The Celtics work week opened with some rather seismic NBA news out of The Athletic, where league insider Shams Charania reported that the Celtics have had talks about a possible trade with the Sixers for, of all players, Ben Simmons. Going back to the summer, of course, Simmons has been estranged from Philly, apparently offended by the blame that was laid at his feet for his flop of a performance in last year’s playoffs. He has sought a trade.
But … to Boston? And much to the chagrin of Celtics fans, Charania noted that no trade of Simmons to Boston would be possible without the Celtics including star wing Jaylen Brown. It would be possible for the Sixers to spice up such a deal—young ace defender Matisse Thybulle could be included, as well as a one or more of Philadelphia’s future first-round draft picks.
Not so fast, according to MassLive’s Brian Robb, that is just not happening. Here’s what Robb wrote on Monday:
Multiple league sources were adamant to MassLive.com that the Celtics have no interest in moving the All-Star Brown in the interim, particularly with him under team control for two more seasons at a below-market deal. 76ers general manager Daryl Morey has always aimed high in trade negotiations throughout his career but this is posturing will likely go nowhere given what’s happened to Simmons’ trade value over the past several months in the midst of his holdout.
Sixers’ Simmons Is Damaged Goods on the Trade Market
This seems to be a case of Morey, or someone with the Sixers, leaking a bit of intel to Charania to gauge whether it is possible to soften up the Celtics and work a deal. There has been chatter in recent weeks, of course, about whether the pairing of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can work together, given the disappointment of last season and the wildly tumultuous start to this season.
In that context, moving Brown for a versatile talent like Simmons, plus other young assets, might make some sense. But Simmons’ approach during his holdout and subsequent return to Sixers practice—he has yet to play an actual game this season—has sapped his trade value, as Robb points out, and makes giving up Brown to get him that much more far-fetched.
It does not help that Simmons is in only the second of a five-year, $170 million contract extension he signed two years ago, a hefty contract for a player who has been mentally soft thus far in his five NBA seasons and has attempted only 34 career 3-pointers, in an era in which the long ball has been the dominant feature of most star players’ offense.
Brown, meanwhile, has seen his scoring average rise in each of his six NBA seasons and is currently putting up 25.6 points per game. He has $80 million over three seasons left on his deal.
Could a Three-Team Celtics Trade for Simmons Work?
Robb did bring up an interesting possibility—that the Celtics could land Simmons without giving up Brown. It is unlikely, though, that the Celtics could accomplish that in a direct deal with Philadelphia, because their needs simply do not match up.
The Sixers might not have interest in Marcus Smart, an obvious Celtics trade possibility, given his uneven start to the season. One of the better young chips the Celtics have—center Robert Williams—would not be needed in Philadelphia, where center Joel Embiid is the star. The young Celtics trio of Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard and Romeo Langford could be offered up, but they have not show nearly enough to get Boston a player like Simmons.
The most realistic path to Simmons without trading Brown is a three-team deal. But don’t hold your breath. As Robb wrote, “The only path that makes plausible sense for both sides in a deal where Simmons goes to Boston would be a third team getting involved. The Celtics send multiple players and first-round picks to Team X, Team X sends the Sixers player(s) that are appealing and the Celtics land Simmons. The odds of that scenario coming to fruition given Boston’s limited assets seems unlikely however given the high asking price Philly is holding out for.”