The Ben Simmons-Philadelphia 76ers trade saga certainly appears to have turned a corner and has once again begun making progress towards a potential conclusion, one that could include the Los Angeles Lakers.
Having yet to suit up for the Sixers since the team’s dismal playoff performance against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals in the spring — a series he took the brunt of the fall for — Simmons and Philly’s game of hardball has nearly dragged on into 2022.
But a report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of ESPN on Friday indicated discussions were ramping up on the trade front, and Shams Charania of The Athletic brought the Lakers into the mix with his own report on Monday.
The 76ers are ramping up their efforts to spark multi-team trade scenarios to move Simmons, sources said, and a fresh pool of teams has emerged as potential destinations.
The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers are among the teams interested in Simmons, sources said, although it’s unclear how much traction Philadelphia truly has on any move
For the Lakers, landing Simmons would be some feat, and a rather improbable one to say the least. Strictly from a salary standpoint, Simmons’ deal paying him $33 million this year means the only realistic way the Lakers could make a trade — short of sending upwards of six to seven players out — for him would be to include one of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James or Anthony Davis.
The latter two are as untouchable as they come, while the former has begun to gel alongside his new superstar teammates. But while Westbrook certainly wouldn’t be seen as untouchable, it’s still hard to envision him as the type of missing piece the Sixers are searching for, either.
That also doesn’t take into account the mountain of draft picks the Sixers have sought and continue to pursue in a Simmons’ deal, draft picks the Lakers do not have in bundles.
But it’s clear 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has his eyes set on a potential trade scenario to ship Simmons out of Philadelphia — whenever a rival team can meet his asking price. The 76ers are currently asking teams for an All-Star-caliber player and/or multiple first-round draft picks for Simmons, sources said.
All that factored in, it’s hard to see a path to a Simmons trade for the Lakers. Even the Lakers’ more valuable trade assets in Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn don’t have a lot of value for the Sixers, and the former can’t be traded until Jan. 15 at the earliest. And including them in a deal with Westbrook actually requires the Sixers to send back a significant amount of salary on top of Simmons.
A three-team trade, then, would seem like the most logical route in an all-around illogical scenario. Finding a third team, in general, is tough though, and especially one that could and would help facilitate a Simmons trade without landing the young All-Star guard.
The biggest caveat to all of this, though, is that Simmons is a Klutch client. While it isn’t some overriding trump card, it does increase the probability of Rich Paul angling to specifically get him to Los Angeles and on a team Simmons has been a fan of in the past. It doesn’t, though, change any of the other factors around the trade, which still remain difficult.
Having said all that, pairing Simmons with James and Davis has plenty of intriguing on-court benefits. While it would hinder their spacing to an even greater degree than Westbrook, it would add an elite ballhandler and defender, and a player with a terrific basketball IQ. Signed through the 2024-25 season, it would also give the Lakers long-term stability with Simmons being just 25 years and a perfect pairing with Davis for the future.
None of it, though, feels likely or even possible given the restrictions the Lakers have in who they can trade, when they can be traded and how much the Sixers are seeking in a return. In reality, this is likely a source using the Lakers’ name and the threat of them as a bogeyman to drum up more interest in a trade for Simmons, a common tactic throughout recent NBA history, whether in trades or free agency. It’s an intriguing idea to consider, but one that almost certainly won’t come to fruition because of how complicated it would be.