Month: September 2021

Community Shootaround: Where Will Ben Simmons Land?

We’ve reached what is generally considered the slow point of the summer, and while there are still some free agents available on the market, there’s really only one domino left to fall to wrap up this offseason: the resolution of the messy, public deterioration of the relationship between the Sixers and Ben Simmons.

Today’s news that Simmons doesn’t plan to report to training camp kicked off a fresh frenzy of speculation, with beat writers for multiple teams, most notably the Kings and Timberwolves, exploring those teams’ respective chances of landing the three-time All Star.

The Kings currently hold the best odds of landing Simmons, according to MyBookie.ag, at +275, followed by the Wolves (+400), the Warriors (+550), Blazers (+900), Spurs (+1200) and Wizards (+1900). Meanwhile, PointsBet has the Kings and Blazers at +150 each, with the Warriors at +250.

As befitting a player as complicated to build around as Ben Simmons, there are tricky questions facing each of his prospective suitors.

The Kings are desperate for a move that significantly alters the trajectory of the franchise, but are reportedly unlikely to include De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a deal. That leaves Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley, and possibly this year’s ninth pick Davion Mitchell, as well as future picks, as the foundation for a deal.

Hield’s shooting would undoubtedly help the Sixers, as would Barnes’ all-around game, but both offer similar skillsets/roles to Seth Curry and Tobias Harris, respectively. Bagley is only a few years removed from being the number two pick and has flashed some interesting potential, shooting 34% from three this season while being an athletic rim roller and rebounder at 6’11. But his defense remains questionable and his overall game hasn’t progressed much in three years, partially due to a series of injuries that have kept him from getting a rhythm.

Mitchell, on the other hand, offers something the Sixers could desperately use. A tenacious defender with the ability to hit pull-up threes or function off-ball, thanks to his time playing alongside Jared Butler at Baylor, Mitchell could hold interest for the Sixers. But is he ready, as a rookie, to be the main point guard on a team with championship aspirations? At 22, he’s more ready-made than some rookie point guards, but that’s still a tough ask, as well as a tough sell for cornerstone Joel Embiid.

The Wolves could put together an interesting package, with D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jaden McDaniels, Patrick Beverley, and possibly Leandro Bolmaro as pieces that could go into a deal. If the team were to trade Russell, Beasley and picks, it’s not hard to see the appeal of surrounding offensive star talents Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards with lockdown defenders Beverley, Simmons, and McDaniels. Not to mention, McDaniels, Beverley, Towns and Edwards represents the most shooting Simmons would have been surrounded by in his career.

But is it enough? Theoretically the shooting and playmaking of Russell, combined with the shooting and attacking of Beasley, fit what the Sixers need, but it’s hardly the king’s ransom Morey has been asking for. Bolmaro is an interesting, but unproven piece, and the Wolves have their first-round picks moving forward. Wolves president Gersson Rosas also has a longstanding relationship with Morey, having worked under him for years with the Rockets.

The Warriors are perhaps the most interesting team on this list, as they have both the contracts and the young talent to make a deal work. Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green are both making upwards of $24MM per year, while James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and even young breakout wings like Jordan Poole and Juan Toscano-Anderson could be interesting trade chips.

Now, it’s almost unthinkable the Warriors would trade Green, and with Harris at the power forward spot, it’s unclear how much the Sixers would value him. Wiggins, Wiseman, one of their other young players, and future picks might not be the prettiest package for the Sixers, but there is clear value to Wiggins manning the small forward spot in Philly, and to adding depth on the bench. The problem is that would leave the Sixers without a starting point guard, which would likely necessitate a third team entering the mix.

The Blazers could see Simmons as the move to keep semi-disgruntled star Damian Lillard in the fold, though outside of CJ McCollum, Portland has little by means of assets. It’s also unclear how much a clean McCollum-for-Simmons swap would significantly change the Blazers’ trajectory, and the fit with newly-acquired Larry Nance Jr. isn’t the cleanest.

The Spurs have a good amount of solid young players, but none with the blue-chip luster that the Sixers would likely be seeking in a deal. Additionally, outside of Dejounte Murray, another poor-shooting defensive guard, and Derrick White, none of them are ready to be key members of a championship run.

Lastly, the Wizards have an interesting collection of talent, but the Sixers are unlikely to get Bradley Beal in a trade, and almost all of Washington’s other appealing players are young big men, with the exception of this year’s 15th pick, Corey Kispert. Any trade of Simmons would mean the team’s top two players are a center and a power forward, meaning it’s unlikely they would be interested in any of the Wizards’ combo forwards.

There are undoubtedly going to be more teams that enter into the discussion as the bidding war heats up, but we want to know what you think. What team is going to end up with Ben Simmons? What will they give up for him? And most importantly — will Simmons give his new team the bump they need to get where they’re going?

Take to the comments to let us know!

Pacific Notes: Simmons, Kings, Rondo, Lakers’ Big Men

The Kings still need to re-balance their roster, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area, and the Sixers still need to find a graceful exit from the debacle they find themselves in with Ben Simmons.

While it’s unlikely the Kings have what Sixers president Daryl Morey might consider the Godfather offer he’s been waiting for, Ham writes that Sacramento has been all in on Simmons since he became potentially available, and the three-time All-Star could represent the franchise-changing move GM Monte McNair has been looking for.

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • In a similar vein, Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes that sports betting site MyBookie.ag recently gave the Kings the best odds at landing Simmons of any team (+275). Anderson doesn’t believes that the Kings are fully “all-in” on Simmons though, adding that Sacramento is unlikely to include either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential trade.
  • Rajon Rondo isn’t worried about the Lakers’ age as a team, writes Royce Young of ESPN. In fact, he considers it an advantage. “Wisdom is definitely key to winning a championship,” Rondo said after officially rejoining the club. “We have a lot of that, obviously, with the age and experience on the court. I’m most excited about not being the oldest guy on the team anymore.” Rondo adds that it’s tough to last to the age many of the Lakers’ players have without discipline, which will be key for the team in its title hunt.
  • While not naming DeAndre Jordan specifically, Marc Stein confirms that – according to his league sources – the Lakers have been exploring the center market, despite Marc Gasol having one more year on his deal.

Wolves Notes: Simmons, McDaniels, Coaching Hire, Offseason

The Timberwolves sitting idly by as three power forwards to whom they’d previously been linked switched teams, all while the club has a conspicuous question mark at the four spot, could be a byproduct of their continued pursuit of disgruntled Sixers point guard Ben Simmons, writes The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski.

The Wolves’ interest in the 25-year-old is one of the league’s worst-kept secrets, and Krawczynski writes that even though it’s possible the Wolves don’t have the assets required to land Simmons, the chance at landing him, however small, could potentially have outweighed the appeal of making a more marginal upgrade.

Krawczynski adds that he’s told by those around the league that if there’s any decision-maker who would ignore the optics and noise and keep pushing until he gets the deal he wants, it’s Daryl Morey. That said, the sense Krawczynski gets is that, given the improbability of Damian Lillard demanding a trade before the season, teams are content to wait and let the Sixers situation get worse, knowing eventually Morey will have to make a decision.

We have more news from the Wolves:

  • There are still questions as to whether rookie standout Jaden McDaniels is better suited to playing small forward or power forward, Krawczynski writes in the same piece. McDaniels’ defense was a major high point for the Wolves last season, but at 6’9″ and 185 pounds, he gives up a lot of size and doesn’t solve the team’s rebounding issues. Part of his role going forward will be determined by whether the team takes an offense-first or defense-first approach to the starting lineup, Krawczynski says.
  • The Wolves issued a press release today announcing some new hires. Among the names: Assistant Coach Elston Turner. According to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, Turner had previously interviewed for the team’s head coach job and comes with a reputation as a defensive-minded coach.
  • The Timberwolves didn’t get better this summer, writes Zach Harper in his Offseason Review for The Athletic, which is why he gives them a D+ grade for their moves, or lack thereof. Harper adds that their avenues to success involve monster defensive performances from their role players (McDaniels, Patrick Beverley, RFA Jarred Vanderbilt) and the hope that the team’s record of 13-11 with D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns playing together is the real deal.

Wizards Notes: Bertans, Avdija, New Additions, M. Williams

Despite the Wizards‘ rather substantial logjam at the power forward spot, Davis Bertans is unlikely to be traded anytime soon, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic in today’s mailbag.

Katz cautions Wizards fans that between Bertans’ contract – which has four years and $65MM remaining (final year partially guaranteed) – and the team’s 2023 pick being owned by the Thunder and protected to 2026, the avenues for moving the sweet-shooting Latvian would be incredibly limited.

However, there’s reason for optimism regarding Bertans, Katz writes. The 28-year-old started last season behind the eight-ball from a health standpoint and never fully got up to speed, which could be one reason for his up-and-down year. A more egalitarian offense, spearheaded by the Spencer Dinwiddie/Bradley Beal backcourt and masterminded by new coach Wes Unseld Jr. should also allow Bertans more freedom to get loose for the types of shots that earned him his five-year extension during the 2019/20 season.

We have more news from around the Wizards:

  • In the same piece, Katz writes that though last year’s number nine pick Deni Avdija may be set to play fewer minutes this season, he should be used more as a play-maker, as most of the players on the bench are either catch-and-shoot specialists (Corey Kispert/Bertans), finishers (Montrezl Harrell), or are more comfortable off the ball (Raul Neto/Aaron Holiday). How Unseld will divide the minutes between the forwards remains unclear, but Avdija brings a unique skillset to the frontcourt rotation.
  • The Wizards will be Beal’s team like never before, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Luckily, Hughes writes, the team has rebuilt itself in a way that should complement its star well. Hughes examines how the team’s additions will booster its once-anemic defense while adding depth and shooting on the offensive end. But for it to work, Hughes says that guys like Dinwiddie, Rui Hachimura and Kyle Kuzma will have to emerge as consistent scorers who can create offense for themselves when called upon.
  • Mike Williams has been named head coach of the Wizards G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, per a team press release. Williams, who spent last season as a development coach for the Wizards and the director of player development for the Go-Go, expressed his excitement at the new role. “I look forward to leading our development and instilling the new philosophies of Coach Unseld into the Go-Go as we return playing in front of our great fans at the Entertainment and Sports Arena this season,” Williams said.

Tyrese Maxey Likely To Be Included In Any Simmons Trade?

With the odds of a Ben Simmons trade seemingly increasing, Jason Dumas of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears from a source that there’s a “high chance” fellow Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey will be included in any deal involving Simmons.

As Dumas explains, both Simmons and Maxey are represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group. Dumas suggests that Paul would prefer to have both of his clients out of Philadelphia.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons Tells Sixers He Wants Out, Doesn’t Plan To Report To Camp]

In a separate tweet, Dumas says that some Philadelphia-based organizations were interested in partnering with Maxey on community events, but were told to cancel those plans, since Paul doesn’t want the 2020 first-round pick to establish substantial roots in a city he may soon leave.

The 21st overall pick in the 2020 draft, Maxey showed promise in his rookie year, averaging 8.0 PPG and 2.0 APG on 46.2% shooting in 61 games (15.3 MPG) for the 76ers. He’s on an affordable rookie contract for three more years and Philadelphia was reportedly reluctant to include him in packages for James Harden in January and Kyle Lowry in March, so he certainly wouldn’t be treated as a throw-in in any Simmons trade.

While Simmons appears likely to be moved at some point in the coming days, weeks, or months, I’m not quite as convinced that Maxey will join him. Philadelphia’s point guard depth already figures to take a hit if Simmons is dealt, so the team won’t give away another of its top options at the position just to appease Paul. The 76ers may consider trading Maxey, but the decision will ultimately come down to the quality of the return and the club’s ability to avoid creating a hole on its depth chart.

Ben Simmons Tells Sixers He Wants Out, Doesn’t Plan To Report To Camp

During a meeting in Los Angeles last week, Sixers star Ben Simmons told team owner Josh Harris, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, general manager Elton Brand, and head coach Doc Rivers that he doesn’t want to be part of the team any longer, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources tell The Inquirer that Simmons doesn’t plan on reporting to training camp with the 76ers in four weeks.

According to Pompey, the Sixers’ brass told Simmons they want him to come to camp and be part of the team, but the three-time All-Star – who knows he can be fined for not showing up – apparently intends to take a drastic approach in the hopes of forcing the team’s hand. Money won’t be a factor in Simmons’ decision-making, a source tells Pompey, who notes that the 25-year-old has four years and nearly $147MM left on his contract.

Simmons has been considered a trade candidate since the 76ers’ season ended in the second round of the playoffs against Atlanta. The former No. 1 overall pick turned in a poor performance against the Hawks, showing a reluctance to shoot or even to have the ball in his hands late in games. He made just 15-of-45 free throws in the seven-game series vs. Atlanta and connected on only 34.2% of his total foul shots in the playoffs, the worst mark ever for a player with more than 70 attempts in a single postseason.

Although the 76ers have publicly indicated all summer that they’re happy to bring back Simmons and work with him on improving his game, the team has reportedly engaged in trade talks with several potential suitors, including the Timberwolves, Raptors, Cavaliers, Pacers, Kings, Spurs, and Warriors. A Monday report suggested that executives around the NBA believe it’s just a matter of time before Philadelphia pulls the trigger on a trade.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons “In Step” With Sixers’ Trade Efforts]

The Sixers’ efforts to find a suitable deal for Simmons have been hindered by Morey’s high asking price, per Pompey. Simmons’ lack of a jump shot and his significant struggles in the postseason have caused his trade value to diminish, but Morey has sought a trade package commensurate with a 25-year-old who has made three straight All-Star teams and remains under contract for four years. Pompey’s sources are skeptical that price will be met.

“Think about three months ago when the Sixers are willing to give up Ben Simmons. You are like, ‘Let’s see what we have to do to get him,'” one Western Conference executive told The Inquirer. “Now, the difference is Ben Simmons says he refuses to play for the Sixers. He wants to go to three California teams. There’s so much bad blood between him and the team. … I’m not giving you what you’re demanding.”

[RELATED: Warriors Rejected Sixers’ Offer Of Simmons For Wiseman, Wiggins, Four First-Round Picks]

As we’ve written multiple times in recent weeks and as Pompey notes in today’s report, the belief around the NBA is that the Sixers have been hoping Damian Lillard will request a trade from the Trail Blazers, putting Philadelphia in position to use Simmons as a centerpiece in an offer for Portland’s star point guard. However, all indications this month are that Lillard appears content to continue evaluating the Blazers’ present and future this fall.

If the Sixers feel compelled to get a deal done sooner rather than later, targeting another Blazers guard – CJ McCollum – might make sense, Pompey writes. However, he cautions that both teams highly value their own stars, which may make it difficult for them to find a deal that appeals to both sides.

The Simmons situation is similar to one Morey’s old team in Houston found itself in a year ago, when James Harden requested a trade during the offseason and didn’t report to the Rockets for the start of camp. Harden eventually showed up and began the year with the Rockets, but was traded less a month until the season.

Morey’s Sixers were in the mix for Harden right up until the 11th hour, offering a package headlined by Simmons. Less than eight months later, Morey will have to consider whether to let Simmons’ trade request linger into the season like the Rockets did with Harden’s, or if it makes more sense to complete a deal before training camp — even if the return falls well short of Philadelphia’s initial asking price.

Lakers Sign Rajon Rondo To One-Year Deal

AUGUST 31: The Lakers have officially signed Rondo, the team confirmed today (via Twitter).


AUGUST 30: Point guard Rajon Rondo intends to sign a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Lakers after he becomes a free agent, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). Rondo, who will clear waivers today, will sign his new contract on Tuesday, Wojnarowski adds.

Rondo agreed to a buyout with the Grizzlies and was released by the team on Saturday, with reports at the time indicating the Lakers would likely be his next destination. According to Wojnarowski, Rondo will still earn $7.5MM this season, which was the base salary on his previous deal, so it sounds like he gave up about $2.64MM (his minimum salary) in his buyout agreement.

Rondo, 35, signed with Atlanta during the 2020 offseason, but had a limited impact in 27 games with the Hawks, averaging just 3.9 PPG and 3.5 APG in 14.9 minutes per contest — those numbers all would’ve been career lows.

The veteran guard was traded to the Clippers in a midseason trade and finished the 2020/21 campaign with the team, appearing in 18 regular season games and 13 playoff contests. L.A. then sent him to the Grizzlies in a deal for Eric Bledsoe earlier this month, but he was only included in that swap for salary-matching purposes and was never in Memphis’ plans.

Rondo will now rejoin a Lakers team with whom he won a championship in 2020. He spent two seasons with the Lakers from 2018-20. Los Angeles will have 13 players on guaranteed contracts once the signing is complete.

Checking In On Remaining Restricted Free Agents

When Lauri Markkanen finally came off the board over the weekend, it left just two standard restricted free agents who are still unsigned, as our FA list shows. Both of those players are Timberwolves free agents: Jordan McLaughlin and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Restricted free agents never have a ton of leverage, especially this deep into the offseason. Some players who remain on the market for weeks, like Markkanen, can still land player-friendly deals, but if McLaughlin or Vanderbilt have been drawing interest around the NBA as coveted sign-and-trade candidates or potential offer sheet recipients, we probably would’ve heard about it by now.

McLaughlin looked like he might be in position to secure a favorable commitment from the Timberwolves after the team traded Ricky Rubio to Cleveland, but Minnesota’s recent move to acquire Patrick Beverley adds depth to the point guard spot and clouds McLaughlin’s future.

A year ago, McLaughlin ultimately decided to accept his qualifying offer and play on a two-way contract for a second consecutive season. This time around, his QO is the equivalent of a one-year, minimum-salary deal, but only a very small portion of that offer (about $84K) has to be guaranteed, so accepting it isn’t a great option.

The Wolves are likely willing to offer a more significant guarantee in 2021/22, but probably want to tack on at least one or two non-guaranteed, minimum-salary years to any deal for McLaughlin. With two-way player McKinley Wright in the picture as a potential third point guard, Minnesota has the roster flexibility to play hardball in its negotiations with McLaughlin.

Vanderbilt may be in a slightly better negotiating position, since he’s likely a higher priority for the Wolves. He started 30 games last season, earning a regular rotation role and showing the ability to handle minutes at power forward, the team’s most glaring weak spot.

Minnesota has a few options at the four, but Taurean Prince and Jake Layman won’t move the needle much, and Jaden McDaniels remains pretty raw. Vanderbilt would be a useful depth piece at the right price, which – in the Wolves’ view – is probably something not far above the veteran’s minimum.

As we wait to see what happens with McLaughlin and Vanderbilt, it’s also worth noting that there are technically four other restricted free agents still on the market. The following four players were made RFAs after finishing the season on two-way contracts:

For these four players, accepting a qualifying offer would mean getting another two-way contract with a $50K partial guarantee.

Signing that qualifying offer would provide no security, even though the Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, and Cavaliers do all have two-way slots open right now. Given the modest guarantee, a team likely wouldn’t hesitate to replace one of its two-way players in October with a camp invitee who has an impressive preseason. And as McLaughlin’s situation shows, even playing out a second year on a two-way QO wouldn’t necessarily give a player additional leverage in his next foray into restricted free agency.

And-Ones: 2023 World Cup, Offseason Grades, M. Miller

The draw for the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifiers took place on Tuesday. According to a press release from FIBA, Team USA’s qualifying group in the Americas event will include Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Cuba.

The 2023 World Cup will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia two years from now, while the first qualifying matches will take place in November 2021. During the qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA fielded a team made up of G League standouts, since those events overlapped with the NBA season. That roster made up of NBAGL vets put up a 10-2 record in qualifying games, so I’d expect a similar approach this time around.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In a pair of Insider-only stories for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton handed out offseason grades for all the teams in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The Hawks and Wizards were the two teams to earn an A, while the Cavaliers and Pelicans were the only two to receive a D.
  • Former Raptors forward Malcolm Miller has signed with Italian team Vanoli Cremona for the 2021/22 season, the club announced in a press release. Miller appeared in 53 total games across three seasons with Toronto from 2017-20 and was a member of the championship squad in 2019.
  • Although the NBA’s 2021/22 schedule will still include some MLB-style two-game sets between the same teams in the same arena, there will be just 23 of them this season, compared to 84 in 2020/21, writes Marc Stein (subscription required). As Stein explains, not playing in front of fans last season – along with a desire to reduce travel – made those sets a logical addition to the schedule, but the league was less motivated to include them this time around.

Former First-Rounder Omari Spellman Signs With Korean Team

Free agent big man Omari Spellman has signed to play in South Korea with Anyang KGC, as our JD Shaw relays (via Twitter). The club, which competes in the Korean Basketball League, has formally announced the signing (Instagram link).

Spellman, 24, was one of three players selected by the Hawks in the first round of the 2018 draft, along with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. While Young has become a star and Huerter was a key rotation player for Atlanta during the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals this year, Spellman – the No. 30 overall pick out of Villanova – struggled to adjust to the NBA and was traded to the Warriors during the 2019 offseason.

Spellman was later flipped to the Timberwolves at the 2020 deadline in the Andrew Wiggins/D’Angelo Russell trade, then was sent to the Knicks last November. He began the 2020/21 season on New York’s roster, but was waived in January to make room for Taj Gibson.

In 95 total NBA appearances for the Hawks and Warriors, Spellman averaged 6.8 PPG and 4.3 RPG on .417/.366/.766 shooting in 17.8 minutes per game. He also played in a total of 24 G League games for three different teams, recording 12.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 25.3 minutes per contest.