The Philadelphia 76ers open up training camp on September 28th.
Now normally, that would be a mildly exciting if not relatively unspectacular day, as it signifies the NBA season is right around the corner, but this year is a little different. This year, September 28th will officially tell us whether or not Ben Simmons will follow through on his threat to hold out of camp despite having four years left on his max contract.
Needless to say, all eyes will be on the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in roughly two weeks time.
… or maybe not.
You see, in one of his oh-so-many appearances on ESPN, Brian Windhorst let it slip that a “small-market team” who hadn’t previously been linked to a Simmons trade has submitted an offer to Daryl Morey for his disgruntled star’s services.
Well, according to Hoop-social, there are only 10 teams in the NBA who gave 1.5 million or fewer homes in their television markets. Of those teams, many – Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Indiana – have already expressed interest in Simmons’ services, while others – Milwaukee, New Orleans, and OKC – simply don’t make sense as landing spaces for one reason or another.
So really, that just leaves Utah and Memphis as viable small market teams that fit Windy’s bill.
Could the Utah Jazz view Ben Simmons as a third star to pair up with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert moving forward? Maybe so, and they’d surely be willing to swap out Jordan Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanović, and maybe even Joe Ingles to get a deal done, but for my money, Memphis presents some really intriguing options to fill out the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster with complementary pieces alongside Joel Embiid.
The Memphis Grizzlies could present the Philadelphia 76ers with an intriguing package for Ben Simmons.
No team has made move moves in the 2021-22 NBA calendar year than the Memphis Grizzlies.
They traded Grayson Allen to the Milwaukee Bucks for Sam Merrill, Jonas Valanchunes in a package to the New Orleans Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, rerouted “mini-LeBron” back to the Los Angeles Clippers for Patrick Beverly, rerouted hin to the Timberwolves for Juan Hernangomez, rerouted him to Boston for Kris Dunn and Carsen Edwards, and will surely move one or both of those players too if an opportunity presents itself.
Oh yeah, and they also re-acquired Marc Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers so he could officially retire in a Memphis uniform; how could I have forgotten?
This is all well and good. Plenty of teams like to move pieces around to find the right combination of players, especially when they are amassing additional draft picks in the process, but when you have 20 players under contract two weeks before camp opens up, something has to change.
Hmm… I wonder if Jason Wexler’s lack of urgency at trimming down his roster could be because he sees an opportunity to do a three-for-one move where he swapped out a few rotation players for an All-Star-caliber contributor?
Crazy? Maybe so, but think about it. The Grizzlies are one of the few teams in the NBA without a single player making more than $20 million. Granted, that will surely change when Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. get their extensions, but for the time being, they can operate like the 2018-19 Philadelphia 76ers, with an ability to pretty much move as they please sans a huge luxury cap bill.
Trading for Ben Simmons would surely change that equation up, but only slightly.
With $33 million owed to him in 2021-22, Simmons isn’t the easiest player to trade for. Unless he’s being traded to a team that has $34 million available under the cap – which no team can currently boast – a hypothetical GM is going to need to ship back a package worth at least $24.75 million to make a proposed deal legal.
Fortunately, Memphis has a slew of contracts that fit the bill, which plenty of rookie-scale players who could tickle Daryl Morey’s fancy.
From Dillon Brooks, to Kyle Anderson – both of whom were reportedly on the block earlier this offseason – De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke, and even 2020 first-round pick Desmond Bane, about half of the Grizzlies roster is potentially up for play in a hypothetical trade for Simmons.
Are any of those players the exact guy the Sixers are looking for? No. For all of the intriguing options on the Grizzlies’ roster, they don’t have a single ball-dominant All-Star guard outside of Ja Morant to pair up with Joel Embiid moving forward. But if the Sixers are comfortable with Tyrese Maxey as their top point guard in 2021-22, they could fill out their supporting cast with one heck of an impressive collection of players.
Do you want shooters? Memphis has Brooks and Bane. How about combo forwards? Clarke is already one of the best in the business. Secondary ball handlers? Anderson and Milton both fit that bill despite having a seven-inch height difference.
Are any one of these players worthy of Simmons alone? No. But throw three to four of them together, and things could get darn interesting.
Hmm… okay. So the Grizzlies could conceivably pull off a trade for Simmons. But why would they want to? I mean, they ready have Morant locked in at the one and JJJ as a hybrid four/five. Where would Simmons even play?
I know, crazy, right? A player who has been compared to LeBron James since high school actually playing his position? Who would have ever thought of that?
… everyone? Oh yeah.
While Simmons could surely still bring the ball up the court from time to time, facilitate the offense, and even run the show from time to time, transitioning the former first overall pick off the ball is a fantastic way to optimize his strengths while hiding his lack of shooting behind Morant’s theatrics. Simmons could focus on his screens, generate movement off the ball, and even park it in the paint at the dunker spot since Jackson is a pretty good outside shooter. Heck, could you imagine how impressive Simmons would look running the fast break with Morant? That two-man game would be insane in the fullcourt.
Would it work? I mean, Morant and Anderson worked pretty darn well together last season, earning a +/- of 82 in 3,332 minutes of action. Outside of shooting 3s, Simmons is a better version of Anderson in every way, so if he’s willing to buy in, I could see that partnership working just fine.
Considering Memphis doesn’t typically attract big names in free agency, and they are one of the best drafting teams in the NBA, trading a quarter dozen roleplayers for a player of Simmons’ caliber may just be the best way to finally get over the hump and establish themselves as one of the top-four teams in the West, even if they have to pay handsomely for the honor.
And as for the Sixers? Well, they get to surround Embiid with shooters, handpick a supporting cast based on what Morey and Doc Rivers like, and move forward into a new era of South Philly hoops sans the dark cloud that has loomed over their franchise all offseason long.
What’s better than addition by subtraction? Addition by addition.
Will the Philadelphia 76ers ultimately execute a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for Ben Simmons? Probably not. Considering as many as five teams could get in on a trade for the former LSU Tiger, statistically speaking, the chances of him ending up in Memphis aren’t particularly high. But if the team comes in hot with a module offer that allows Daryl Morey and company to essentially build their own package around anyone not named Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr., it might just be attractive enough to hold the team’s attention.