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The Phoenix Suns need to get in on the Ben Simmons trade talks, but not in the way you might think.
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday, Simmons is not planning on reporting to training camp and is done with the Philadelphia 76ers. The three-time All-Star is doing all that he can to force his way out of Philly, and while that hurts his trade value, a standoff between a disgruntled star and a team trying to maximize value in any deal can only last so long before one side caves … and eventually, it’s almost always the team.
For all the criticism over his 2021 playoff performance and his well-documented shooting woes, Simmons is a phenomenal two-way player who could help any team. He can capably defend almost every position on the court as a two-time All-Defensive team selection. He’s one of the best passers in the game as a 6-foot-11 point forward. And he’s still only 25 years old, which leaves plenty of room for growth. No one should write off a guy with career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 56 percent shooting through the first four years of his NBA career.
A team like the Suns, who should be searching for a long-term successor for Chris Paul to groom at the point guard spot, would LOVE to have a player like Ben Simmons running the show down the road.
The thing is, the timing just isn’t right. Coming off an NBA Finals run, the Suns re-signed Chris Paul and Cam Payne in the backcourt to team-friendly deals. They addressed areas of need on the depth chart with JaVale McGee, Landry Shamet and even Elfrid Payton. With extensions for Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges likely to follow soon, Phoenix’s entire offseason was all about battening down the hatches for another potential Finals run.
Trading Paul for Simmons a few months from now (when Paul becomes trade-eligible) may seem like a move worth exploring, but it’d come with potentially severe consequences.
The Western Conference is still wide open, so blowing up this roster for a riskier fit like Simmons would be unwise, even if it’d be loaded with long-term upside. It could upset the locker room chemistry; remove this team’s certified leader for a player who’s historically disappeared in the postseason; replace a respected 3-point shooter and elite midrange shot creator with a guy who can’t (and won’t) shoot from anywhere outside the paint; piss off the Suns’ franchise star who loves playing with CP3; and threaten to upend a championship-ready core with another major adjustment process.
Throw in the fact that Sixers general manager Daryl Morey is holding out for a significant return in any trade, and that Simmons makes more this season than any Suns player with his $33 million salary, and suddenly it becomes hard to see how a deal makes sense. Even if Philly was okay with trading Simmons for Paul without any other assets attached, a high-risk, high-reward long-term play like this just isn’t in the cards.
With that being said, none of that means Phoenix should avoid picking up the phone to finesse their way into Ben Simmons trade talks as a third party.
Potential three-team Ben Simmons trades
Trading a player with such volatile trade value can be tough. On the one hand, Simmons is a three-time All-Star and Third Team All-NBA selection through his first four seasons. He’s already led the league in steals, could be a walking triple-double one day and still manages to be effective in the regular season despite his lack of a jump shot.
The problem is his unwillingness to shoot becomes a real disadvantage in the playoffs. He’s on a large contract for a player with such an obvious Achilles heel, and this standoff hurts both his perception around the league and Philly’s leverage to actually get a fair return, which only disincentivizes Morey to pull the trigger.
To that end, involving a third team might be the key to facilitating a deal. Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers make sense as potential suitors in a normal, two-team exchange, but if the Suns can maneuver their way into one of the following three-team deals, they’d be in a very good place.
The ideal Spurs trade for Ben Simmons
We’ve already covered why Young would be a good fit in Phoenix, so this would be the ideal scenario.
As Flex from Jersey told PHNX on Monday, the Suns have been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs over Thaddeus Young for weeks now. Phoenix is hesitant to offer a first-round pick, so the Spurs are canvassing the league to try and find a better offer. They’re unlikely to get one for a 33-year-old on an expiring contract, and Flex’s expectation is that Young will be a Sun in the near future.
A three-team deal involving an established star like Simmons might provide the extra incentive San Antonio needs to jettison Young to the Valley. In this trade, the Suns get their guy in Young, even if they’d have to wait a few more weeks to officially pull the trigger based on his trade restriction.
The Sixers get two tremendous defenders and up-and-coming youngsters in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Both are ready to contribute on a title contender now, and with the Spurs throwing in an extra first-round pick, that represents a pretty respectable return for a guy who’s nuked his own trade value.
As for the Spurs, they get a superstar to build around with Simmons, an injured Dario Saric (whom Gregg Popovich would love once he’s healthy), a second-round pick from the Suns, and Jalen Smith, a No. 10 overall pick who didn’t show much in his rookie year but still has upside as a floor-spacing, 21-year-old big.
A sneaky-good Ben Simmons trade with the Blazers
Another option would be trying to sneak into a Portland Trail Blazers move. Damian Lillard is reportedly unhappy with the direction of the franchise and losing faith fast, so even though a public trade demand hasn’t come yet, it’s only a matter of time if this team putters its way to another .500 season and first-round playoff exit. That feels inevitable after such an uninspiring offseason, and moving CJ McCollum is the most sensible way to upgrade Rip City’s roster.
If that’s the case, and if Robert Covington becomes expendable in the shuffle, Phoenix should slide its way into those negotiations with an idea like this:
As Fanspo’s NBA Trade Machine notes, this deal couldn’t go through until after Nov. 5, since Danny Green was recently re-signed by the Sixers and therefore can’t be dealt until three months after the fact. But adding a wing like Covington, who could fill the Torrey Craig role of guarding 1-5 in a pinch, would be huge for the Suns’ defensive versatility come playoff time.
Covington’s 3-point stroke has been wildly inconsistent throughout his time in the league, but so was Craig’s, and RoCo at least managed to hit 37.9 percent of his 3s in Portland last year. He’s an established, defensive-minded veteran, and even better, he’s on a $13 million expiring contract. With Saric injured and Stix still years away from contributing on a playoff team, the Suns should go for a player like Covington if the opportunity presents itself.
With that being said, it’d take a lot to get both Philly and Portland to agree to this kind of exchange. McCollum would be an excellent fit on that Sixers team, but is a package of CJ, an injured Saric, Stix and a first-round pick from Rip City enough to get a deal done? Would the Suns need to chip in an additional first-rounder to get this trade across the finish line?
As for the Blazers, Simmons is a nice piece, but it’s unclear how he and Dame would fit together, even if his arrival would add more star power and a much-needed defensive presence. There’s also no guarantee Portland would prefer two years of Danny Green over RoCo’s expiring deal. Even with Green being a far more trustworthy shooter, he’s still four years older than Covington.
Would the Mavericks want Ben Simmons?
Another option, albeit an unlikely one, involves the Dallas Mavericks:
Maxi Kleber’s 7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year might not have leapt off the page, but he’s an underrated defender and knocked down 41 percent of his 4.2 long-range attempts per game. That kind of presence would bolster the Suns at the 4-spot where they could use some additional help, and he’d still have another year left on his team-friendly contract after this season. Maybe he’s not the sexiest option to punt on an injured Saric and Stix’s potential, but he’d help a Suns team aiming to contend for a title.
For the Sixers, the only way this works is if they can envision Kristaps Porzingis playing alongside Joel Embiid…or if they’re absolutely infatuated with Jalen Brunson. Brunson’s a great player, but a return of him, Jalen Smith and Porzingis won’t be enough — even if Dallas threw in a first-rounder on top of that — unless they like the idea of playing KP at the 4 and occasionally plugging him in as Embiid’s backup.
For the Mavs, the passing on a team with Simmons and Luka Doncic would be insane. But Doncic needs the ball in his hands to cook, and Simmons’ lack of floor-spacing makes him a pretty underwhelming sous chef. Saric wouldn’t be able to contribute until the 2022-23 season, so unless the Mavs were really desperate to provide Doncic with a fellow star, this one’s unlikely.
With that being said, these are just a few spitballed ideas to convey the overarching point: As Ben Simmons trade talks heat up, the Phoenix Suns should be creative in finding ways to upgrade their roster for another deep postseason run. It won’t be with Simmons directly, but as a third party to help facilitate a deal, the Suns could still capitalize with a solid role player.
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