The Brooklyn Nets (30-19) are expected to be one of the more aggressive teams in trying to find postseason reinforcements for their roster ahead of the February 9 deadline. They are 3-6 in their last nine games while Kevin Durant has been sidelined with a knee injury.
It’s not expected that Brooklyn’s aggression will lead to Simmons being traded, at least not yet.
If they do decide that they have seen enough from Simmons to pull the plug on the experiment, they could be hard-pressed to find a trade partner. The other team would have to be in a state of transition themselves, looking to move their own disappointing contract or contracts while also being willing to take on Simmons – a situation such as the Charlotte Hornets find themselves in.
A Ben Simmons-Gordon Hayward Swap Could Work
“Simmons remains an offensive enigma,” writes Dan Favale for Bleacher Report. “His ultra low-volume can be detrimental—especially when Kevin Durant is out. If the Nets are confident Kyrie Irving will be back next year, they may be interested in more of a reset.”
- Joe Harris
- Ben Simmons
“[The Nets] escape the final year of Harris’ [$75 million] contract here, and Hayward comes off the books one year earlier than Simmons,” Favale argues. “He also happens to be a much more impactful (offensive) fit for Brooklyn if he can stay healthy. Oubre and Plumlee both come off the books after this season. The Nets can use each in the meantime.”
Hayward, 32, is averaging 13.8 points on 53.8% true shooting with 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists this season. He would come with a substantial injury history and another year at $31 million on his $120 million contract.
Oubre was enjoying a breakout season – 20.2 points, 5.1 boards, and 1.2 assists before suffering torn ligaments in his hand that required surgery and has kept him out of action since January 29.
The 6-foot-6, 28-year-old forward is in the final year of a two-year, $24.6 million pact.
Plumlee, 32, is also in the midst of a breakout campaign in his 10th NBA season. He’s averaging 12.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on an economical $8.5 million price tag for this season before hitting the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent. Plumlee originally inked a 3-year deal worth $24.6 million with the Detroit Pistons back in 2020. On August 6, 2021, the Pistons opted to ship the veteran big man to the Hornets along with the draft rights to JT Thor in exchange for the draft rights of Balsa Koprivica.
The Ben Simmons Experiment Has Been Inconclusive
“Simmons is only 26, but he may never approach the pinnacle he touched in Philadelphia, where his limitations remained the same, but he was more confident in getting downhill and not as allergic to contact,” Favale points out. “Playing for the zero-expectation Hornets might help him.”
Simmons has averaged just 6.0 points, 8.3 assists, and 5.9 rebounds since Durant has been sidelined.
His assists and rebounds have been nice but the lack of aggression would seem untenable.
That will become particularly true in the postseason where his efficiency from the floor (47.3% true shooting in his last seven appearances) and aversion to even shooting the ball could prove to be a fatal blow to the Nets’ playoff outlook.
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn has already put out a public call for Simmons to be more aggressive when he is on the floor.
“Can he protect the rim for us,” Vaughn said to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News rhetorically. “Can he guard on the perimeter for us? Can he push the pace? All of those things at a high level – not as if he’s playing 32 minutes, but 22.”
But Vaughn still wants more from the three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive selection.
“If we can get him playing at that pace, thinking, ‘I’m not gonna waste any opportunity, no possessions am I wasting,’” Vaughn said, “that’s the mentality and the mindset we try to grab onto.”
Nets Facing Uncertainty
If the Nets are going to deal Simmons it might not come at the deadline. They still have some other unsettled issues – Irving’s future, the impact it has on Durant and vice versa, as well as general manager Sean Marks’ murky contract status.
“Not at the deadline,” a league source told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney of the chances Simmons is dealt on or before February 9. “I mean, look, if a perfect offer comes along, they would have to take it. But what they do next is so up in the air…The fact is, they’re as up in the air as much as any franchise in the league at this point.”
This deal – if it were actually on the table – might be as close as they can get to the “perfect offer” before the deadline and without some serious rehabilitation to Simmons’ reputation.