Ah, the NBA Summer League: the time of year when NBA fans the world over traverse to Las Vegas – or their TV screens – to watch the best young talent the league has to offer.
To some bottom of the roster types, this is a chance to catch an eye and prolong their dreams of making it to the NBA. LiAngelo Ball, for example, turned heads by dropping 16 for the Charlotte Hornets and may just drive that momentum to his first real NBA contract, be it two-way or in the G League.
But just because the Summer League is all about the youngsters doesn’t mean there aren’t still big boy deals getting done. No, with all 30 teams represented, Summer League is a perfect opportunity for behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing, something Las Vegans (?) should be very familiar with.
Why, you may ask, is this relevant to the Philadelphia 76ers? Well, because a rival general manager is reportedly experiencing significant pressure from his ownership group to pull off a trade for Ben Simmons (or Pascal Siakam) and may pay handsomely for the opportunity.
Philadelphia 76ers: Just trade for De’Aaron Fox; it’s not that hard.
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As crazy as it may sound, there is some overlap between De’Aaron Fox and Ben Simmons.
I know, I know, on paper, that doesn’t make sense. Simmons is seven inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier, but hear me out; I think you’ll agree with me in time.
In the 2020-2021 season, Fox and Simmons both averaged at least 6.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, an elite category that only three players fell into.
Fun fact: The other player to average 6.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game in 2020-21 is none other than our old pal Jimmy Butler. *sigh*
Both are expert distributors, effective around the rim, and are absolutely lethal in transition.
You like speed? Fox and Simmons might just be two of the fastest players in the NBA, right up there with Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell.
With that in mind, the duo (obviously) aren’t identical players. Simmons is a far better on-ball defender, a more versatile defender, and presents a unique height/weight/speed problem when driving to the basket – assuming he doesn’t shy away from contact to avoid heading to the line.
For all the hate Simmons generates, his list of awards is well earned and he obviously remains in high demand despite a poor playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks.
Fox’s accomplishments, by contrast, often get overlooked. Playing for one of the least popular franchises in the NBA – no offense to the Kings and their fantastic Twitter account – Fox has never been named to an All-Star team, never took his team to the playoffs, and only has an all All-Rookie team designation on his resume.
I mean, we’re talking about a guy who averaged 20.7 points, 7.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals over the last three seasons playing alongside a bottom-ten supporting cast. Fox has gone for 40-plus three times, picked up five-plus steals in six games, and became one of the few players to record a 30 point triple-double before turning 21 in a 31-10-15 game back in November of 2018.
Impressive, right? Now imagine how much better Fox is now with two more NBA seasons, albeit weird ones, under his belt.
If given a chance to play alongside an elite post presence like Joel Embiid with a roster that just finished out the regular season with the best record in the East, there’s little reason to believe Fox wouldn’t be held in the same regard as the Association’s other rising stars, players like Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
But trading for Fox isn’t solely about unlocking his potential and transferring him from the capital city of California to the original capital of these great United States. No, his addition would be an absolute godsend and provide the Sixers with a serious jolt of energy heading into a pivotal regular season.
While Fox isn’t as offensively brilliant as, say, Damian Lillard – the apple of everyone’s eye who probably isn’t going to be traded this summer according to Bobby Marks – and only made 32.2 percent of his 3 pointers last season, he’s a fierce cutter, a 71.8 percent free-throw shooter, and a willing shooter from beyond the arc on open looks. Had the Sixers simply swapped out Simmons for Fox last postseason, their offense wouldn’t have collapsed in the waning moments of the game and turned into a 5-on-4 situation where Emiid can’t take a step without a body in his way.
Would the team have been worse off on the defensive end, where Simmons helped to put the clamps down on Young for much of the series? Sure, but you tell me, which is harder to find, a 20 points per game scorer who dishes out seven-plus assists and recorded a steal and a half a game, or a defensive specialist being paid like the best player on a championship team? Considering the Sixers secured Matisse Thybulle with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and he’ll surely be playing next season on a club option worth $4.38 million, the answer feels fairly obvious.
And the best part? Simmons for Fox likely wouldn’t be a one-for-one swap. While I doubt the team would be able to secure the four first-round pick they were looking for earlier in the summer for Simmons’ services, its entirely possible they could agree to a two-for-one deal that nets the team another quality young player, an unprotected first, and maybe a few pick-swaps Nik Stauskas-style just for old times sake. Remember, Monte McNair is “looking to make a major move” and may be willing to overpay to get it done Chicago Bulls style to put his stamp on a team that hasn’t earned a playoff berth since 2006.
Who knows, maybe such a deal could even net the Sixers Buddy Hield, a longtime trade favorite who probably won’t be back with the Kings this fall. Monetarily, that would be pretty darn hard to do, as Fox and Hield combined make $50.87 million, whereas Simmons only makes $33 million, but if any GM can figure out a way to get such a deal done, it’d probably be Morey.
Am I a fan of De’Aaron Fox’s game? Yes. Does that maybe shy my preferences a tiny bit? Sure, but frankly, securing his services feels like the closest thing Daryl Morey could find on the open market to the James Harden trade back in 2012, especially if Beal and Lillard aren’t likely to be moved anytime soon, if ever. Fox has good size for the one, could be a really interesting off-ball option playing alongside his fellow former Kentucky Wildcat Tyrese Maxey, and has improved his numbers season after season despite playing for a team that has largely remained bad. If that isn’t the sort of player you want to pair up with Joel Embiid long-term, then I don’t know who is (save Dame). Make it happen, Philadelphia 76ers; make my night.