Ben Simmons has attempted 34 three-pointers in his four-year NBA career, which is about how many shots from downtown Kyrie Irving attempts in five games. As point guards go, the two former No. 1 overall picks could hardly have more different games.
What they have in common right now is causing agita for their teams. Simmons is reportedly willing to sit out and not get paid, rather than suit up again for the 76ers. Irving is so far willing to sit out Nets home games and not get paid, rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Shaquille O’Neal threw it out there on Wednesday that the Nets ought to trade Irving, or, more specifically, “get his ass up outta here.” Simmons wants out of Philly. You see where this is going.
Now, to be crystal clear, this is absolutely not happening. The Nets and 76ers are not going to make an Irving-for-Simmons trade, even though it would work as a one-for-one under cap rules. But… they really should.
For the 76ers, it’s a no-brainer. There’s no way they could do better in a Simmons trade than bringing in Irving, who would be exactly what Philadelphia needs to pair with Joel Embiid: a ball-handling superstar who’s a legitimate outside threat.
Irving is four years older than Simmons, and has less time remaining on his contract — one year plus a player option — but the Sixers are trying to win a championship now, Irving would provide their best chance to do so, and maybe Philadelphia is the place where he finally finds love, and decides to stick around. And, really, “guy who everyone else can’t stand because he’s super annoying and aggressively wrong” is an extremely valid setup for a Philadelphia love story.
If Philly were to have a concern, it would be about why the Nets were trading Irving, which is that even once this vaccine stupidity is behind him, World B. Flat is never more than a few weeks from his next drama. But at least with Irving, the headaches (aside from the vaccination stance possibly keeping him from playing) don’t usually have anything to do with basketball, which is an upgrade over, “why the hell won’t our point guard and second-best player shoot the goddamn ball?”
In Brooklyn, Simmons wouldn’t need to shoot the goddamn ball. The Nets have Kevin Durant and James Harden as their main scorers, plus Joe Harris and Patty Mills as three-point specialists. Simmons would be able to focus on distributing the ball and playing great defense — his actual strengths — instead of trying to live up to the expectations of a No. 1 pick that have burdened him since arriving in Philadelphia.
Simmons is a three-time All-Star and two-time first-team NBA All-Defense, he’s only 25, and he’s done all that while being miscast and under constant scrutiny in Philadelphia. On a roster where he’d actually be a good fit, Simmons could unlock the next level of his already elite game.
There’s a risk of upsetting Durant, who came to Brooklyn with Irving, but keeping Irving also risks Durant and everyone else getting sick of Irving’s shit, like LeBron James. The Nets might not wind up with a better roster, swapping Irving for Simmons, but they’d be a better team, and that’s what the point would be.
If Simmons isn’t planning to play for Philadelphia, and Irving isn’t planning to play in Brooklyn, the 76ers and Nets can help each other solve their problems, and quite possibly see who “won the trade” in the Eastern Conference finals. It’s never going to happen, but it really should.