Well, it’s happened again, folks. The Philadelphia 76ers have flamed out in the NBA Playoffs earlier than expected. The Sixers fell to the Hawks in seven games, but that doesn’t tell the story. It was the most dispiriting nature of the loss that was jarring, in particular the lack of fire in former #1 pick Ben Simmons.

In the playoffs, where weaknesses are ruthlessly exploited, Simmons shooting deficiencies again came to the fore. However, Simmons should be able to somewhat combat that with aggressive cutting, offensive rebounding, and exploiting odd numbers as the roll man.

In these playoffs – and especially against the Hawks – he did precisely none of these.

It’s that lack of fire that seems to have finally convinced the NBA world that it’s time for the Sixers and their Australian lightning rod to part ways. Sure, he’s not the only issue confronting the Sixers, but he’s the most obvious.

So, where should he go? What is his market? Let’s take a look, starting with a swing for the fences.

Portland Trailblazers

Sixers receive: Damian Lillard

Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, pick compensation

This is the Alpha trade for Philadelphia and it could very well be for the Blazers, as well.

For the Sixers, the allure is obvious: with Joel Embiid, they would pair one of the best centres in the league with one of the best point guards. Lillard’s incredible shooting is the largest possible upgrade on Simmons, whilst they lose nothing on the playmaking front. Lillard’s an obvious defensive minus, but a team containing Embiid, Danny Green, George Hill, and Matisse Thybulle should be able to cover him well enough.

For all of Simmons’ issues, he’s still an athletically elite 24 year old who runs a good offense and plays all-world defense. Using him as a Draymond Green-Esque playmaking forward with the shooting that the Blazers would still possess sans Lillard could finally unlock him. Defensively, he’s a huge upgrade on Lillard. His addition would also push the game but small Norman Powell down a position on defense. The trio of Simmons, Robert Covington, and Jusuf Nurkic would be a formidable defensive frontcourt.

An alternative trade…

Sixers receive: CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, Harry Giles

Blazers receive: Simmons, Paul Reed

The less nuclear option in Portland would pair Lillard and Simmons, at the cost of McCollum, who would still form a formidable two-man partnership with Embiid. Philly would also get a talented young centre who could spot Embiid minutes without having to employ the increasingly erratic Dwight Howard.

The Blazers would get to pair the new Curry and Draymond, whilst getting a nice young player in Reed who in time could step into Carmelo Anthony’s role.

Bradley Beal (Photo Nick Wass/AP)

Washington

Sixers receive: Bradley Beal, Daniel Gafford

Wizards receive: Simmons, Thybulle

A trade of offense for defense.

Philadelphia, so restricted offensively in the playoffs, gets one of the very best people in the world at putting a ball through a hoop. Beal has proven that without a point guard next to him that he can thrive as a primary creator. He should be just fine with Green, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry et al. on his wings and Embiid rumbling down the lane.

The Wizards, for so long a defensive laughing stock, make a major philosophical switch in gaining a pair of all defensive candidates. The elephant in the room with this proposal is the fit between Simmons, who doesn’t shoot, and Russell Westbrook, who shouldn’t shoot.

Without a doubt, it’s not ideal, but with Westbrook ageing and having only two years left on his deal, the Wizards would likely live with the short-term pain for the chance of landing a 24 year old perennial All Star.

Houston Rockets

Sixers receive: John Wall, 2021 1st round pick

Rockets receive: Simmons, George Hill, 2021 1st round pick

People forget that John Wall is still only 30 years old. After some injury-plagued years, he proved himself somewhat healthy and quite effective this past season. This trade would give the Sixers a more traditional point guard who, whilst not a great shooter, will at least shoot the damn basketball. The prize of this trade, however, is the Rockets’ top-four pick. A caveat: if the pick lands top two, it’s unlikely that the Rockets make the trade. If it falls to three? Four?

The Rockets have become an island of misfit toys in recent times. Their successful reclamation projects include Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr, and, yes, Wall himself. They’ve also made good on undrafted players like Danuel House and Jae’Sean Tate. It makes sense that the Rockets would back themselves to get Simmons somewhere close to his immense potential. At age 24, Simmons is also more closely aligned with the Rockets’ core players.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Sixers receive: Kemba Walker, draft compensation

Thunder receive: Simmons

A challenge trade of epic proportions, the Sixers would give up their offensively flawed young dynamo for a defensively flawed and injury-prone veteran.

The Sixers would get their floor general and shot maker and, like the Lillard situation, would back their team defense to cover Kemba’s deficiencies.

From a Thunder perspective, Sam Presti can’t possibly use all of those picks, can he? Surely he’s looking to package them for a possibly undervalued young star, similar to what Daryl Morey did with James Harden close to a decade ago.

The key here is how many picks would Presti give up to land the Aussie.

An alternative trade…

Sixers receive: more draft compensation, any young player not named Shai or Poku

Thunder receive: Simmons

If the Sixers are not interested in Kemba – the last time they acquired a high priced former Celtic didn’t turn out so well – then it might be a case of throwing more picks and potentially a few pick swaps, as well as a non-core youngster (Darius Bazley comes to mind) at Morey.

Denver Nuggets

Sixers receive: Michael Porter Jr

Nuggets receive: Simmons

This would have to be a sign and trade, given Porter is still on his rookie deal.

Like the Beal proposal, this is all about the Sixers backing their collective defense whilst providing them with another offensive weapon. The Sixers have watched their offense get bogged down again and again, and Porter’s buttery jump shot would help fix that. He’s also shown improvement at the defensive end, though he remains below average at that end.

This trade would see Denver double down on its playmaking. The pairing of Simmons and Nikola Jokic throwing passes to each other might make the league scrap the shot clock just to allow us to see a few more dishes. Whilst Simmons’ lack of shooting would be an issue, his defense would be welcome. Neither Jokic nor Jamal Murray are stopping anyone, but Simmons and Aaron Gordon would provide a formidable defensive tandem.

The gamble for Denver is Murray’s health. If he returns 100% from his ACL tear, then the Nuggets could wager that he and Jokic would provide enough scoring to get by. A potential positive is Simmons’ abilities in the open floor, especially in the thin Denver air.

Whilst this would be an intriguing trade for both teams, the acquisition of Gordon at the trade deadline makes a deal of this nature unlikely for the time being, given the Nuggets would probably want to see what they have with Murray healthy and Gordon in the fold for a full season.

Lonzo Ball (Photo Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

New Orleans Pelicans

Sixers receive: Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, 2021 1st round pick

Pelicans receive: Simmons, Tyrese Maxey

If the Sixers decide that they like the basic premise of their team and just need to toggle the settings, then why not trade for a supersized point guard who is a more willing shooter than Simmons but isn’t quite the playmaker or defender?

Ball would step straight into the defensive and playmaking roles that Simmons so ably fills for Philadelphia, but his shooting (37.8% from the arc on 8.3 attempts) would give the Sixers the flexibility with the ball that Simmons doesn’t.

The inclusion of Hayes is a recognition by Pelicans General Manager David Griffin that playing Zion at centre is the future. He would give Philly a young, bouncy backup to Embiid.

For the Pelicans, this would give them three legitimate playmakers in Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Simmons. Shooting is an issue for the Pels, and obviously, Simmons doesn’t change that. But New Orleans – not exactly a prime free agency hotbed – would have its big three.

San Antonio Spurs

Sixers receive: DeMar DeRozan, Lonnie Walker IV, draft compensation

Spurs receive: Simmons, Hill

Another deal that would take the form of a sign and trade, given DeRozan’s free agency.

The Sixers need somebody that can create and make a shot at the end of the shot clock. Embiid is good at it but not elite. Harris? Please. In DeRozan, the Sixers get a man that has made his living as a creator and maker of shots off the dribble. He could also conceivably fill Simmons’ role as the primary playmaker, given he averaged a career-high 6.9 assists this season.

DeRozan is not nearly the defender that Simmons is, but he is big enough and smart enough to not be a complete defensive liability like Walker or Lillard.

Walker would give the Sixers a genuine X-Factor of a player whilst also giving them a do-over on Zhaire Smith, who they selected two picks prior to Walker going to the Spurs in 2018.

At the other end of this transaction, let’s take stock of what the Spurs offer:

  • A coach with an exemplary track record of adapting his system to fit his stars
  • A franchise with a glowing history of international players (including Australians)
  • A legendary shooting coach in Chip Engelland

Each one of those points seem pretty much tailor made to get the most out of Simmons, do they not?

Gregg Popovich would find a way to insert a system that makes the most of Simmons’ eclectic talents. In Patty Mills, he’d have alongside him the spiritual leader of his national basketball program. In Egelland, he’d have the man that fixed the most glaring hole in the game of one Kawhi Anthony Leonard, who seemed to turn out alright.

The other part of this trade is the reunification of Coach Pop with George Hill, which is lovely.

Utah Jazz

Sixers receive: Mike Conley, Udoka Azubuike, 2021 1st round pick

Jazz receive: Simmons, Shake Milton

Ah, a pair of failed #1 seeds doing business. Delicious!

In trading Simmons, Philadelphia would need a floor general and who better than Conley, who is the epitome of professionalism and class, whilst also being a savvy playmaker and infinitely better shooter than Simmons. Utah could also offer rookie big man Azubuike to learn at the feet of Embiid and eventually supplant the ageing and unreliable Howard.

Conley is 33 years old and carrying a seemingly chronic hamstring issue, but given Joel Embiid adds a new entry into his list of lower body ailments every other month, would it not be wise for the Sixers to gamble on such a clear upgrade, despite his age?

Utah’s system is sound: a tonne of shooting playing off the gravity of Rudy Gobert as a roll man on offense; funnel everything to the giant French fella on defense. On paper, that’s great. But what if that Frenchman isn’t there? What if he happens to be guarding a small ball centre in the corner? As wonderful a defender as Gobert is, he can’t be in two places at once.

As a team, Utah provided precious little defensive resistance on the perimeter. When Gobert wasn’t at the hoop to cover for his teammates, the Jazz bled baskets. Simmons’ arrival would give the Jazz the two best defensive players in the NBA, who should be able able to dovetail perfectly with one another at that end.

Offensively, the Australian’s lack of shooting would potentially gum up Utah’s system, but in Quinn Snyder, Utah has one of the brightest offensive minds in the world. His preference for a whirring, cutting motion based attack would at the very least eradicate Simmons’ habit of standing at the dunker’s spot doing absolutely nothing.

One teensy little problem with this trade: Simmons would have to show some serious humility, which is something he hasn’t shown a lot of at this point of his career. He’d be stepping into a team that belongs to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, both of whom he’s had past beefs with.