Ben Simmons folded like a lawn chair during the Philadelphia 76ers’ upset loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and now his name is being mentioned in conjunction with trade speculation.
The Chicago Bulls have come up as a potential landing spot, and now the talk has gone beyond each team’s rabid fanbase. Several members of the media are chiming in. One Bulls analyst offered a trade concept that he doesn’t believe will get the deal done.
NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson sees plenty of impediments that could keep the Sixers and Bulls from coming to an agreement. However, he did through the framework for a deal out there that he squashed, but could have some legs if tweaked.
The framework of Johnson’s self-squashed deal:
- Bulls get: Ben Simmons
- 76ers get: Lauri Markkanen on sign-and-trade deal, Coby White and/or Patrick Williams, and salary-filler players
Philadelphia’s priorities should be clear as it enters Joel Embiid’s age-27 season in 2021-22: Contend for a championship now, and hold no punches. That’s how you operate when you have a generational talent and incumbent MVP finalist on the roster, especially when that player’s injury history is as dubious as Embiid’s. One would think that removes the possibility of a Bulls offer based around, say, a sign-and-trade of Lauri Markkanen that includes Coby White and/or Patrick Williams and/or salary filler. No combination of those players is likely to better position the Sixers to win a title next season than Simmons, nor would a pick-based package — a department in which the Bulls are severely limited after the Vučević trade, regardless — unless done with the intention of moving those picks for another star.
Not so fast, K.C. First, including Williams in the deal should be a no-go for the Bulls. It’s understandable the 76ers might push for him to be included, but Chicago should balk at that notion.
That said, are we sure that the 76ers wouldn’t entertain a trade that included Markkanen (sign-and-trade), Coby White, Thaddeus Young and a 2025 first-rounder for Simmons and salary-filler on either side to make the money match?
Simmons’ Value is at Its Lowest
When has Simmons’ value ever been lower, and can we definitively say that a core of White, Embiid, Tobias Harris, Markkanen, and the aging but effective Young wouldn’t be enough for Philly to improve?
Let’s not forget Simmons’ contract, which is already scary gets even scarier by the year. He made $30.5 million this season and will make an eye-popping $40.3 million in 2024-25. Without improvement, Simmons’ contract becomes even harder to move each year as the total value rises. When we’re looking at trade value, it’s not just about a player’s production, it’s also about the production related to the salary. The Sixers could see moving Simmons for talented young players as addition by subtraction, and an opportunity to get equal or move value from multiple spots. If it doesn’t work, they can still get from under the total salary strain sooner than they would by keeping Simmons. Remember, they also need to keep Embiid happy, and he clearly was not after the Game 7 loss to the Hawks when he threw Simmons under the bus for his poor play. In case you missed it, here is Embiid calling out his teammate without saying his name:
It’s tough to believe Philly could bring Simmons and Embiid back together again in 2021-22.
This is a Better Offer For the Bulls to Pitch to the 76ers for Simmons
Note: If the Bulls wind up with a Top-4 pick in the NBA Draft, all deals are off–at least for Simmons. Chicago would be in a position to grab their point guard of the future with a few strong candidates in this year’s crop of prospects.
However, if they don’t retain their pick, trading for Simmons should be considered.
Here is the concept for a better offer for both teams:
If Chicago signs Markkanen to a (four-year $80 million deal) with the intention to trade him, and packages the 24-year-old with the 21-year-old White ($5.8 million), the 34-year-old Young ($14.1 million-only partially guaranteed), and a future first-rounder in exchange for Simmons and Isaiah Joe, that deal sounds pretty attractive and competitive.
- Bulls get: Simmons and Joe
- 76ers get: Markkanen, White, Young and a 2026 first-round pick
Some might argue the Bulls would be giving up too much. Nonsense.
A team of Simmons, Zach LaVine, Williams, Daniel Theis (if re-signed) and Vucevic is one of the better starting fives in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls would need to add shooting, but they would be instantly improved.
Meanwhile, the 76ers are far more dangerous offensively with White, Seth Curry, Harris, Markkanen, and Embiid.
It might be the rare deal that helps both teams.
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