The Philadelphia 76ers started the season 8-2, which included a six-game winning streak. The Sixers were winning with Joel Embiid and tremendous contributions from a host of role players as Ben Simmons remained MIA.
Since then, Philly has lost seven of its last 10 and has fallen back to Earth. An 88-87 loss to Boston on Dec. 1 dropped the team to .500 at 11-11 and 11th in the Eastern Conference standings.
At the height of this summer’s Simmons trade conversation, there was reportedly a possible deal on the table with a team out west, which also happens to be struggling through the first quarter of the season.
It’s time to revisit a Simmons-CJ McCollum swap between the Sixers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Philadelphia and Portland have both struggled early in the season
The 76ers got off to a surprise start and were one of the most pleasant stories of the 2021-22 season. The franchise dealt with all the Simmons drama during the offseason and then looked like it would come together as a team and have a successful season despite it.
But then things fell off the rails.
In their last 10 games, Philly is 24th in scoring, 25th in field-goal percentage, and 24th in 3-point percentage. They’re also in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating.
The Blazers have shown improvement over their last 10 games, going 6-4.
(Somehow, Portland is 10-1 at home and 1-10 on the road, which is a wild stat.)
Since he entered the league, the Blazers have gone as Damian Lillard goes, and he’s not going well this season.
Lillard is averaging 21.5 points, his lowest output since his second year in the NBA. Dame is shooting below 40% from the field and has barely crossed the 30% threshold from deep. At first, it seemed like a small sample size thing, and Dame Dolla was expected to return to his old self.
That hasn’t happened, and at this rate, Portland is a play-in team, at best.
But there’s a way to fix it.
A Ben Simmons-CJ McCollum trade would benefit both teams
A Simmons-McCollum swap was one of the most logical trade scenarios in the rumor mill this past summer.
According to Oregon Live, Sixers general manager Daryl Morey offered Simmons to the Blazers for CJ, three first-round picks, and three pick swaps. That’s a ridiculous ask by Morey.
But Simmons’ trade value has taken a nosedive since.
McCollum has been the Blazers’ best and most consistent player thus far in 2021-22. He’s scoring 20.6 points per game on 42.7% shooting and 39.8% percent from three. But it doesn’t appear Portland is any sort of championship contender.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is playing with a guard rotation that consists of Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, and Shake Milton. McCollum is an upgrade over all three in terms of scoring and only trails Curry in terms of 3-point percentage.
The Lehigh product would immediately step into the starting lineup and give Philly a scorer and playmaker to play off of Embiid that the team doesn’t possess.
Similarly, Simmons would give Lillard and Co. an upgrade in terms of playmaking ability and defense, which has never been McCollum’s strong suit.
Since he’s disappeared from view, Big Ben’s talent seems to have been forgotten, but he has career averages of 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
He’s also one of the NBA’s best defenders, having been named to two All-Defensive teams in three seasons and has been named an All-Star every year he’s played in the league.
The former No. 1 overall pick would give the Blazers a type of player they haven’t had in the past decade.
The Sixers and Blazers need to jumpstart their seasons and this could be the move to do it
The McCollum-for-Simmons trade would allow both franchises to hit the reset button. At the same time, though, the deal would still give both teams an opportunity to remain competitive this season.
It’s not a scenario where the Sixers or Blazers would have to tank and start over from scratch.
McCollum would finally give Philly the backcourt playmaker and scorer that they’ve been lacking during Embiid’s run. Simmons would finally provide the Blazers with the size, playmaking, and defensive ability that Dame hasn’t had the luxury of playing with.
Morey’s original asking price would need to be adjusted. A one-for-one swap works salary-cap-wise, but the request of three first-rounders and three pick swaps is simply too much.
Maybe something in the neighborhood of Ben for CJ and two protected first-rounders makes more sense and could get over the finish line.
However it works out, a version of this trade was officially on the table at one point. With both teams struggling, it’s time to revisit the deal, and now is the perfect time to finally pull the trigger.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.