Philadelphia 76ers: Darius Garland could swing a trade for Ben Simmons

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Collin Sexton is a Philly guy.

He’s a blue-collar, tough as nails scorer who didn’t play for a collegiate heavyweight, didn’t go number one overall, and wasn’t expected to become more than an average starting-caliber combo guard but, through a potent combination of sheer willpower and a potent “screw you” mentality, Sexton has improved his scoring every season he’s been in the NBA, to the point where he ranked 18th in points per game.

Now granted, are some of those 24.3 points per game the byproduct of playing for a certified stinker with a glut of opportunities to score with the lead out of reach? Sure, if Sexton was on a better team, his averages would surely sag off due to having better players around him, but it’s hard to watch the 6-foot-1 shooting guard bully his way through the paint and not get inspired by his style of play.

Would I personally like to see Collin Sexton in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform? Yes, but not as much as I’d like to see Darius Garland in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform.

Darius Garland could be an ideal lottery addition for the Philadelphia 76ers.

It took Darius Garland five games at Vanderbilt to show he was worthy of being a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Granted, had Garland played more, could he have maybe squeaked into the top four or even three? Probably not, as the New York Knicks really liked R.J. Barrett, and the Atlanta Hawks already had a point guard. Then again, had Garland proved himself a viable, do-it-all point guard capable of dishing to Zion Williamson, maybe the New Orleans Pelicans would have drafted him fourth overall and kept the pick instead of trading with the Atlanta Hawks, so who really knows.

Either way, Garland’s ceiling was so high that the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had just drafted another 6-foot-1 guard in the lottery the year prior, couldn’t pass up adding him to their backcourt even after missing the end of his lone season in Tennessee with a meniscus injury.

From there, Garland became the first player born in the 21st century to make his NBA debut, turned in a very good rookie campaign that shockingly didn’t earn him a spot on the All-Rookie team, and garnered a very fun and not too safe for work nickname alongside Collin Sexton. He averaged 12.3 points and 3.9 assists in little under 31 minutes of action a night and looked primed for a breakout second season in “City of Champions.”

*spoiler alert* breakout he did.

Garland averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists – the 17th highest mark in the league – and 1.2 steals in only 2.2 more minutes of action a night. He saw his field goal percentage tick up from 40.1 to 45.1, his 3 point shooting percentage increase from 35.5 to 39.5 on roughly five attempts per game, and even doubled his average free throw attempts per game, even if his shooting percentage dipped 87.5 to 84.8.

Are you one of those people who desperately wanted to trade the Al Horford contract for Chris Paul last season? Have you always wanted to see Joel Embiid play alongside a pass-happy floor general who can run an offense like a work of art? Well then, you, my friend, had better hope Daryl Morey trades Ben Simmons for a package centered around Garland, as he’s got a whole lot of Paul in his game.

Like Paul, Garland is a 6-foot-1 guard with a lightning-fast first step, great vision, and a pension for executing passes that look impossible but find their mark. He always looks like he’s three steps ahead versus the player tasked with covering him and just had a knack for executing an offense at the professional level.

Granted, that hasn’t really translated to wins at the NBA level, as the Cavs only saw their win total jump from 19 in 2019-20 to 22 in 2020-21, but that has more to do with Cleveland’s lack of complementary talents than Garland’s on-court accomplishments. With Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen, and Ricky Rubio all inbounds, the Cavs might just push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are at worst near shoo-ins to make the play-in tournament… that is, unless they trade Garland and Kevin Love (plus other stuff) to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package centered around Simmons.

In theory, such a swap makes a lot of sense for both parties. Cleveland had their greatest success with LeBron James at the helm, and, as everyone on earth has surely told you, Simmons has a game good enough to garner another royalty-themed nickname.

Regardless of how you feel about Simmons now, he would undoubtedly be one of the top-5 players to wear a Cavs uniform this century and could very well be their franchise player moving forward from which to build around.

And as for the Philadelphia 76ers? Well, they’d finally have a true blue pure point guard to pair up with Embiid both now and moving forward.

Like Simmons, Garland is a plus passer, a good on-ball pickpocket, and a speedy scorer in transition. However, unlike Simmons, Garland can pull up for a jump shot from anywhere, even *gasp* from beyond the arc, execute the pick-and-roll/pop, and even embrace contact on his way to the hoop.

Even if Garland can’t come close to Simmons defensively, he’s by far the better offensive prospect right now, and, at 21-years-old, he’s only going to get better with each passing season.

After playing alongside Sexton over the past two seasons, Garland has experience splitting his time between the one and the two, and could conceivably slot in next to all of the Sixers’ guards from Tyrese Maxey to Seth Curry. He’s a capable catch-and-shoot 3 point shooter, having made 43.1 percent of his 2.5 attempts per game in 2020-21, and only had a usage rate of 24.5 percent in his second professional season, which ranked fourth on the Cavs.

Could Garland one day average a 20-10 double-double like Paul did from 2007-09? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s hard to imagine his game not getting better with the best center in the NBA to play off of.

Charles Bassey is finally officially a Sixer. dark. Next

Make no mistake about it, Darius Garland is the most intriguing point guard available via trade in a deal for Ben Simmons. While DeAaron Fox is better right now and is quite possibly the fastest player in the NBA today, Garland is already a comparable passer, a better shooter, and may join the 20 points per game club as soon as this season. If he’s available, the Philadelphia 76ers would be downright goofy to pass up on his services, even if Collin Sexton is also available, as they could procure the NBA’s next great pure point guard for a player who doesn’t want to be here.