While the Ben Simmons rumors have slowed a great deal, the tension between Simmons and the Sixers remains at an all-time high.
With it is seemingly in everyone’s best interest for Simmons’ time in Philly to be over, it is unlikely the search for a trade has stopped. It would seem to fit the mold of a Daryl Morey move to find a value deal when it is least expected, and the Sixers were rumored to be connected to a small-market team:
A small-market team has made an offer for Ben Simmons? 👀"I know of at least one other team who is a small market team that has made an offer and has a lot of interest and it just hasn’t gotten public yet."(via @WindhorstESPN) pic.twitter.com/mXhB0T7v7T— NBA Analysis Network (@HoopAnalysisNet) September 13, 2021
It is still unclear who this “small market team” is, but here are three potential teams that could be keeping closer tabs on Simmons than it may seem.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are in an interesting place as an organization. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken the next step in his career and is making his case for the franchise cornerstone. Beyond SGA, they are loaded with young talent and an insane 36 picks in the next seven years
With talks of a mystery “small-conference team” feel like it makes a lot more sense to pair Ben Simmons with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than its been given creditSixers would likely have their best chance at adding young players and picks to eventually flip for a star pic.twitter.com/iWDQ5XnOYe— Sean Barnard (@Sean_Barnard1) September 14, 2021
The Sixers previously traded away their 2025 first-round pick in the deal that landed them Danny Green for Al Horford. Due to what is referred to as “the Stepien Rule,” which states that a team cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive years.
If the Sixers are able to get their 2025 pick back, it would open them up to much more flexibility in trade negotiations. The Sixers currently lack the top-level talent needed to win a championship and will not find one in return for Simmons due to his current low value. Any deal made at the moment should be looking to stack assets for another trade that targets a star to pair Joel Embiid with.
Beyond the two first-round picks out of the Thunder’s seemingly endless stack, Lu Dort would also be an exciting player to add. The 22-year-old wing is regarded as one of the best defenders in the league and has drawn comparisons to Matisse Thybulle. His scoring average jumped to 14 points per game in just his second year and saw his three-point percentage jump from 29.7% to 34.3%. Darius Bazely is also an enticing young player who was the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 draft.
There is enough smoke surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies stack of intriguing young players paired with their desire to make a leap as a team that there just may be fire regarding a trade situation. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been rumored to be involved in a potential Simmons deal for a while, and adding the Grizzlies into the mix may be what is needed to get a deal done.
Day 20 of posting a Ben Simmons trade every day until he's traded.The Sixers land Sexton, Brooks, Anderson, and two quality pick swaps to either improve the team in future years or more likely, trade for another star.#HereTheyCome Brought to you by @PhiladelphiaSN pic.twitter.com/WHLeTHGKmR— Zach Ciavolella (@ZCiavoPSN) September 11, 2021
This is one of the few mock Simmons trades that may improve the Sixers as a team. The Cavs have been shopping Collin Sexton despite averaging 24.3 points per game last season. It is still to be seen if these stats can be replicated on a winning team, but Sexton would prove to be an interesting pairing with Tyrese Maxey. While each player is slightly undersized, both possess a lightning-quick first-step and are electric in the fast-break.
On top of Sexton, the Sixers would also add a first-round pick in 2022 and a pick swap in 2024, along with two impact rotation players. Dillon Brooks plays with a hard-nosed style that Philly fans would fall in love with, and Kyle Anderson would be another versatile wing option. The potential pairing between Maxey and Sexton should be the main thing to consider in this deal, but the Memphis Grizzlies may be needed to make this deal work.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are no stranger to the Ben Simmons talks, but times have certainly changed since the reported asking price of four first-round picks. It seems likely Simmons will thrive in San Antonio, but the Sixers could be intrigued by a package headlined by Dejounte Murray.
Day 13 of posting a Ben Simmons trade every day until he is traded.Dejounte Murray and Thaddeus Young fill two major holes on the Sixers while Keldon Johnson and a FRP make this a trade one that helps you win now, and later.#HereTheyCome Brought to you by @PhiladelphiaSN pic.twitter.com/9eWOpDRu4U— Zach Ciavolella (@ZCiavoPSN) September 4, 2021
Similar to Ben Simmons, Dejounte Murray has also drawn criticism for his lack of perimeter shooting. Murray has taken the track that it was hoped Simmons would and has gone from averaging 0.6 and 0.4 three-point attempts per game in his first two seasons to 3.0 three-point attempts per game last year. He will likely never be a sniper from deep, but his 33.2% three-point percentage is respectable, and there is still hope of improvement at 24-years-old.
It would be a nice homecoming for Thaddeus Young. He would provide a better rebounding option at power forward than Georges Niang. Keldon Johnson is also an exciting young player who averaged 12.8 points and 6 rebounds in his second year in the league last season. The small forward recently spent time with the Olympic team and has hopes of making the jump next year. An additional first-round pick may be enough to move to meter for Daryl Morey.
It is tough not to be disappointed when looking at the return on a trade for Ben Simmons. These are each far falls from the dreams of deals for players like Dame Lillard, Bradley Beal, or Zach LaVine, but could be looked at as a chance to upgrade the team. Adding players to remain flexible moving forward while adding rotational bench pieces could prove to get the Sixers closer to their eventual championship goals.