With recent reports stating that the young star expressed to the Philadelphia 76ers ownership that he will not return to the Sixers and is willing to miss training camp to prove this point, the Ben Simmons vs. Philadelphia saga is officially getting ugly. Talks of a trade involving the young Australian circled the league as early as July. Still, due to Daryl Morey’s astronomical asking price, the Sixers have not even come close to reaching an agreement with any potential takers. The prevailing belief was Morey had no real interest in trading Simmons, as the asking price of what was described as “a deal similar to the one involving James Harden” would make it impossible to find a team willing to play ball. Perhaps Morey assumed that by ensuring there were no takers for Simmons at that price, Ben would be forced to just come back to Philly and fulfill his contractual obligation to pay for the 76ers.
Let’s just say that as of now, Morey’s assumptions seem to be wrong, and with the way the situation is playing out, the Sixers lose leverage to make the right deal for the team with every day that passes. The list of potential takers for Simmons is slowly dwindling, and one team thought to be an ideal destination for Ben seems to have put their reservations out in the open.
“Monte Poole of NBC reports that some Golden State executives are concerned that pairing him with Draymond Green could leave the team’s offense with having too many non-shooters on the floor.”Frank Isola, via ESPN
The Golden State Warriors are not alone in this concern around Simmons’ shooting because almost every team plays with at least one non-shooter on the floor. That means that unless you are trading your non-shooter to acquire Simmons, the deal makes slightly more sense from a chemistry standpoint. Still, the Philadelphia 76ers’ high asking price makes it difficult for teams even to begin trade talks. Then, Simmons’ reported preference for California-based teams makes finding a new home for Ben extremely difficult. With the Lakers and Clippers already set on their core rotation for the coming season, that leaves Sacramento and Golden State as the only teams that can be assured of Ben’s commitment, should a deal between them and the Sixers happen?
The Warriors would likely offer a package structured around Andrew Wiggins and former second overall pick James Wiseman in exchange for Simmons to make a deal work. Given the size of Simmons’ contract, Golden State might have to throw in guard Jordan Poole to address some of Philly’s shooting concerns in an effort to match salaries. We must assume that trading Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, or Stephen Curry is entirely out of the question, and by doing so, we will immediately learn why neither team will even consider this trade. Let’s start with the Golden State Warriors.
“Ben Simmons is like Draymond Green from six years ago, I don’t see why you would not want to have both Draymond Green and his younger version on the same team.”Frank Isola, via ESPN
For starters, Ben Simmons is not Draymond Green from six years ago. In 2015-2016 Green shot 33.8% from three-point range, his career-best, and decent percentage when you’re only attempting three shots from that distance each game. Simmons shoots at 14.7% from three for his career, and don’t let last year’s 30% 3FG percentage trick you, as that comes from 0.1 makes per game out of 0.2 attempts. Last year, Green shot 27% from three but only averaged 0.5 makes out of 2 shots per game. Simmons is one of the best defenders in the game and has the size to play virtually any position, but having him and Draymond on the floor means that teams can play off them and pay more attention to their other Warrior players.
Wiggins played some great defense and provided additional scoring for the Dubs last year to support a monster year from Curry, but all that didn’t even get them to the playoffs. Adding Simmons without letting go of Draymond Green could mean neutralizing the potential effect of Klay Thompson’s return to the lineup. Klay’s return is what the Warriors are banking on to bring the franchise back to championship contention. I’m not sure if risking that by bringing in Ben Simmons while letting go of a defensive player who can attack the basket and shoot in Wiggins, is a wise decision to make.
For the Sixers, acquiring Wiggins, Wiseman, and a role player is not the key to solving their problems. Wiggins has the potential to be a great player and has a connection to Joel Embiid from their days as Kansas Jayhawks, but he is a duplication of Tobias Harris’ skillset. Not to mention, Wiggins also needs the ball in his hands, but at the wing, Harris is a significantly better decision-maker than Wiggins. Wiggins does not shoot well enough from three to provide the spacing for Embiid to operate comfortably in the paint, he is best at the 3 or 4 position, but those roles belong to Danny Green and Tobias Harris in the Sixers’ best lineup.
The Sixers did lose their backup center in Dwight Howard in free agency but quickly replaced Howard with Andre Drummond. Wiseman is a great piece and will be ready to contribute in anywhere between 3-5 years, but the Sixers want and need to win now, so Wiseman does not at all fit the trajectory of this Philadelphia 76ers team. Andre Drummond is also only 28 years old, making him a prime candidate for the Sixers’ leading big man in the post-Embiid era. Of course, Wiseman is one of the youngest players in the league at 20 years old, but between Embiid and Drummond, there is not much room for James to grow in Philadelphia. The 76ers also have decent role players in Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, and Seth Curry; they don’t need more.
Now, if the Warriors consider moving Green to get Simmons in some weird twist of fate, it starts to get very interesting for both teams. Simmons playing the role of Draymond alongside Steph and Klay would be lethal and would make them a favorite to win the NBA title. Compare that core to that of the Brooklyn Nets, who have three of the best offensive players ever to play the game. The Warriors would have the league’s best all-around defensive player in Simmons, and the two best shooters of all-time in Klay and Steph, supported by guys like Iguodala and Kevon Looney. Being around Steph, Klay, and the leadership of Steve Kerr will also unlock Ben’s game, but he needs to be able to take on Draymond’s minutes to have the necessary room to grow.
In return, the Sixers get Draymond Green, a tough defender and one of the best leaders in basketball. Green can facilitate with the best of them, make free throws, and is not afraid of the big moments despite his spotty field-goal percentage. Green is the perfect complement to Joel Embiid both on and off the court, and he will challenge Embiid to get in the best physical shape of his life to get the most out of his immense talent. Draymond can also serve as the team’s defensive anchor when Embiid is not on the floor, something we know is not the forte of the Sixers’ current backup center, Andre Drummond. Lastly, getting Draymond in the deal ensures that you can get another player who can run the offense to mitigate the gap Simmons’ absence will leave. By submitting Simmons for Green, it makes more sense for Philadelphia to bring in Andrew Wiggins now because you don’t need him to make plays for your team. Imagine having Draymond Green and Tobias Harris running the offense, with Seth Curry and Wiggins as pure scorers flanked by Joel Embiid in the paint? That’s scary.
However, the thought of parting with players such as Ben Simmonds and Draymond Green is scary as well. They may not be offensive juggernauts, but their knowledge of the game is part of what currently makes these two teams some of the most dynamic in the league. The Warriors didn’t make the playoffs, but you could be sure that teams did not feel like they were going to head into the Chase Center and just whoop the Dubs. Teams are afraid of Steph and Dray, and will fear them even more with Klay Thompson by their side. The Sixers were arguably the best defensive team in the league, primarily due to Simmons’ brilliance. Trading Simmons would mean giving up a player with the size of a center that can guard all positions in today’s NBA while giving you the speed and force to get up and down the court in transition with the best in the league. Change is scary, but change is also what brings innovation, and innovation breeds success. If these two franchises want to return to their glory days of winning championships, then taking these big risks and making these scary decisions is the only way for them to get there.