The Ben Simmons drama will eventually have to end, right? The Philadelphia 76ers star has sat out the entire 2021-22 season and has no plans to return, collecting over $10 million in fines along the way. About two hours northeast of Philly, the New York Knicks are facing some issues of their own that have resulted in a sub-.500 record.
Philadelphia has until February 10 to trade its disgruntled point guard. While several suitors are in the mix, the Knicks should enter their hat in the ring as soon as possible.
Defense has eluded the New York Knicks
What a difference one season makes.
In 2020-21, Tom Thibodeau’s first year as head coach, New York was a defensive machine. The 41-31 Knicks would go on to finish first in points allowed per game and third in overall defensive rating.
This season, New York’s D has taken major steps backward. Thibodeau’s squad is still seventh in points allowed but sits just 18th in defensive rating. The onus is on the starting lineup more than anyone. Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Kemba Walker, and Evan Fournier all have a defensive box plus-minus number in the negative.
A wonderful example of New York’s lackluster defense comes from Wednesday’s 94-85 win over the Detroit Pistons. In addition to poor offense, the Knicks’ starting five put together a combined -116. Meanwhile, their five bench players all finished well in the positive, going a combined +161.
The Knicks’ defense has gradually improved from where it stood in the early stages of the regular season. But it’s far from last year’s squad that relished tough defense all the way into the playoffs.
Ben Simmons could be exactly what the Knicks need
If the Knicks’ standard is more than having a pedestrian offense, mediocre defense, and sub-standard starting lineup, changes must be made. There’s no greater deal worth exploring than a trade for Simmons.
Rather than looking at what Simmons can’t do, take a moment to analyze what he can do. The 25-year-old is a nightly triple-double threat, putting up career averages of 15.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. His playmaking ability has helped the 76ers rank inside the top-10 in 3-point percentage all four years he has played, despite not being a 3-point shooter himself.
But the 6-foot-11 guard does more than drive offense. The long, athletic guard has also become one of the best defensive players in the NBA, earning All-Defense honors twice and leading the league in steals in 2019-20.
Simmons would come to New York and instantly become its best defensive starter. But he would also put players like Randle, Fournier, and Robinson in better positions to succeed. Even with his well-documented shooting deficiencies, he’s the type of young, high-ceiling player the Knicks have been desperately searching for. And with more cap space than most clubs, absorbing the last 3+ years of Simmons’ five-year, $177 million pact is doable.
What would a Simmons trade between the Knicks and 76ers entail?
As the NBA trade deadline nears, time is running out for the Sixers to resolve the Simmons saga. Philly would obviously be interested in dealing the three-time All-Star, but only if the price is right. So what could the Knicks entice their division rival with?
First things first, any trade would likely have to include an additional team. According to SNY, the Sixers are holding out hope for a young, borderline All-Star player in return for their dispirited point guard. The best the Knicks could offer to meet that demand is Randle, who’s two years older than Simmons, or Barrett, who while talented might fall just short of what Philly is looking for. Therefore, adding a third team into the mix might be the only way a deal gets done.
The Knicks could approach the Sacramento Kings about getting in on a trade. New York would part with one of those two players — most likely Barrett — along with role players like Obi Toppin or Immanuel Quickley. In return, the Kings would send De’Aaron Fox to the Sixers, who would then ship Simmons to the Big Apple. The Oklahoma City Thunder could also work as a trade partner, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the exact type of player Philly is coveting.
New York will need to get creative if it wants a deal to happen. But with Randle in his prime, a win-now coach, and a passionate fan base starved for success, a blockbuster trade for the talented Simmons might be the best option if the Knicks want to become true contenders.