How the San Antonio Spurs can craft a new package for Ben Simmons
Initially, it was reported that Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker were the centerpieces of a trade offer for Simmons. I can tell you right now that San Antonio isn't trading Murray for Simmons, though Walker could still be a part of a potential package as well as two other Spurs.
Walker is in the midst of a disappointing season and while there's definitely talent there, he probably wouldn't be much more than a throw-in for the 76ers. Derrick White has also struggled this year but has begun to play much better as of later.
A few more strong games from White could do wonders for his trade value, especially considering he can score, pass, and defend at a high level, is just 27, and has three years remaining on his contract. In fact, he might actually fit better in Philadelphia than Simmons.
Rounding out the potential trade package is Thaddeus Young. Young has had a limited role with the Spurs but has still played very well. Considering San Antonio will probably trade him anyways, he'd actually be a good fit with Philly and could thrive there with an expanded role.
So would Philly say yes to a deal for Walker, White, and Thaddeus Young? At this point, I think it's much more of a possibility than before, given the hesitancy of other teams to offer anything significant.
Plus, it's worth noting that San Antonio has a number of good picks that they can use as sweeteners. For example, San Antonio could also throw in their 2022 first (top 3 protected), the Bulls' 2025 first, and the Pistons' and Lakers' 2022 second rounders that project to be in the early 30s and mid 40’s.
Getting three rotation players, two firsts, and 2 solid seconds in exchange for a disgruntled player who hasn't played this season is a good return. Though, Philly’s GM might not think so based on his initial asking price. Still, I doubt Daryl Morey wants the Simmons saga hanging over the team’s head all season and will almost certainly make a deal before the trade deadline.
There are other teams still in the mix for Simmons, and there's the possibility that one could work out a three-team trade that could be enough to outbid the Spurs. That said, multi-team trades are difficult to execute and the Spurs' persistence could be enough to wear down Philly.
The biggest question is whether Simmons is even worth it. I mean he is somehow both a reclamation project and also technically an All-NBA player at the same time. Still, 25-year-old All-NBA players don't grow on trees, and the Spurs must feel like they can unlock Simmons' game.
Were the Spurs and 76ers to actually agree to terms on a deal with a similar framework, it would dramatically reshape the Spurs roster. Simmons would likely join Murray, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl in the starting lineup, creating a unique unit that could either be surprisingly good or a train wreck.
Shooting would definitely be an issue. It always is with the Spurs. But a trade for Simmons that allows them to keep Johnson, Vassell, and Joshua Primo would be a no-brainer, in my opinion, and worth giving up the aforementioned picks to be able to do so.
Holding onto those young players and their future firsts would give San Antonio multiple ways to build around Simmons and Murray. Whether through internal improvement, drafting well, using the picks for trades, or some combination of the three, it could take some time, but they could emerge as a contender. That assumes, of course, that Simmons can become an above-average offensive player with the Spurs instead of a liability.
As for Philly, they have a limited title window with Joel Embiid as their best player and that could lead to pressure for them to resolve the Simmons situation sooner rather than later. We’ll likely know fairly soon where he will end up, and a lot will depend on Philly and how realistic they are.
They could still ask for too much, forcing San Antonio to pull back, or the 76ers could take the deal best available to them. That might just be from the Spurs.