All-Star, Emerging Big & Stretch Option Among Nets’ Trade Targets: Analyst

Ben Simmons Sixers-Nets

Getty Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons reacts to a foul call during a game against the Brooklyn Nets.

‘Tis the season for rampant trade speculation on the NBA blogosphere, and the Brooklyn Nets make for better fodder in that department than most teams. Even as Steve Nash’s crew checks in with the East’s best record at 21-9 as of this writing.

Kyrie Irving’s anti-vax/part-time player status alone is enough for armchair GMs to latch onto. Throw in James Harden being off-kilter, Blake Griffin’s early-season benching, Nic Claxton holding value around the league and the Nets weirdly being middle-of-the-road offensively, and there’s a lot of ammo for trade machine enthusiasts.

Over the weekend, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley made his best attempt at identifying multiple trade targets for teams around the Association. And given everything that Brooklyn is contending with, he was able to come up with a doozy of a trio where potential trade targets are concerned.

As Buckey sees it, Sixers star Ben Simmons, talented Rockets big man Christian Wood and Thunder floor-spacer Mike Muscala all make sense as targets.

Simmons-Kyrie Swap a Perfect Solution for Both Teams?

Obviously, the headliner here is Simmons, but the notion that Philly could send him to the Nets for Irving is hardly a new one. People have been pitching that particular trade since before the season began. That said, it really does make a lot of sense on multiple levels.

If anything has become clear during Simmons’ absence, it’s that he has no desire to return to the Sixers. And despite occasional rumblings that he would be welcomed back with open arms in spite of everything, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers probably don’t want him back after what happened during last year’s playoffs.

Morey isn’t trading him, though, unless he gets a top 25 player back. To that end, Irving fits the bill; his pairing with Joel Embiid would give the Sixers one of the two or three best superstar duos in the Association (on paper, at least). Meanwhile, Irving would get out from under NYC’s strict vaccine mandate.

Where the Nets are concerned, Simmons would raise the team’s defensive level considerably. And his court vision, passing ability and transition mastery could pay big-time dividends for Brooklyn’s superstar trio.

Alas, an October report by The Athletic’s Sam Amick indicated that there was no interest on Philly’s part for a Kyrie-Simmons swap. The team’s decision-makers were apparently skeptical about Irving’s fit next to Embiid. Whether that has changed as Simmons’ absence has continued is unknown.

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Christian Wood & Mike Muscala

If Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant are all staying put, the Nets likely don’t have enough to get another star player into the mix. But if they’re able to, as Buckley writes, “cobble together enough assets” to get Wood out of Houston, he would probably become the best No. 4 in the league.

The 26-year-old may not be an All-Star, but he’s pretty darn close. In 29 games this season, he’s averaging 16.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per contest. Wood is also a respectable threat from deep, connecting from three-point range at a 36.4% clip for his career.

At this point, the Rockets would probably be willing to part with him for some combination of picks and prospects. However, the Nets only have one second-round pick incoming via trade and a whole heap of first and second-rounders still owed to other teams.

Also — Alperen Sengun’s strong rookie performance to date may preclude them from having an interest in Claxton.

Muscala may be the most realistic target, and he has been one of the game’s better stretch bigs for nearly a decade. The veteran sharpshooter is averaging 8.2 points and 3.1 rebounds per game for OKC this season, while boasting shooting splits of 46-43-86.

Wrote Buckley: “A low-cost move for stretch big Mike Muscala seems worth exploring.”


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