In the aftermath of the Philadelphia 76ers' collapse against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals last night, the first question I asked myself is how much longer is Ben Simmons under contract for, because the guy is about as helpful to the team in the fourth quarter as a pile of rocks. The answer, I discovered, was staggering -- four years and over $140 million.
It's the kind of contract many consider untradeable. He's the 12th highest-paid player in the NBA based on average salary but about the 120th person you'd select when rolling out a lineup in crunch time. Yet, there's always a few teams willing to absorb a terrible contract banking on the idea that Simmons, still only 24, might one day learn how to shoot a free throw and grow as an offensive player. He is, after all, an All-Defensive player, which Draymond Green has proven can be a valuable attribute as long as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are your teammates.
With that in mind, I decided to think of teams crazy enough to take on Simmons and his abomination of a contract. Here they are.
Portland Trail Blazers
If Dame Lillard does indeed want out of Portland, as rumors have speculated, the 76ers should jump all over the opportunity to acquire him. He's a much better fit alongside Joel Embiid and can be the closer the 76ers so clearly lack.
From Portland's standpoint, they're going to want a lot more than just Simmons in return for Lillard. Perhaps it's Tobias Harris or maybe picks, but those picks won't be very valuable with Lillard and Embiid paired together.
Still, Portland could be caught in a Houston-James Harden situation where, if Lillard nukes the relationship, they have no choice but to move on and start anew. Simmons could be a good pair alongside CJ McCollum and help the Trail Blazers form a stronger defense than they've had since they were the Jail Blazers.
The Rockets are in rebuild mode and will be for a few more years. Is John Wall the guy you want building your franchise around? If I'm Houston, I'd rather have a defensive-first mindset, which Simmons can bring to the franchise.
Of course, the other half is the 76ers. I'm not so sure I want Wall, his banged-up body and super-max deal for three more years either. Perhaps the Rockets throw in one of the million picks they've acquired to sweeten the pot. But again, this isn't about the 76ers. This about the other team crazy enough to trade for Simmons and I could see Houston taking a flier here.
New York Knicks
Whether the 76ers would actually send Simmons to a conference/division rival is questionable. But the Knicks desperately need a point guard and the 76ers desperately need to get better shooters around Joel Embiid.
The Knicks have already been rumored to be in the Lillard trade sweepstakes and I'm sure they'd prefer a shooter like Dame to a passer like Simmons. But from a trade-value standpoint, Simmons would likely cost less in assets than Lillard (Knicks positive) and the 76ers can get some offensive playmakers who better pair with Embiid.
Again, it's always hard to envision one rival trading a young All-Star to another, but desperate times call for desperate measures and the 76ers will have to explore every avenue to make a deal.