The next disgruntled NBA star is always right around the corner.
Yesterday, in news less surprising than Texas being Texas, Ben Simmons officially requested a trade, according to Philadelphia Inquirer Sixers reporter Keith Pompey, who was apparently on vacation. Per Pompey, Simmons will not report to training camp, which will begin in *checks calendar* 27 days. (Damn! That’s it?!?)
“In a meeting with the 76ers last week in Los Angeles, Simmons told team co-managing partner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand and coach Doc Rivers that he no longer wants to remain a Sixer, according to multiple sources,” Pompey reports.
“Sources said the three-time All-Star also does not intend to report to training camp. A team spokesman declined to comment.”
Of note, the Inquirer also reported: “Think about three months ago when the Sixers are willing to give up Ben Simmons. You are like, ‘Let’s see what we have to do to get him,’” a Western Conference executive told the Inquirer. “Now, the difference is Ben Simmons says he refuses to play for the Sixers. He wants to go to three California teams. There’s so much bad blood between him and the team.”
(For what it’s worth, Joel Embiid disagrees, and he actually wants to run it back.)
On this site, frankly, we’ve done a lot on Simmons lately. Like. A. Lot. Even the whole “where should he be traded to” thing two-and-a-half weeks ago. So this will be further simplified. First, we’ll briefly acknowledge a few things.
“Three California teams.” Let’s see. There are four in total: The Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Clippers. The Kings and Warriors have already been confirmed to have interest, and Simmons’ agent is Rich Paul, who founded Klutch Sports alongside LeBron James. Simple enough.
The Toronto Raptors made perhaps the most excellent post-James Harden/Simmons trade package, reportedly including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and the No. 4 overall pick (why did they not take this? - C.B.) but Lowry has since signed with the Miami Heat. And several others have been tied to Simmons at this point in some form.
It may seem like odd timing to some, but remember, Kyrie Irving was dealt from Cleveland to Boston roughly around this same time four summers ago, and that was when the NBA was on their regular season schedule. These things regularly play out in NBA-land, especially now where news surrounding the league seems more 24/7 than ever before.
But as it relates to Simmons, there is one team above all else where he makes perfect sense: The Portland Trail Blazers.
If you’re the Sixers, you try to get Damian Lillard, but if you absolutely can’t, just go get CJ McCollum. It doesn’t look as if Lillard is going anywhere for now anyway, and if you’re Philadelphia, it would take less to get McCollum, whom you could talk yourself into having a career-year next to Embiid. Beginning this season, McCollum — who turns 30 later this month — will be owed $100 million for the next three years, making $30.8, then $33.3, then $35.8 million. Comparatively, Simmons just turned 25 in July, but is entering the first of a five-year deal worth over $177 million, starting at $30.6 million and ending at $40.3 million in 2024-25. So, mathematically, it could be Simmons for McCollum straight up, but Philly will try to get back draft picks, as they probably should, especially since Paul apparently wants his other Sixers client, Tyrese Maxey, out of Philly as well.
Regardless, those are front-office issues to handle. Pertaining fit, if you can partner Lillard and Simmons, you’d hope for a Steph Curry and Draymond Green type of duo. But it also gives you the Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo timeline. Butler turns 32 this month, and Adebayo turned 24 in July, the same month Lillard turned 31. (What is it with September and July birthdays???)
The Butler-Adebayo timeline, meaning, Miami is in “win-now” mode, but still have Adebayo beginning his max contract this season, and presumably, are geared to build around him in the future when Butler, Lowry, and other veterans are older and or out of the league. Simmons would effectively complement Lillard the same way regarding timelines.
On the court, as disappointing as Simmons’ lack of offensive evolution has been, he’s still one of the very best defenders on the planet, and Lillard has never had a teammate that could do what he does on that side. If they want it to work, it can, and Portland clearly needs to try something different.
And, for the Sixers, with McCollum to complement Joel Embiid, why couldn’t he have a career-year? With Simmons gone, the spacing improves by default, and McCollum would be leaving Lillard, one of the league’s highest-usage guards. In fact, McCollum will also be your primary ball-handler in Philly. Embiid has missed exactly 20 games per regular season since 2017-18, and many more if you include his first three years, two of which he missed entirely. McCollum might have a pathway to his best ball due to playing off him, but also, stepping up in his absences.
Maybe McCollum finally becomes the All-Star he’s deserved to be for years, cementing the Sixers as a legitimate Eastern Conference threat. And maybe Simmons and Lillard are rejuvenated beside one another in a high-stress must-win situation out in Portland.