There are FIVE teams left in the race to land Simmons. We break down each possible deal

The NBA’s February 10 trade deadline isn’t far off as Ben Simmons’ standoff with the Philadelphia 76ers continues.

And while a surge of Covid-19 cases is currently dominating the NBA landscape and making it hard for teams to engage in trade talks, the Sixers are expected to again ramp up conversations with rivals soon for the Aussie star.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Sixers “don’t have any real traction on a trade yet” but are set to re-engage with suitors including the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves before naming the Cleveland Cavaliers as the “team to watch”. The Athletic’s Shams Charania also revealed the Cavs have a “level of interest” in Simmons.

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Simmons is yet to play this season (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/AFP)Source: AFP

Meanwhile, Bally Sports’ NBA Insider Brandon ‘Scoop’ Robinson confirmed the San Antonio Spurs remain keen on Simmons.

It comes after earlier reports that the Sixers are targeting a superstar level talent in return such as James Harden, Damian Lillard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jaylen Brown — but the reality is Philadelphia may need to start looking a rung down.

In saying that, Simmons is contracted until 2025, meaning suitors aren’t just getting a rental player, thus increasing his value. But how much have the events of recent months affected that?

The 25-year-old Simmons remains away from the Sixers citing mental health issues, while Wojnarowski confirmed Simmons has no plans to return to the team this season, meaning a trade over the next month is the only way to resolve his immediate future.

And so has analysed each of the potential five landing spots and their prospects of getting a deal done.

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Whether or not they make a move for Simmons, the Pacers are considered one of the teams most likely to shake things up ahead of the trade deadline as they dwindle at the lower end of the Eastern Conference standings. It comes after The Athletic first reported the franchise was open to parting with Caris LeVert and either Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner in favour of moving towards a substantial rebuild (or tanking) — but this is where a Simmons trade doesn’t necessarily make a heap of sense. While Simmons is only 25 years old, a ‘substantial rebuild’ would indicate accruing long-term assets like draft picks and young upside pieces that won’t help them in the interim (and even makes them worse), so someone like Tyrese Maxey would be a more logical target. Plus any draft picks Indiana took off Philadelphia’s hands would likely be on the lower end of the board. On the Sixers side, the Pacers would be an attractive trade partner as Philadelphia seeks a top-line star that can help them push for the title — with both Sabonis and Turner fitting the bill or not being far off — although it’s unclear how either would mesh with Joel Embiid. The Sixers would ideally get another playmaker in for Simmons, but in terms of who’s actually on the market, Indiana could well have the best assets.

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The Kings are another team that, regardless of their legitimate Simmons aspirations, are expected to make moves ahead of the deadline amid another rocky season. Sacramento has maybe the best spread of assets in the league to target a higher-end star and should be bold in trying to climb into the playoff picture after falling short for so many years. This is a team that, as harsh as it sounds, no one has taken seriously for the best part of 20 years, has had one player represent it in the All-Star game since 2004 (DeMarcus Cousins) and just fired its sixth coach in nine seasons. Simmons would make a lot of sense as that franchise star who could potentially help turn their fortunes and make all those years of pain and racking up assets worthwhile. Reports have stated Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley are all on the market, but Sacramento would almost definitely need to include at least one of De‘Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in any trade for Simmons. Haliburton would surely interest the Sixers as one of the brightest, most well-rounded young guards in the league despite not yet being in the ‘star’ echelon, so too Barnes and Hield as strong pieces who could help them contend. The other bonus of shipping Simmons to Sacramento is sends him out of the Eastern Conference and thus doesn’t make any immediate rivals stronger.

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The Timberwolves have long been linked to Simmons as the team looks to climb up the always-competitive Western Conference standings, but how it gets a deal done is less clear. Any trade would have to centre around D’Angelo Russell, and while the 25-year old is a quality player, he’s a couple of rungs down the neighbourhood the Sixers are reportedly shopping. Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley could also appeal to Philadelphia but are on a combined $28 million salary to complicate bundling them into a package with Russell, who’s on $30 million. Going off the other players the Sixers have been targeting, you can bet that they’d be asking the question of Anthony Edwards, but the Timberwolves surely wouldn’t be open to dealing the former Pick 1. It means draft picks would likely need to be a big factor in a trade with the Timberwolves, but the Sixers’ preference is finding a star to pair with Joel Embiid during his prime. Therefore a deal with Minnesota seems less likely unless a third of fourth team gets involved.

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The “team to watch” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and one that may now be more serious about plotting a move following its rise to the upper echelon of the East. It’s the dilemma several rising teams face when they have a collection of young budding stars — do they stick with the current crop and see how far it takes them, or at some stage trade for a bona fide All-Star? Don’t get too excited Cavs fans, as any deal would need to centre around more than just Colin Sexton, thus complicating a potential Simmons-to-Cleveland move. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley would both have appeal but are likely untouchables. Jarrett Allen could loom as the key piece, but how he’d fit alongside Joel Embiid is a huge question mark, plus reported Allen can’t be traded until after this season because of his new deal’s Bird Rights. Plus Cleveland would probably be hesitant to trade him anyway after emerging as an All-Star level talent. So that leaves the likes of Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen, Isaac Okoro and Ricky Rubio as potential trade chips but ones who the Sixers surely wouldn’t look twice at as centre pieces of a deal. Like Minnesota, the Cavs would likely need to get more teams involved in a swap to make it happen.

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According to NBA insider Marc Stein, Simmons would be keen to play for Gregg Popovich if the Spurs could find a way to land him. But could San Antonio realistically make it happen without parting with Dejounte Murray? Murray has emerged as an All-Star calibre player this season and one who’s proven he can be the new face of the Spurs as the franchise transitions into a new era. And Simmons would certainly help fast-track Popovich and co.’s pathway back to the playoffs. However, beyond Murray, Derrick White, Jakob Poeltl, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are all attractive pieces, but none stand out as a bold win-now additions that could really help Philadelphia. The other issue if the Spurs could somehow find a way to acquire Simmons without giving up Murray is how the pair would fit together given they’re best maximised handling the ball and neither shoot it well (despite Murray’s improved form). This isn’t to write off the Spurs as a landing spot, but a direct swap doesn’t make much sense on the Sixers side unless it included Murray.


By Malvi