework here.
Prince is included mostly for salary matching purposes. Patrick Beverley would also work for this purpose, but since both players were recently traded, they can’t be dealt just yet. Prince can’t be dealt until September 27, and Beverley can’t be dealt until October 16. When those restrictions end, though, the Sixers should pull the trigger on this type of deal immediately.
Naturally, that comes as a massive disappointment in the big picture. But I think that this package accomplishes a few crucial things:
First, you end the Simmons saga once and for all, and can enter into the season with minimal distractions. Second, you maintain the flexibility to trade for another star moving forward using the picks that you’ve accumulated. And third, you open up a meaningful amount of cap flexibility in the long run with Simmons’ contract off the books.
Let’s start with the first point: the Simmons saga has already gotten ugly, and has the potential to get so much uglier. The external pressure will be massive — local and national media are likely to pepper Doc Rivers and his players with questions about Simmons every single day — but there will be internal struggle as well. How are the Sixers supposed to have a productive training camp without the knowledge of what their team will look like? What is their offense supposed to look like? What is the starting lineup?
Things will only worsen with time. Imagine the level of noise if Simmons does indeed hold out for the start of the year, and the team gets off to a slow start. The Sixers’ leverage will continue to crumble, and everyone on or around the team will be miserable. At that point, they would be one 4-6 week Joel Embiid injury away from possibly having a lost season.
And that level of fragility is part of what makes the idea of maintaining long term flexibility by trading for picks so appealing — trading Simmons for an immediate contributor, like, say, C.J. McCollum may only be propping up a season that was never going to end in a championship anyway, while also preventing them from having any chance of trading for a true, difference-making superstar in the long run.
I do understand the argument for not wanting to budget for the long term future while they have a perennial MVP candidate in his prime. I would probably belong in that camp if the options on the table were any better; this is a calculus mostly based on how thoroughly uninspiring the options are when trading Simmons for maximum short term value.
As for who specifically the incoming stockpile of picks would be used on, it’s unknowable. But what we do know is that there is a seismic, superstar trade in the NBA about 3-4 times per year. Getting the Beasley-plus-picks package would allow the Sixers to remain in a front row seat for whoever that next unhappy superstar is.
At the moment, it feels like there are a couple (Lillard and Beal) hanging on by a thread with their current teams. One wonders what would happen with Zach LaVine if the Bulls’ season goes poorly. Any number of unforeseen circumstances could push other All-Stars to ask out. With this deal, you are essentially trying to make a two-part, three-team trade, with the second part coming later, whenever the Sixers redirect these picks to a team in exchange for an All-Star.
In addition to maintaining the ability to trade for a superstar, getting off of Simmons’ contract (and bringing in Beasley’s) would give them the cap flexibility to be major players in free agency in two summers. They could have up to $25 million in space in 2023; and more if they rid themselves of the last year of Tobias Harris’ contract.
Free agency has not generally been kind to the Sixers, so the value of this aspect of the trade is somewhat diminished. However, if they are able to trade for a superstar between now and then, perhaps a third superstar becomes more likely to consider coming to Philly in free agency. They would, at that point, have to get rid of Harris’ expiring contract in order to do so, but expiring deals are generally not difficult to get rid of.
And of course, you always have the option of picking up Beasley’s team option for that 2023-24 season and simply keeping the core together. Getting Beasley in this deal is nothing to scoff at. He’s only 24, he’s on a reasonable contract with up to three years left, and he averaged 19.6 points per game last year on 57 percent True Shooting. He fires nearly nine 3s per game, and can create shots for himself when needed. He not only fits on this team, but he could also be valuable in a subsequent trade for another player.
In my humble opinion, the Sixers should call the Wolves with this offer ASAP. It’s the best of all worlds -- you remain stocked with assets and qualified to trade for a superstar later, you acquire a player who is immediately valuable, and you allow your entire organization to breathe a massive sigh of relief. I can’t imagine that all of this drama has been easy on Doc Rivers and his players, and it’s only going to get worse. I worry that a holdout will only heighten the frustrations all around, and will not lead to the Sixers getting the deal that they want. They need to put an end to the Simmons saga, and this deal allows them to do so while sacrificing very little in the long run.