The Philadelphia 76ers have long been looking for a trade partner of Ben Simmons but haven’t found any deals to their liking yet. One player Daryl Morey likely has his eye on is Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown. The third pick in the 2016 NBA draft (the very same as Simmons), Brown has improved year after year and is now one of the top wings in the entire NBA.
Why would Boston be looking to move such a talent who is only 25? Well, the Celtics seem like they will shortly implode, and one potential reason seems to be dissatisfaction from Brown, who has often been the unappreciated star in Boston. Playing second fiddle to Jayson Tatum, especially when your game is so similar, is no easy task, but it’s been Brown’s since Tatum was drafted.
Brown has passed that test with aplomb so far, but as the team’s struggles grow and Brown is continually questioned, that patience he has previously displayed is bound to wear off at a certain point. In Philadelphia, Jaylen Brown could have the opportunity to not reinvent himself but be himself. One Sixer who already seems warm to the idea is superstar Joel Embiid.
Likely for this to happen, though, a third team would have to be involved. Despite the Celtics’ alleged interest in Simmons, the Sixers would likely prefer Simmons not to go to a direct rival. The Celtics are also unlikely to value Simmons as much as certain other teams.
Who could the third team be, though? Likely, the answer is already in front of us in the rumor mill. Sacramento, Portland, and Indiana have all previously expressed interest, but what a deal would look like is another story.
Three Desperate Teams Mix It Up
Maybe it’s a stretch to call the Sixers “desperate” without Ben Simmons, the team has clearly underperformed, and contention seems out of reach at the moment. With that being said, a shake-up would be welcome by most, if not all, in the Sixers’ organization.
Jaylen Brown is, of course, the prize, but if the Sixers are able to also acquire Marcus Smart (who has also been in the rumor mill) is quite the icing on the cake. Between the addition of Jaylen Brown and Smart, the Sixers needn’t worry about the defensive loss that is sure to come by trading Ben Simmons, Danny Green, and Matisse Thybulle.
Of course, what is interesting in this situation is the inclusion of the Sacramento Kings, who have been connected multiple times to both Jaylen Brown and Ben Simmons. The Kings are underperforming once again, and there isn’t a clear way out for the team. Trading away De’Aaron Fox is slowly seeming like the team’s best bet to change their path as he’s arguably their most valuable asset.
The issue is that Fox has been inconsistent this season which will make it difficult for the Kings to receive equal value in return. Funnily enough, that’s what makes Ben Simmons the perfect target for Sacramento. The Sixers will not be getting full value for the three-time All-Star thanks to a multitude of reasons, all of which should work themselves out once he is traded.
Simmons would not only instantly become one of the greatest defenders in Kings’ history, but he would be the first potential All-Star in Sacramento since DeMarcus Cousins back in 2017. Ben Simmons would also bring out the best in some of the Kings’ current players like Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Richaun Holmes. Add in veteran wings Danny Green and Aaron Nesmith, and the Kings have a remade roster on their hands.
The Celtics, meanwhile, would add a young, exciting playmaker in Fox to pair with Jayson Tatum, who would take some of the ball-handling pressure off of the superstar. No one is here to claim that Fox is on the same level as Brown, but he has shown that potential as recently as last season and is barely 24 years old.
In addition to Fox, the Celtics would receive Harrison Barnes, who would be a major addition to the Celtics. Barnes is an ultra role player, one that almost every team would pine for. He’s the ultimate 3&D player (among non-All-Stars) and would provide what the Celtics may need more than anything else, veteran leadership. Barnes has won a championship, and he has played for a longsuffering team (Sacramento); if there’s anyone who understands both winning and losing, it’s Harrison Barnes.
What would make this deal hard for Philadelphia 76ers fans is the inclusion of Matisse Thybulle, but it’s hard to imagine this deal happening without him. The Celtics would love the opportunity to add the player they foolishly traded away during the 2019 NBA Draft. It would certainly hurt to watch Thybulle suit up for Boston. But if the haul includes Jaylen Brown and a high-quality support player like Marcus Smart, the decision should be a no-brainer for Daryl Morey.
Damian Lillard Gets His Guy
Plenty of rumors have flown involving Ben Simmons and the Portland Trail Blazers, so of course, they make sense as the third team in a potential deal. Daryl Morey has been unrelenting in his pursuit of Damian Lillard, but, at least for now, the Blazers’ star has made it clear he’s not going anywhere.
Many have suggested a deal between the Blazers and the Sixers that would involve CJ McCollum, a young player (Simons or Nassir Little), and a draft pick(s) for Ben Simmons. As of this moment, however, the Sixers have shown no interest in such a deal. Boston may not be so unenthusiastic. McCollum’s offensive ability would pair brilliantly with Jayson Tatum and would provide the Celtics with some extra ball-handling.
One potential issue with the Sixers acquiring CJ McCollum is that the team’s backcourt would be a defensive turnstile; that is not the case in Boston, thanks to Marcus Smart. McCollum and Smart would be able to play off each other strengths and weaknesses, allowing for a more cohesive starting lineup. Boston would have a lineup of starters that actually complement one another. Maybe that would help the team to figure out some of their recent struggles.
Adding Anfernee Simons would also be welcome as the Celtics, like many teams, are in need of shooting. The young deep-threat would be able to work off the bench in Boston alongside Dennis Schröder, giving the Celtics one of the best bench backcourts in the league. Not to mention the two first-round picks, which are nothing to sniff at.
Now, as to why Portland would be interested. Again, there have been rumors upon rumors connecting Ben Simmons to the Trail Blazers. Some of those rumors even suggest that Damian Lillard himself wants Ben Simmons to join him in Portland, and it’s not hard to understand why.
For one, Portland is bereft of defense, and Ben Simmons is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He could transform the Blazers into a competent defensive team. While that isn’t the end goal, it is a step in the right direction. The Blazers are also one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league, something Simmons knows a thing or two about.
Despite the criticism he has received since the postseason series against the Atlanta Hawks, Ben Simmons is a difference-maker, which is what Portland needs.
The Three-Star Swap
Another team often linked to Ben Simmons is the Indiana Pacers, who, earlier this season, were rumored to be looking to revamp their roster. Sixers fans think the Embiid/Simmons pairing was a bad fit; Indy has them beat by a mile. The combination of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner clearly isn’t working, and it’s well past time to end the experiment.
One team many have linked Sabonis to is, of course, the Boston Celtics. While Sabonis isn’t the perfect player, he solves many issues for Boston, from rebounding to post defense, an area where Sabonis has grown this season. The former All-Star has taken a small step back offensively this season, but with the disfunction the Pacers are suffering through, it’s not a concern. What is exciting is the defensive progression he’s managed to experience despite that disfunction. Regardless of the Sixers, Sabonis is someone to keep an eye on for Boston.
Along with Sabonis, the Celtics would also receive Danny Green and Caris LeVert, two starters who could help take some pressure off of Jayson Tatum on both sides of the ball. While it may not be as clean a fit as the deal with the Trail Blazers, it is undoubtedly an improvement from where the Celtics currently stand.
The Pacers, meanwhile, get not only Ben Simmons, who they have long pined after but also defensive stud Matisse Thybulle. Along with Simmons, Myles Turner, and of course, Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers could create one of the deadliest defensive lineups in the NBA.
Sure, the offense would take a back seat, but both Ben Simmons and Myles Turner are looking for expanded roles, so there will be plenty of offense between the two of them. Add in Aaron Nesmith, and two 2022 first-round picks as sweeteners, and the Pacers “rebuild” is already nearly complete.
The Sixers, meanwhile, still get their man in Brown plus Torrey Craig, who would be a valuable defense option on the wing especially come the playoffs. It doesn’t end with Brown and Craig, though, as once again, Marcus Smart joins Jaylen Brown in Philadelphia, and for good reason. Smart is a very talented defender, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. If the Sixers are losing both Matisse Thybulle and Ben Simmons (albeit Simmons already isn’t playing), they will need someone to be able to slow down some of the tremendous guards in the NBA.