Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens should call Philadelphia counterpart Daryl Morey and inquire aboutdisgruntled guard Ben Simmons.
Simmons has not played for the 76ers this season and the three-time All-Star has told the team on multiple occasions he wants to be traded. The team began fining Simmons for not reporting to camp, and then when he reported and offered a lackluster effort in practice, he was kicked out of the session by coach Doc Rivers.
Simmons told the team he was not mentally prepared to play and is apparently seeing a team of mental health professionals of his choice while the 76ers wait for him to return.
Morey said any trade could be a long process because they want multiple starting-caliber or All-Star players in return. The Celtics are likely to have to include Jaylen Brown in any deal for Simmons and that risk is far too high.
What is helping Morey stay patient is the team’s 8-2 start – best in the Eastern Conference – despite the distraction.
The Celtics, like many other teams, would be interested in Simmons at a reasonable price, despite some red flags. Simmons has never developed his half-court game or free throw shooting, reaching a low point during last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals when a fearful Simmons passed up a dunk late in Game 7because he seemingly wanted to avoid going to the line.
Any team that acquires Simmons would understand his offensive deficiencies. They would want Simmons for his defensive skillset and ability to play point guard and distribute. He is 6-foot-11, a masterful ballhandler, and can be a matchup nightmare — but that’s when he’s engaged and playing well. That wasn’t the case during the 76ers’ disappointing playoff elimination by the Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have a chance to compete in the East but they’re off to a 4-6 start and turning themselves into a contender will take time barring a roster shakeup. New coach Ime Udoka is still trying to figure out rotations and how to get the best out of his roster.
Are the Celtics good enough to reach the NBA Finals as currently constructed? Probably not. Could they use Simmons, and would he blend well with Tatum and Brown? Yes.
But the 76ers aren’t likely to do a deal without Brown being included and that’s a nonstarter for Stevens. You don’t give up a player entering his prime – health issues are the only thing stopping Brown from being a top 20 player – and to trade him to a division rival from the currently mercurial Simmons would be a grave mistake.
Would the Celtics offer other pieces for Simmons? Yes. A natural inclusion would be Marcus Smart, who just signed a four-year contract extension. The Celtics would also likely have to include another standout player, an expiring contract, and multiple first-round picks. And there’s no guarantee that offer wouldn’t still make Morey scoff.
Stevens knows he constantly has to pursue ways to improve his roster, especially with Brown and Tatum entering their primes, Al Horford playing well at 35, and a young and improving bench.
The reason Simmons remains in Philadelphia is the high price. What’s ironic is that Simmons’ trade value may be at a low point because of his playoff performance and the 76ers’ success without him.
It’s quite likely Philadelphia leaked the information reported in The Athletic about Brown being a must in any Simmons deal to drive up trade value. Simmons has three years left on his contract after this season totaling $113 million, so acquiring him is a major commitment that would have cap ramifications for years.
The Celtics are saving a maximum salary slot for this summer to pursue perhaps Washington’s Bradley Beal or Chicago’s Zach LaVine. Such an acquisition would give Boston a new Big Three and could turn the Celtics into title contenders.
Stevens will be extra careful with roster additions, but if that means trading Brown, he is highly likely to pass, especially for a player as flawed as Simmons.
Can Udoka, who coached Simmons in Philadelphia as an assistant, get the best out of the former No. 1 overall pick? Yes. Would Simmons be interested in coming to Boston? Yes, according to a league source. And while Stevens has shown a willingness to take chances in his brief tenure as team president, he is understandably going to walk back these rumors and refute them immediately.
Simmons should only be a consideration at the right price, and that price likely will never be to Stevens’ satisfaction as long as Morey is willing to wait months — or even years — to make a deal and he continues to request All-Star players in return for someone whose stock is at an all-time low.