Trading Ben Simmons isn’t easy

But we have some ideas. And for Bradley Beal, too.

BY DAVID THORPE
After examining every roster and potential trade partner, David feels he has a handle on the most likely trades for Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal. His bet: the ultimate destination for Ben Simmons and Bradley Beal will come from these options. MITCHELL LEFF/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 

We’re not often in the predictions business here, but sometimes something seems evident to one of us for some reason or another. Once David went on the “Nerder She Wrote” podcast and explained why the Raptors made sense as the trade destination for Kawhi Leonard. Like magic, it happened. Years ago, Henry wrote a story suggesting the Lakers trade for Pau Gasol, and it happened later that day

Maybe today will be one of those. David has a feeling the inevitable Ben Simmons (and keep reading regarding Bradly Beal) trade will come from this list.


THE PLAYERS

Ben Simmons wants out of Philadelphia. Rumors have him hoping to play in California, but unlike Beal and, potentially, Lillard, Simmons has limited influence in where he ends up. TIM NWACHUKWU/GETTY IMAGES
The 76ers need a star to pair with Joel Embiid, and they need to contend in the strong East. With two stars in house, the man in charge, Daryl Morey, has an incredible track record of finding affordable talent to make a winner. Everything else is secondary to finding a win-now star to pair with Embiid. LISA LAKE/GETTY IMAGES/PGD GLOBAL
Bradley Beal and his team of agents seem delighted with his role on the rebuilding Wizards. I don’t believe a word of it. Yes, the franchise is in good hands; I believe Beal likes it there. But at 28 and fresh off almost leading the league in scoring, he must feel the pull of the contending teams who would move heaven and earth to get him. He has a player option in 2022-23. Can the Wizards risk losing him for nothing? PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES SPORT
The Washington Wizards want what’s best for the franchise in the medium and long terms. If Beal should decide he is going to stay in DC for the next five years or so, great. It would mean playoff relevance every season. Absent that, the Wizards just have to navigate the next few months as if all is well, while working the phones quietly looking to recreate their roster to contend in 2024 and beyond, in sync with their impressive young roster. TIM NWACHUKWU/GETTY IMAGES SPORT

Daryl Morey and Tommy Shepppard are expert dealmakers. Complex moves wouldn’t shake either. However, it’s the wrong time of year for four-team, 11-player deals. Teams are excited to see how their players perform in training camp and preseason; another chunk of players can’t be traded for another few months because of league rules. As we imagine immediate moves, simple moves are most likely. 

In the case of Beal, it’s even simpler: as he is a season from free agency (if he chooses). Only a team very confident they can re-sign him would move the earth to get him. Essentially he needs to be traded to a very good team. One so good that they’ll still be contenders after giving up a lot to get him.

Simmons is under contract for a long time, and has more possible destinations. However, Morey needs to keep his team in contention, and needs a special kind of win-now player in return. And, with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris on the roster, probably not a big player. I scoured the league. To my eyes there are only eight teams with viable Simmons trades right now. Some are headlined by All-Stars. As each day passes without Morey securing one of those, the odds increase that he’ll have to consider the other options. 

In every case, these trades work under NBA rules—but assume other players and picks could be included.

BEN SIMMONS TRADES

In order of how much they’d help the 76ers win this season:

Ben Simmons (and Seth Curry or Matisse Thybulle) for Damian Lillard
The Blazers would prefer to keep Lillard. But if they decide to make a trade, Simmons fits in perfectly next to McCollum, and Lillard fits in perfectly with the 76ers (who recently signed a deal with Lillard’s offseason trainer, friend, and former Weber State assistant coach Phil Beckner).

Ben Simmons for Bradley Beal
Easy peasy, lemon squeezey. Washington gets an All-Star the right age for its roster. The Sixers get one of the best scorers in the league. They would still need a point guard, but Morey is incredible at solving such problems.

Those two GMs know each other, and know this deal works for both teams—and nothing has happened. Yet. Maybe that’s because Beal has other ideas. Perhaps the Wiz want more than Simmons. Maybe the Wizards want whoever gets Beal to also take Davis Bertans and the $65 million he’s owed over four years. But it’s a lock that Morey would love to have Beal, and other than Lillard, won’t sign off on any other trade without one last call to the nation’s capital. 

Ben Simmons for Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren
Neither player was an All-Star last season. But I think this is a good deal for the 76ers because: 

Brogdon has been one, he solves the point guard question easily, he’s a great leader with five years of playoff experience, he is a career 39 percent 3-point shooter, and he knows how to play with elite teammates like Giannis and Domantas Sabonis. 

Warren was probably the best player in the Orlando bubble last summer. He’s hit better than 40 percent of his 3s for two years before missing almost all of last year due to a stress fracture in his left foot. He doesn’t appear ready to return just yet, but when he does, a Sixers lineup of Brogdon, Danny Green, T.J. Warren, Tobias Harris, and Embiid is simply fantastic

Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum
Simmons and Lillard would work beautifully together at both ends for a lot of reasons. And McCollum and Embiid fit nicely too. The trouble with this trade is that Morey still has to find a reliable point guard/primary ball handler by the trade deadline or risk not being able to get one off the buyout market next spring. 

Ben Simmons for De’Aaron Fox
When Sacramento drafted point guard Davion Mitchell ninth overall in July, I loved the pick, but immediately thought about this deal. The Kings already have two super promising young guards, (with Tyrese Haliburton). Adding a third guard is … curious. 

In Philadelphia, paired with Embiid and surrounded by shooters, Fox would likely become an All-Star. Fox won’t be 24 until December, is an incredible athlete, and averaged 25 points per game last season. He can’t shoot, yet, but the 76ers have a lot of shooters. Fox has a superpower that Morey’s data has long admired: he draws fouls. Morey can tell you all about the value of playing long minutes in the bonus. Embiid led the league in free throw attempts last season, Fox was tenth. The 76ers were fourth in team attempts per game with the ball in Ben Simmons’ hands, does anyone doubt they’d lead the league with Fox running the show? They wouldn’t have an average offense anymore.

The Kings would have to add more picks or players to secure their first All-Star in years—and a monster defender for a unit ranked dead last in 2020-21. And perhaps they could take Morey into expanding the deal to also include unhappy Buddy Hield, who makes more than $20 million?

Ben Simmons for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Devin Vassell
The Spurs would love an All-Star to build around, and have a history of helping players shoot better. Simmons seems like an ideal fit. Murray and White would give the Sixers one of the deepest backcourts in basketball, with the new guys, Matisse Thybulle, and Danny Green as high-level defenders. In a conference with James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Trae Young, that’s a big deal. Vassell, chosen 11th overall a year ago,  could end up as an All-Star down the road, and just turned 21. This deal would turn the Sixers second unit into one of the league's best as well, with lots of flexibility as to who starts or is chosen to excel off the bench. This deal doesn’t have star power, but it has teeth, making the Sixers far better.

Ben Simmons for Brandon Ingram and Kira Lewis
Ingram just turned 24 this month and has been an All-Star. The high energy Lewis can one day partner with Tyrese Maxey to form an electric backcourt. Ingram isn’t a perfect fit next to Embiid as he actually likes to score inside the 3-point line, as Tobias Harris does, making space an issue in the halfcourt. Still, he took six 3s a game the last two seasons and hit over 38 percent. His presence as a small forward does give the Sixers an incredibly potent frontcourt. They’d have to find a point guard, until they do, Maxey and Lewis would gain valuable experience. If the Sixers success helped push Ingram back to an All-Star level, certainly possible, then it’s a win for Morey. You may not like Simmons and Zion Williamson together, and it would take some creative thinking, but it’d be a huge win for the Pelicans. They’d need to play differently, try to adopt some of the systems the Warriors utilize with Draymond and shooters, and it would take time. But if Morey offers Simmons for Ingram, the Pelicans would likely say yes. 

Ben Simmons for Pascal Siakam 
The word on the street is that Pascal Siakam is about to show everyone he’s back playing like an All-Star again. Of course it may not happen, but the Raptors staff believe Siakam had a string of bad luck (COVID being the primary problem) that held him back last season. He’s turning 28 this year and the Raptors are building for a title run down the road a few years, so adding Simmons makes sense just based on his age alone. Their recent fourth overall pick, Scottie Barnes, has lots of similarities to Simmons and could ultimately not be a perfect partner, but there is time to tinker and both players would excel as defenders and passers.If Siakam ascends into the player that the Sixers would covet alongside Embiid as the season unfolded, I can see a deal getting done. He has championship experience and is a two-way player, fitting well with what the Sixers need.

Ben Simmons and Jaden Springer for Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody 
Yes, James Wiseman could be included in this instead of one of the rookies, though the 76ers have so few minutes for him to develop that I’d guess he’d be headed to a third team in an effort to bring more ready to win-now talent to Philly. I love this deal for the Warriors, as described last week—not for the Sixers. If Simmons is a no-show, and the 76ers Eastern rivals are on fire, Morey will have to consider starless options like this one. Wiggins made progress with his defense last season and of course Morey could trade the rookies for win-now players if he prefers. 


Unlikely to happen, but interesting

Ben Simmons for Jamal Murray A Simmons, Jokic, Porter Jr. combo is incredibly exciting to consider, but my hunch is that Murray has been so good in postseasons (and Simmons the opposite) that Denver won’t take the chance. Similarly, Morey wouldn’t want Murray at this point, when he’s due to miss most of the season recovering from an ACL tear.

Simmons to Nets for Kyrie Irving Works for both teams, in the sense that Simmons actually fills the Nets needs more than Kyrie does, but who thinks Kevin Durant would be OK with the Nets trading away his handpicked point guard?


BRADLEY BEAL TRADES

The situation for Beal, wanting only a contender to play for, if he chooses to leave, means there are but a few teams who would make a move for him. The Heat won’t trade key pieces like Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo. The Celtics are a middling team now and, after losing Jaylen Brown and the like to get Beal, would be longshots to contend, and thus longshots to keep Beal long term. 

As I see it today, three deals jump off the page, in order of how much they’ll improve the Wizards:

Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans for Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and James Wiseman

Curry and Beal led the league in scoring. If Thompson returns healthy they’d have the best backcourt/small forward combo in the league to play with Green and his do-it-all talent. Beal may not love the fit, but given his options this would be his best spot to at least play for a team that should win over 50 games. I’m certain the Warriors would want a long-term commitment from him and I think they’d get it. For Washington, they get a two-way scorer/defender who could end up getting moved again, plus two outstanding prospects who both could be All-Stars by 2025 or so. They are so talented it’d be worth it to slip outside the top eight in the East—it’d only be for a season if it happened at all.

Bradley Beal for Ben Simmons
As discussed above—two teams can solve each other’s problems. 

Bradley Beal for Jamal Murray and Bol Bol
If Murray were healthy, it’s an interesting move. The Wizards would ask for more and probably get it, and they’d love Murray to fit with their young forwards and centers. He has All-Star potential and can play easily next to Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nuggets would hate to break up their core, but for Beal it’d be worth it. They’d likely be the favorites in the West if it happened. He isn’t healthy, so it’s harder to envision this happening as I assume the Wizards want to stay in the playoff race and with no Beal or Murray that would be a tall order.


Thank you for reading TrueHoop!

UPDATE: In a cut-and-paste error, the first version of this story omitted David’s actual thoughts about a Lillard trade for Simmons, and inserted confusing language that was intended to be about Beal. Apologies! Fixed now!