Doc Rivers doesn’t know if Ben Simmons can be a point guard on a championship team.
The question about Simmons was posed to Rivers following a disappointing Game 7 loss Sunday night to the Hawks.
There was a time not long ago when Simmons was said to be the centerpiece in a potential trade for James Harden. Now, the five-year, $177 million deal Simmons inked in 2019 could be a priority for the 76ers to get off their books and move on to the next step in the long and winding Process.
Here are six trade packages that Philadelphia could see this offseason:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder acquire: Ben Simmons
76ers acquire: Kemba Walker, 2022 first-round pick (via Clippers)
Kemba Walker’s time in Oklahoma City may be short-lived. He doesn’t exactly fit the Thunder’s mantra of stockpiling young talent and assets as a recently injured 6-foot point guard entering next season on the wrong side of 30.
Simmons offers OKC a creator to complement the ascending Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and whomever general manager Sam Presti selects at the top of this year’s draft. Simmons is also an elite defender who brings ballhandling and size to a young Thunder team.
The main attribute Walker, who was recently traded to the Thunder, would bring to Philadelphia is his ability to connect from the outside as well as create. The 76ers, when Simmons was without the ball in the half court, seemed as if they were playing four-on-five. Walker is not a volume shooter, but he connected on 36% of his three-point attempts this past season in Boston on 8.2 attempts per game. The primary loss for Philly in this trade is on the defensive side of the ball, but it would retain Embiid and Matisse Thybulle, both All-Defense selections.
Eventually, OKC’s stockpile of picks has to turn into players—they just don’t all have to come via the draft.
2. Indiana Pacers
Pacers acquire: Ben Simmons
76ers acquire: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren
Indiana is in need of change. Five consecutive first-round exits dating back to 2016 followed by an embarrassing play-in tournament performance signal that the franchise is moving in the wrong direction. There are bright spots on the roster in two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert. Simmons could replace Brogdon as the primary creator and defer to LeVert as the primary scoring option. Simmons would be a defensive upgrade for a team that allowed back-to-back 140-point outings to end its season.
Brogdon has improved every year since winning Rookie of the Year in 2017 (ironically, over Embiid) and is a viable scorer and playmaker. He averaged a career-best 21.2 points per game this year and, most importantly for Philadelphia, he’s a capable three-point shooter and an excellent free throw shooter. His attempts (tied for a team-high 17.5 per game in Indiana) would likely fall off with a score-first option down low in Embiid, but he’s proven to be efficient without as much volume as he saw last season.
3. Portland Trail Blazers
Trail Blazers acquire: Ben Simmons
76ers acquire: CJ McCollum
McCollum’s name has been brought up in trade discussions for years. At times, that inclusion didn’t seem fair to the consistent 20-points-per-game scorer. But just like it’s time for Philadelphia to make changes, that process has already begun in Portland with the departure of coach Terry Stotts.
Simmons presents a radical change to a roster that has timed out and has a bona fide superstar in Damian Lillard under contract through 2025. He’s also a defensive upgrade for a team without much prowess on that side of the ball. He’d be welcome help in guarding the superstar forwards that dot the Western Conference.
McCollum doesn’t replace Simmons’s ability as a playmaker and is a massive downgrade defensively. But he’s a proven scorer who could feasibly play alongside Embiid. In a small sample size playing without Lillard (30 games), McCollum averages 6.2 assists per game, nearly double his career average. He’d need to be a creator in this role for Philadelphia and he’s shown that he can be.
4. Chicago Bulls
Bulls acquire: Ben Simmons, 2022 second-round pick
76ers acquire: Zach LaVine, Tomáš Satoranský
Trading for Nikola Vučević in late March did not put an end to the Bulls’ playoff drought. Trading for Simmons this offseason could. It would be difficult for Chicago to part ways with LaVine after his first All-Star season, but moving forward with Simmons in place of LaVine is a big defensive upgrade in the backcourt alongside Coby White. Perhaps Simmons could work better with a big like Vučević, who is a bit more comfortable than Embiid playing on the perimeter.
LaVine gives Philadelphia necessary scoring from the perimeter and is a true volume shooter. He averaged a career-high 27.4 points per game this season on fewer shots than the year before thanks to a leap in his three-point efficiency. LaVine has experience playing alongside offensive centers with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota as well as a few months with Vučević. Embiid would be the best player LaVine has played with and the move to Philadelphia would all but guarantee his first postseason appearance.
5. Golden State Warriors
Warriors acquire: Ben Simmons
76ers acquire: Andrew Wiggins, 2022 first-round pick, ’23 second-round pick
It’s difficult to see Morey trading for a player with Wiggins’s reputation as somewhat of an inefficient scorer, but the former Rookie of the Year turned in his most efficient shooting season in his first full season with the Warriors. Not being the first option with a running mate like Stephen Curry benefited Wiggins, and he’d be similarly deferential to Embiid in Philadelphia. Though not the same caliber defender as Simmons, Wiggins is an improved and capable wing defender. Of all of the potential trades, this presents the biggest net loss in ballhandling and playmaking for Philadelphia, a gap that would have to be filled elsewhere.
Simmons and Draymond Green make up a daunting defensive tandem. And Steve Kerr might be able to unlock Simmons on offense, whatever that may look like. Playing with Curry and Klay Thompson would certainly help on that front, though. It’s possible that adding Simmons to the mix in Golden State would be too many cooks in the kitchen, but given Curry and Thompson’s otherworldly ability to move without the ball and knock down threes on command, the addition could work.
6. San Antonio Spurs
Spurs acquire: Ben Simmons
76ers acquire: DeMar DeRozan (sign and trade), Lonnie Walker IV, 2022 first-round pick
DeRozan helped drag a very young and promising Spurs squad to the play-in tournament. But he doesn’t make sense in San Antonio long-term alongside the ascending frontcourt of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Bringing in Simmons to replace DeRozan makes San Antonio much younger and adds an elite defender to a roster with rangy wings like Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell.
In Philadelphia, DeRozan can settle in as a reliable No. 2 option alongside Embiid. Less of the burden to score will be placed on him, and he can continue to improve as a playmaker. In three seasons in San Antonio, DeRozan averaged more than six assists per game compared with 3.1 per game during his first nine years in Toronto. The cast in Philadelphia is a clear upgrade for DeRozan and presents him an opportunity to go further than his Raptors squad ever did in the 2010s. Walker has improved tremendously in three years in the league, quadrupling his scoring average from his rookie year to this past season. He cut out a role as a part-time starter in San Antonio, and could provide depth and shooting for the 76ers.