Ben Simmons Could Work
A case for pulling the trigger on a Ben Simmons trade
As a franchise cornerstone, I am not a fan on Ben Simmons. We all saw what happened in the playoffs last year. Joel Embiid was hobbled with yet another knee injury and the Sixers looked to Simmons to be "the guy". Simmons proceeded to disappear due to fear of shooting free throws and a general unwillingness to shoot the ball.
Despite his egregious shooting, Simmons offers many desirable skills. He's a great ball handler, has fantastic court vision, finishes well at the rim, and, most importantly, is an elite defender. He is also only 25 years old and theoretically has time to raise his ceiling by improving his shooting. Unfortunately, a player making $30+ million who cannot create their own shot has limited value on most rosters, including the Sixers.
Enter the Dallas Mavericks. Kristaps Porzingis is coming off a (very) disappointing postseason and the team was bounced by the Clippers in the first round for the second straight year. There are questions, fair or not, about Porzingis' ability to be a #2 option on a contenting team and whether his personality fits in the locker room. Despite an efficient offensive season, Porzingis took a massive step back as a defender which limited his effectiveness on the floor in the 2021 season.
Pretend for a moment the Mavericks pull off the two trades most commonly discussed this offseason; Lauri Markkanen is absorbed into the TPE and Goran Dragic is brought in for Powell and someone else (Burke, Green, etc.). The roster would get a huge boost in offense and perimeter shooting, but gaps in the roster would still remain. Defense is still a huge problem, and if Lauri and Goran are getting minutes, Porzingis' lack of rim protection (at least in 2021) would be a major issue. Dragic would be an upgrade as a secondary ball handler, but can he be counted on to play consistent minutes considering his age and injury history?
In this scenario, why not trade Porzingis for Simmons? Both are depreciated assets after poor post season performances. Their salaries also work for a straight up trade.
Simmons would be the perfect secondary ball handler next to Luka. While on the floor together, Simmons would not be burdened with creating for himself. While Luka sits, Simmons could be surrounded by efficient shooters like THJ, Bullock, Dorian, Maxi, Lauri, Dragic, Brunson, Sterling Brown, and others to create space for him to work. Simmons would also be a HUGE defensive upgrade. Porzingis being moved would open minutes for better rim protectors like Maxi, Moses Brown, and WCS. Having an elite perimeter defender like Simmons (and good ones like Bullock and Dorian) paired with good rim protection could give Dallas their first competent defense since 2011. Not to mention Simmons would receive coaching from another great point point guard who struggled with his shot for years before finding consistency later in his career in Jason Kidd.
For the Sixers, they get a young player with an all-star resume and high upside. Embiid and Porzingis is a weird fit, but it could certainly work with both players being so dynamic offensively. Embiid is a great defender and could hide some of Porzingis' recent issues. Going all in on two injury prone big men is a risk, but with a lack of trade interest in Simmons to date and Simmons' current feelings toward the organization, it may be the best move they can make.
Do I think this move happens? Probably not. But it's one I'd like to see made if the Markkanen and Dragic moves also get done. It makes sense from a team building perspective, addressing the Mavericks two greatest needs (defense and secondary play making) while Porzingis' greatest attributes could be replaced to a degree by Markkanen. If the Mavericks are serious about contending now, I hope this is a move they are considering.