Buckle up, Brooklyn Nets (30-19) fans because the Ben Simmons experiment looks like it could continue for longer than some on the outside believe it should. The team is still sitting in a decent position as the four-seed in the Eastern Conference stemming the tide and winning three of their last five games.
They have still only won three of nine games since Kevin Durant suffered a sprained MCL that threatens to keep him out through the All-Star break.
Simmons’ play with Durant out has been less than inspiring and the 6-foot-10 guard missed the win over the New York Knicks. It has led to public calls for the team to make a move sending him out of town.
But, according to a pair of insiders, that is easier said than done.
Insider: ‘Good Luck’ Trying to Trade Ben Simmons
“As for trading Simmons, good luck with that.” writes John Hollinger, senior writer for The Athletic. “The Nets would need to attach draft picks, not receive them, and — last I checked — they need a permission slip from the Rockets to do anything with any of their draft capital. I just don’t see any cap situation right now on another roster where exchanging for Simmons would be helpful, and that won’t change unless either Simmons plays better or another player on a huge contract plays badly enough that trading him for Simmons becomes palatable.”
Hollinger did present his co-author of a piece assessing the Nets’ current status and future, Alex Schiffer, with one potential scenario solely to provide an example of the kind of return the Nets might be able to land in a Simmons trade. It would send Simmons – who is in the third year of a five-year, $177 million deal – to the Dallas Mavericks.
- Ben Simmons
Schiffer pointed out that Simmons does little to help Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic outside of “free him off the ball.”
Interstingly, the Nets have been linked to Hardaway by a rival executive who said they were considering an offer for the 30-year-old swingman. He is averaging 13.7 points on 52.8% true shooting and knocking down 35.4% of his three while on a four-year, $75 million pact that will keep him under team control through 2025.
Bertans, 30, is averaging 4.0 points in 10 minutes this season but has knocked down 37.4% of his looks from deep this season and 39.7% for his career — a skill set that fits what the Nets need.
His five-year, $80 million deal has an early termination option for the final season in 2025.
Simmons has averaged 6.0 points on 47.3% true shooting in seven appearances during Durant’s injury-related absence, though he has added 8.3 assists, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.4 steals. But he has a minus-6 net rating in that span, per Basketball-Reference.
He also has two games where he has failed to score any points.
Overall, that is not necessarily bad production on a team typically buoyed by Durant and Kyrie Irving. It has not been enough, though, with Simmons’ shortcomings forcing head coach Jacque Vaughn to pull him late in games.
“Ben Simmons is stealing money. Ski mask and gloves as a matter of fact,” said Jalen Rose during “NBA Countdown on ESPN” ahead of Brooklyn’s eventual 117-106 win over the Utah Jazz on January 20. “If you can’t get Ben Simmons to play at an All-Star level, the Nets can’t float without KD…I’m very disturbed by what I see.”
Rose’s colleague, Kendrick Perkins, suggested the Nets might want to explore their options for the embattled tweener at the February 9 trade deadline. But, even without their assessments – or Hollinger and Schiffer’s read on the market – the Nets might have been stuck anyway.
Nets’ Uncertainty Could Keep Ben Simmons in Brooklyn
“Not at the deadline,” a league source told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “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. [General manager Sean Marks] does not know if he will be back, Kyrie does not know if he will be back, they have no idea whether KD is going to want out again…the fact is, they’re as up in the air as much as any franchise in the league at this point.”
Marks’ status is unclear amid so much turmoil during his tenure. But he has notably been on two trips now to see 18-year-old prospect Rayan Rupert of the NZ Breakers in Australia.
Simmons’ value is low due to his play and Marks’ future is unclear just as is the future of his best two players. Durant has spoken of moving past the drama of the offseason and the first few months of the regular season while Irving has owned up to the outside distractions that he has brought in the past.
“They have done a good job slowly building up Ben’s confidence,” the source tells Deveney. “If he has a good second half and can have an impact on the playoffs, if he turns that corner, then that is going to change their perspective on him.”
Perhaps that keeps things on a good note regardless of how the season turns out. But the Nets and Simmons is the one that both sides need to take a positive upturn.