Considering the Simmons saga and all of the other adversity thrown their way, the Sixers are sitting solidly at 19-16, but it’s clear that they need this Simmons situation resolved in order to contend. They either need to make peace with him and bring him back or they finally move him for a player who can help them win right now.
The Sixers have maintained they want a top-25 player in any Simmons trade to help Embiid get the job done in the playoffs. However, the idea of getting Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal might be out of the question, so the Sixers might have to move on to something else.
Let me throw another one out there (hat tip to my colleague Seth Partnow for noting this possibility): What about Domantas Sabonis, Chris Duarte and T.J. Warren to Philly for Simmons, Paul Reed and Isaiah Joe? The salaries match, and there’s a lot to like here for both teams.
Sabonis is a weird fit with Embiid, but he can actually throw an entry pass, unlike most of the other Sixers; he also would let the Sixers thrive in the non-Embiid minutes where they currently get trucked and would provide a store of value for future deals in the offseason. (Sabonis is 25, made two All-Star teams and is signed for two more years at a very reasonable $20 million a pop. He can be the nucleus of a deal for a bold-face name if and when one comes available.)
Warren, if healthy, would be a major upgrade for the Sixers’ bench whom they could re-sign with Bird rights (if they can withstand the withering luxury-tax bill that would result); that could position the team to eventually move off Tobias Harris’ deal. Duarte, meanwhile, is likely an upgrade on the iffy backup wing production the Sixers have had from other sources, although the Pacers would likely fight against including him (“May we interest you in a lightly used Goga Bitadze?”).
One can see where Hollinger is going here. Sabonis is an All-Star player and while the aforementioned fit would be questionable, at least he can play some on the perimeter and run a hi-low with Embiid. Sabonis would also help the Sixers with the rebounding problem they face, but the question would be spacing on the offensive end. He is a career 31.4% shooter from deep.
The Pacers may want to go younger by acquiring Joe who is two years younger than Duarte despite not being a rotation player yet. Warren would also be a nice help off the bench once he returns from his foot injury.
Verdict: At the end of the day, it is hard to see the Sixers pulling the trigger on this deal. The Sixers value Simmons highly and it’s hard to see them settling for anything less than a big-time player to pair with Embiid to contend with the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks.